Shylock’s Hatred in The Merchant Of Venice By William Shakespeare
Shylock’s character in William Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice is essentially evil; he is meant to be hated by the reader. He is portrayed as a devil-like being throughout the entire play, someone purely just evil. However, it can be argued that maybe Shylock’s behavior and his personality is justified. It can be said that he is just a sad man who later became angry.
It is clear throughout the play that Shylock is hated by the Venetian society. He is hated by the same city he calls home. Shylock plays the role of a Jewish moneylender in the play. When Antonio visits Shylock to ask for a loan, Shylock reminds Antonio, “You call me misbeliever, cutthroat dog, and spet upon my Jewish gaberdine…’Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last, you spurned me such a day; another time you called me dog; and for these courtesies I’ll lend you this much moneys’? “. However, Antonio does not seem to care, “I am as like to call thee so again, to spit on thee again, to spurn thee too”. He says he would do it again. This remark makes it clear how he is looked down upon by the society he lives in; he has been spat on, called harsh names toward himself and his Jewish community. Shylock ’s own daughter, Jessica, elopes with a Christian man that she’s in love with. She abandons her father and later also converts to Christianity. Shylock is hated for his faith, the culture he follows, and his occupation as a moneylender. He is also abandoned by his own daughter. He can be seen as someone who has been wronged and a father who has lost his daughter. He just desires to be appreciated and accepted for who he is. Shylock is often humiliated for his occupation as a Jewish moneylender who gives loans with an interest. Most of Shylock’s wealth is also taken away by the court towards the end of the play. He is even forced to convert to Christianity against his will.
Shylock’s hatred can be seen as justified. Shylock’s alienation from society and being seen as an outsider is what creates sympathy in the reader for him. The discrimination he faces victimizes him and creates sympathy for his character, making him seem more human than how he is actually portrayed. However, I do agree that it is hard to pity Shylock entirely. His behavior and interactions with other characters are often very rude. He makes no effort to try and get on well with his peers. For example, he demands a pound of Bassanio’s flesh if he is unable to pay back his loan, which he obviously is aware that this will kill him. Demanding such a thing is already is so immoral and malevolent of him. When Bassanio invites him to dinner, Shylock responds by saying that “I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you”. Outside of professionals interactions, he refuses to interact with any Christian for any other reason, especially in personal settings. Shylock also behaves very rudely with his servant and daughter as well.
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