The sample essay on Who Is Shylock deals with a framework of research-based facts, approaches and arguments concerning this theme. To see the essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion, read on.
In my opinion Shylock has been presented as a victim but at times, he is made a villain because he has been treated so unequally that he has no other option besides applying the bond on Antonio.
Society was very different 400 years ago. Shylock was living in the Elizabethan era, where anti-Semitism was very open.
The majority of people at that time were Christians who were against Jews and treated them inhumane, because the Christians knew that it is the Jews who were responsible for the murder of Jesus Christ and they are still in the process of completely eliminating Christianity.
Shylock was one of the many Jews who were subjected to brutality and insults throughout their lives. Shylock wasn’t ever treated compassionately from the start, he wasn’t considered as a human and we get to realise that when Shylock (in Act 3 Scene 1, Page 35, Line 54) asks Antonio:
“I am a Jew.
Hath not a Jews eyes, hath not a Jews hands, organs dimensions, senses, affections, passions”
Antonio has subjected Shylock to insults and inequality all his life, one instance is at the beginning when in Act 1 Scene 3, Shylock reviews what Antonio has said to him:
“And spit upon my Jewish gabardine”
” You call me a misbeliever, cut-throat dog”
“Hath a dog money, is it possible?”
In this scene we have the immediate view of a generous money-lending Jew, because Shylock reviews all of the insults he has been subjected to and, still lends him the money.
For example in Act1 Scene3, Shylock says:
“Shall I bend low, and in a bondman’s key…”
“Fair sir, you spat on me… you spurned me such a day, another time you called me a dog; and for these courtesies I’ll lend you thus much money”
Antonio, still hasn’t realised his mistake, and is still not grateful to Shylock, Antonio replies with rage:
” I am as like to call thee so again, to spit on thee again, to spurn on thee too.”
We feel sympathetic towards him, because he has faced misfortune throughout the play. Lorenzo, who is Antonio and Bassanio’s friend, eloped with Jessica. Jessica, was Shylocks only hope, he had no other family. Not only did Jessica run away with one of Shylocks enemies, she stole an absurd amount of money from her father.
Solanio puts on an impression of Shylock in Act 2 Scene 8 he says:
” My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter! Fled with a Christian! O my Christian ducats…”
We might think that Shylock here is more worried about his ducats than his daughter, but on the contrast, we also immediately have the anti-Semitism view because Solanio & Salerio are Christians and they aren’t reliable witnesses because they hate Jews too. They use abusive language like:
“As the dog Jew”
They also use words such as: ” Confused”, “Strange” and “Variable”, these words are unnatural Elizabethan language.
Jessica steals Shylock’s dead wife’s ring and sells it for a monkey, when Shylock hears about this from Tubal he cries and says he wouldn’t sell that ring for a forest of monkeys. Tubal says in Act 3 Scene 1:
” One of them showed me a ring that he had of your daughter for a monkey”
” Out upon her, thou torturest me Tubal. It was my turquoise; I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor. I would not given it for a wilderness of moneys.”
We know how much Shylock is sad because he says “torturest” which is a very effective word, and we are left with no other option besides feeling sympathy towards him.
We then come to know about Antonio’s shipwreck, which raises tension.
Before the court trial begins, we come to know that even the Duke is Anti-Semitic because his words are:
“Go one and call the Jew into the court”
Shylock still wants to pursue the bond and the Duke doesn’t yet convince him. The reason Shylock gives for pursuing the bond is:
” If you deny it let the danger light, upon your charter” (Line 38).
He says that if you don’t give me this bond, your law and government system’s credibility will go down. Your charter will not mean anything.
This is where we realise that Shylock has been forced into becoming a victim because of all the Anti-Semitic pressures faced upon him.
At the court scene, Portia arrives as a lawyer in order to save Antonio’s life. Antonio helped make their wedding possible, so it is payback time. We also know from the beginning that even Portia is Anti-Semitic as she says in the trial scene:
“Which is the merchant here? And which the Jew?”
