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Shylock As Helpless Victim In The Merchant Of Venice

2777 words - 12 pages

Shylock as Helpless Victim in The Merchant of Venice

      In 1594 the Earl of Essex, an English Nobleman who lived during the

Elizabethan period in England, was actively involved in the persecution and

trials of Roderigo Lopez.  Lopez was a Jew of Portuguese descent, who was

wrongly accused of attempting to poison the Queen of England.  Lopez, being

the Queen's royal physician, was in no position

to defend himself once he was accused.  Essex, who provided the evidence also

presided over the trial of Lopez, leaving Lopez little chance of survival.  The

innocent Jew was hanged, drawn, and quartered in Tyburn, England for all to


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with  reference to Barnet's comment "he cannot for a moment gain the audience's

sympathy" (1), Shylock oversteps the boundaries of his villainous character.

The audience cannot and would not have rooted for Shylock during Shakespeare's

lifetime, yet, now we do.  Shylock is merely a victim of anti-Semitism.

Although victorious in his bond, Shylock was raped of his lands, his faith and

his pride.  Shylock not the necessarily the villain, rather the victim.


      Shakespeare takes his time before introducing Shylock, however, when he

does, he shows us a decent businessman.



            May you stead me?  Will you pleasure me?

            Shall I know your answer?


            Three thousand ducats for three months--

            and Antonio bound.


            Your answer to that.


            Antonio is a good man.


            Have you heard any imputation to the



            Ho no, no, no, meaning in saying

            he is a good man, is to have you understand me that he

            is sufficient.  Yet his means are in supposition : he hath

            an argosy bound to Tripolis, another to the Indies;

            I understand moreover upon the Rialto he hath a third

            at Mexico, a fourth for England, and other ventures he

            hath squandered abroad.  But ships are but boards,

            sailors but men--there be land-rats and water-rats,

            land-thieves and water-thieves--I mean pirates-and

            then there is peril of waters, winds, and rocks.  The

            man is, notwithstanding, sufficient.  Three thousand

            ducats--I think I may take his bond (I. iii. 7-26.).


Through this entire exchange Shylock says that Antonio is financially fit.

Shylock knows that Antonio is good for the three thousand ducats.  Then, as any

good businessman would do, he considers how Antonio, a merchant, has all of his

ships at sea.  He talks of the dangers of sea and how Antonio may not get all of

his ships back, if so, he will not have the money.  It is here that we begin to

get a glimpse of Shylocks' evilness.  "The man is, not withstanding, sufficient.

Three thousand ducats--I think I may take his bond" (I. i. 25-26.).  Shylock

realizes his opportunity, he can profit from this venture.  Shakespeare begins

to create his villain, we have no choice but to hate this man.   Shakespeare

continues to build his villain by giving Shylock an aside in which he reveals

his hatred for Antonio, because he is a Christian and he lends money without

charging interest, thus bringing the interests rates down.  However, it is in


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