Analysis of Shylock’s Personality as Depicted by William Shakespeare in His Play, The Merchant of Venice

October 23, 2020 by Essay Writer

Merchant of Venice is a play written by William Shakespeare in the 1600s. The Merchant of Venice is a play that focuses on love and revenge in a world of religious intolerance between the Christian and Jewish population of Venice. The Merchant of Venice contains some of Shakespeare’s most memorable and complex characters. The main characters in this play are: Antonio, a merchant of Venice. Bassanio, a young gentleman of Venice who is friends with Antonio, Portia, the wealthy heiress of Belmont who is looking for a husband, and Shylock, who is the Jewish moneylender in Venice. It is set in Venice and Portia’s home in Belmont, the play moves from a fraught mix of cosmopolitan bustle and casual anti-semitism to a fairytale land of riddles, music and poetry. Shakespeare uses a wide range of literary devices to emphasize the key theme, Justice and Mercy. This IOC will cover one of the most famous speeches from the play, Shylock’s monologue. In this speech, Shylock, a Jewish merchant, is talking to two Christian men called Salerio and Solanio. They are teasing him because his beloved daughter Jessica has run away from home with a Christian man. Solerio and Solanio are friends of Antonio who has borrowed money from Shylock. Shylock has made Antonio sign a contract, which states that if he cannot repay the loan he will instead repay Shylock with a pound of his own flesh.

Shylock’s monologue confuses the audience as he might be represented as whether he is a good Jew or a money and flesh hunger merchant. To Shylock, one pound of Antonio’s flesh is not only a way of revenge to Antonio but also a bait to revenge to Venice’s Christian society. That is why Shylock said “To bait fish withal.” The revenge is to destroy Christian’s racism on Jewish. As this monologue is from a first person point of view, it will be more convincing to the audience as why Antonio and Shylock despise each other, as they have religious and nationality differences. While Shylock is saying his monologue we get the idea that the Christians have treated him without respect previously, as he is the only Jew in the play, but treated the worst by Antonio.

During the speech, Shylock makes it clear that his hatred is born of what he sees as Antonio’s bullying behaviour. Shylock goes on to point out that Christians and Jews are unified by their common humanity, despite their different religions. Shylock’s concern is with body, not with the soul; Christians and Jews both have flesh, eyes, etc., and both will die if poisoned, but the distinction characteristics between them are the religion, where this is a Jew, and that is a Christian. However, Shylock’s greed and lust for money are paralleled by his cruelty that he seeks for having mercy from Christians, but at the same time he seeks for revenge.

Shylock effectively uses ethos, pathos, and logos in the speech with parallelism structures and rhetorical questions. The Greek philosopher Aristotle divided the means of persuasion, appeals, into three categories–Ethos, Pathos, Logos. Ethos is an appeal to the authority or honesty of the presenter, pathos is an appeal to the audience’s emotion, and logos is logical appeal or the simulation of it, and the term logic is derived from it.

Shylock speaks in prose, and uses many literary devices for example; starting from Line 43 to Line 55 rhetorical questions are used. The words disgraced, laughed, mocked, scorned, thwarted, cooled and heated makes it seem like Shylock is directly attacking and addressing the audience as it makes it seem like he is playing on emotions, which will evoke pathos, therefore impacting the audience to feel sympathetic towards Shylock.

The Christians of the play universally assumed that they’re a nobler species than Jews, but Shylock insisted that they’re no more pure than Jews and Jews no less human than Christians in the lines that has been started with rhetorical questions “Hath not a Jew eyes?”. In the lines “Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is?”, Shylock uses pathos to humanly appeal to Christians, but to prejudiced Christians, his appeal was just an excuse to hide Jew’s characteristics. Christian has no little pathos to Shylock, so he changed his strategy from pathos to logos on the line “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” He focused on logos to show causes and effects of the actions. Then, after the line, Shylock changed his strategy to strengthen his speech to justify his actions, which mentally affects the audience.

He has justified his action in the line “If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.” and reveals Christians’ duplicity on moral standards on the lines “If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example?” In these three lines, Shylock focuses on ethos, by justifying his action and revealing Christians’ duplicity on moral standards to achieve his goal; trying to destroy Christian’s racism on Jewish.

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