At the court the first thing Portia asks Shylock to do is to be merciful:
“Then must the Jew be merciful.”
“My deeds upon my head, I crave the law, the penalty and forfeit of my law”
Shylock demands that the justice should be fair.
Portia tells Shylock that he is right in saying that justice should be served, but Shylock can only a pound of flesh.
” A pound of flesh, to be by him cut off”
Portia wanting to defeat Shylock for the last time says:
“Are there balance here to weigh The flesh”
Shylock replies with glee, because he realises that all the insults and brutality he has been subjected to will now end in front of all of his enemies he is surrounded by.
” I have them ready”
Portia now realising that she has lost this time but not the next, she says: ” Have by some surgeon Shylock, on your charge, to stop his wounds lest he do bleed to death”
She says, in order to pursue your bond, you may remove his pound of flesh, but there should be a surgeon to prevent Antonio from bleeding to death.
We feel even more sympathetic towards Shylock when he is ” [Aside]” and says:
“These be the Christian husbands. I have a daughter-”
Shylock being extremely kind and compassionate to Portia, we begin to realise that Portia should stop discriminating Shylock by calling him a “Jew”.
Shylock replies in these manners:
“Most rightful judge”
“Most learned judge”
Portia finally humiliates Shylock in front of all of his enemies he is surrounded by, by saying:
“Take then thy bond, take thou pound of flesh, But in the cutting it, if thou dost shed One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods”
He is told that he cannot spill even a drop of blood whilst taking the flesh out.
Shylock couldn’t get his initial bond, but still knowing that he is treated unfairly he asks for his principle bond:
” Shall I not have barely my principal?”
Without any mercy, Portia denies it again.
“Thou shalt have nothing but the forfeiture”
Portia then tells Shylock that he is an alien in Venice and he is not a citizen, therefore he his breaking the law by trying to take the life of a citizen:
“If it be proved against an alien, He seek the life of any citizen”
And due to that all of his money will go to Antonio and the Venetian state, also he can be executed on the Dukes will.
“Shall seize one half his goods, the other half… ”
The Duke pardons it and says:
” I pardon thy life before thou ask it.”
Antonio says that Shylock can keep the other half of his wealth, but at the same time forcing him into Christianity, and should leave all of his wealth to his treacherous daughter Jessica and Lorenzo.
” I am content- so he will let me have the other half in use-to render it upon his death unto the gentleman that lately stole his daughter. Two things provided more, that for this favour, he presently become a Christian, The other, that he do record a gift here in the court of all he dies possessed unto his son Lorenzo and his daughter”
Shylock has been treated inhumane in front of all of his enemies and at the end he is asked my Portia if he is happy.
Shylock has no power, had no power, and has no free will and his life ruined forever. As such that Shylock prays for his leave, because he doesn’t feel well.
“I pray you give me leave to go from hence, I am not well. Send the deed after me, and I will sign it”
At the end in Act 5 all the Christians are cheerful and they celebrate in Belmont.
Concluding I would say that Shylock is mainly treated as a victim of the society he lives in. The society he lives in is to be blamed. Anti-Semitism existed 400 years ago and it was a very open issue. In the Elizabethan times Jews were not treated humane because Christian beliefs quote that the Jews killed Jesus Christ.
We can also say that Shylock is a victim because he wanted to murder Antonio, but then, wasn’t the Duke given the right to execute Shylock just because he wasn’t a citizen and was pursuing a bond, which involved murder.
We do not tend to realise how badly Shylock is treated, all we notice is how eagerly Shylock wants to murder Antonio.
Shylock wants to murder Antonio for many reasons: Shylock wants to avenge Antonio, because it is he who treated him inhumane, it is he who subjected him to brutality and insults throughout his life, It was part of the bond that if Antonio loses his ships a pound of flesh will be promised to Shylock.
Antonio over-confidently agreed to the bond, not knowing that over-confidence always makes you lose.
At the end, the Christians won, because they were the majority and he was one, he couldn’t say anything against the final decision.