This sample essay on Who Was Shylock And Where Did He Live provides important aspects of the issue and arguments for and against as well as the needed facts. Read on this essay’s introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.
In my opinion Shylock was a victim of the society he lived in. He was a victim because he was a minority in a Christian city where anti-Semitism played an important role in society. In the society in which Shylock lived, there was plenty of racism, so it was easy to paint a picture of Shylock as a villain on evil, based on stereotypical opinions for the society in which he lived.
The target audience for which the play was written was largely a racist and a prejudiced audience, so they readily accepted Shylock in the role of Villain, without questioning whether this was an accurate assessment of his personality.
Due to the target audience being racist, there is a bias in the way in which Shylock is portrayed, and does not always effectively portray what Shylock was feeling or thinking.
Although in some cases Shakespeare did show that he did not have the stereotypical view of Shylock, which most certainly his audience did have. In this essay, I will be expressing my opinion on whether Shylock is a victim or a villain in the society that he lives in. I feel that, Shylock is a victim of the Elizabethan society in which he lived. He seems to be treated badly by everyone who he comes into contact with, including his own servant.
It is really only his own kind who seems to respect and treat him properly. In Act 1 scene 3 Shylock is asked to loan 3000 ducats to Antonio by Bassanio. It looks or has been made to look as though Shylock is a villain, this is shown by using repetition, the repetition used in by Shylock is that he seems to mention ‘well’ a lot, this makes Shylock look like he is planning something, for example how to get revenge on Antonio, also in the beginning of the act Shylock seems to come across as an evil character, this is when he is first introduced into the play.
Shylock looks like a villain when he is asked by Bassanio to dine with Antonio, but Shylock replies “… I will not eat with you, drink with you nor pray with you… ” this sentence made Shylock look like a villain, but if you had to look at it from his point of view, it would be that he has been hated and treated badly all his life by Christians. Then, when Antonio enters the scene you can see how Shylock is treated badly and is a victim in the society he lives in, this point is proven when Shylock says to Antonio “… You call me a misbeliever… and “… Spit on my Jewish gabardine… ” In the next few scenes in the play we find out that Jessica is ashamed of being Jewish, and consequently is ashamed of her father. She is not happy with her life, and she blames everything that goes wrong on the fact that she is Jewish.
As she resents her difficulties and blames them on her religion she also resents her father, and blames him for being Jewish resulting in her also being Jewish, we find this out when Jessica says to Launcelot “… But though I am a daughter to his blood, I am not to his manners… For example in Act 2 scene 3 we find out that Jessica thinks that where she lives is hell. She expresses her feeling to Lorenzo, saying “to be ashamed to be my father’s child”. This is another point which could make Shylock look like a villain because even his own daughter is ashamed to have him (Shylock) as a father, or this also could look as though Shylock is a victim because he has been victimized and arguments have been caused in his family due to his religion. Christians such as Lorenzo have changed his daughter – they have made her ashamed of her own religion and her father.
I also think that this does show that Shylock and Jessica do not have a very good relationship – if their relationship was stronger she would be prouder of her heritage and less likely to blame everything that goes wrong on her father and their religion. She would accept the family’s religion as an important part of her heritage and background, and not something to be ashamed of. In Act 2 scene 5 Shylock looks like a kill joy – he seems to give Jessica no freedom and is always controlling her, and not leaving her on her own.
This could be because he is in fear of what might happen to her, and thus his controlling her is just Shylock’s way of making sure that nothing happens to her, as he wants her to be protected. However because Shylock is portrayed in such a negative way, his control over Jessica could be incorrectly seen as unreasonable and evil – so one again he looks like a villain. In this scene there are very good examples which shows how much hatred Shylock has towards Christians for example “But yet I’ll go in hate, to feed upon the prodigal Christian”.
In this scene there is dramatic irony, this is when the audience know what is happening and some of the characters do not know what is happening. The use of dramatic irony is used when, Shylock explains his dreams, and he says that he is going to lose something. This is ironic because his daughter Jessica was planning to run away and take all of Shylocks money with her. In Act 3 Shylock seems to be loosing everything he has. His own daughter Jessica had run away and had also stolen all of his precious jewels, and he had done nothing to deserve this.
To an audience in Shakespeare’s time this would look completely normally, they would not understand how upset Shylock probably was, but to a modern audience we can see that he is a victim of society, and there was nothing he could have done to prevent it from happening. The only thing he could do was take revenge from his bond, in my opinion this does not make him a villain because personally I think most people would want revenge on something or anything if that much had happened to them, as it is human nature. To bait fish withal. If it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge. ” This shows how he wants to take his revenge on Antonio because now he finally has the chance to do what ever he can do. In act 3 scene 3 Antonio’s attitude changes towards Shylock for example he says “hear me yet good Shylock” this shows that he is a coward and is willing to beg for his life, and he is begging to the person he once spat on, and swore at, so at this point Shylock deserves to be a villain and stand up against his sworn enemy.
In Act 4 scene 1 at the beginning Shylock has been made to look like a villain, at this point it looks at though Shylock is going to get his revenge, the one thing he has been waiting for, for his whole life: making him look like a villain and yes I do think he is a villain at this point in time, but only because he has been pushed and pushed by the Christians. He also looks like a really bad villain towards a Shakespearean audience as he has been asked to show mercy but he doesn’t.
This is shown that Shylock won’t give mercy as he uses repetition and repeats many times “… in six thousand ducats… I would not draw them I would have my bond” But then in the end or near to the end it seems as though Shylocks luck has changed, and there is dramatic irony used, as the audience know that Shylock is being tricked by Portia, whereas Shylock things that the young lawyer is from a distant city.
In the end of the scene Shylock is a victim of society as he has been told that if a drop of a Christians blood is spilt then all his good will be taken away from him. So where he was the villain, then the tables had turned against him, and they not only took his bond away from him, but they also took all his possessions from him, leaving him with nothing and also making him a victim of society.
This is also ironic, as when Shylock had the upper hand against his enemies they all begged him for mercy, and told him that what he is doing is wrong, but when the tables had turned against Shylock and he was now the victim, and the Christian society had the upper hand, they did not show that they were better than him and give him mercy, as they had begged him for. This all shows that in the end Shylock was the Victim, and that the society he lived in was the villain towards him, and other Jews.
So to summarize in my opinion I believe that shylock was a victim and a villain of the society he lived in, he was a victim due to the fact that he was a minority amongst Christians, and during his time there was a lot of racism against him and his religion, I also believe that Shylock was a villain in some ways because the society had driven him to be villainess meaning that because he was treated so badly, that every time he could get his own revenge back against the Christians he did try to do that, making it look like he is the villain to a Shakespearean audience.