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How Can Shakespeare's View On Judaism And Christianity Be Represented Through The Characters In Act 1 Scene 3, Act 3 Scene 1 And Act 4 Scene 1 Of 'the Merchant Of Venice'

2853 words - 12 pages

"The merchant of Venice" is a play written by William Shakespeare before the duration 1958 and most probably in 1596. The play is set in the Capital city of Venice in Italy. Two characters dominate the main issues of this play Shylock and Antonio, at first we are introduced to the protagonist Shylock. Shylock is a Jew his character is stereotypically as evil and manipulative. Shakespeare has done this as throughout history and even within the Elizabethan period Jews were loathed, feared and branded Christ killers. Which form the barriers between the Jews and Christians in the play. The second character is Antonio who is a Christian and is not seen as a victim of anti-semitism like Shylock ...view middle of the document...

From the tone of Shylock's speech there is a strong implication that he believes his religion is scorned and underrated.There is genuine evidence when Shylock makes a great speech that he is a victim of anti-semitism:You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,And spet upon my Jewish gabardine,You'd call me dog: and for these courtesies(Act 1 scene 3)Shylock makes this to speech to let the audience know he hates Antonio for having hindered him in business and for having him humiliated in public by spitting on him and calling him names. Shylock remembers this vividly, and this is expressed clearly through the shockingly dramatic account he gives. At this point we are almost inclined to believe Shakespeare is sympathising on the maltreatment of Jews as he makes us sympathise with the anger and humiliation Shylock feels.Shylock evidently despises Antonio and has already thought of revenge before Antonio speaks.If I ever catch him once upon the hipI will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.(Act 1, scene 3)He hopes to carry out exact revenge on Antonio for his own humiliation and the prosecution that the Jews have long suffered at the hand of the Christians. At this stage of this scene we learn of the agreement of the bond.If you repay me not such a day,Express'd in the condition, let the forfeitBe nominated for an poundOf your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken(Act 1, scene 3)Shakespeare uses alliteration 'fair flesh' to emphasise the importance of Shylock's ideas of the terms of the bond, the seriousness is highlighted clearly through the sharpness and pace of his speech as well. Shylocks thorough and carefully laid out speech initiates the audience to have an almost negative view towards Shylock because of his inappropriate enthusiasm in this malicious plan. Shakespeare at this point has conformed Shylock into the stereotypically negative idea of Jews, perhaps it is his own prejudiced feelings of Jews that he has done so. Although Antonio does not like borrowing money from Shylock he will for the loyalty of his close friend Bassanio. Antonio's character shows that he is a risk taker. This is shown when he accepts Shylocks high interest rate.Why fear not man, I will not forfeit it,This bond expires, I do expect returnOf thrice three times the value of this bond.(Act 1, scene 3)Antonio does this to receive the term of the bond in this manner because he is confident that he will be able to repay the bond. Meanwhile the audience perceiver the character Antonio as a man very loyal to his friend and again Shakespeare's prejudiced feelings are highlighted. Always throughout history Jews have come out worst between battles with Christians and in this scene this is true, we are given the overall picture of Antonio as the Christian man being honest and loyal whilst Shylock the Jew is presented as a hatred filled evil man as habitually believed in that period. Antonio is also presented by Shakespeare as a very courageous man:Come on, in this there can be no...

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