Is Shylock The Villain Or The Victim Essay

As your question suggest, he's both.

He's disgracefully treated by the Christians: they mock his religion, refuse to trade with him, spit on him in the street, and - even in the trial scene - mock him and taunt him to his face. Throughout the play he's referred to as "Jew" rather than "Shylock", and you can see why he longs to "feed fat" his grudge against the Christians.

He is devastated when his daughter...

As your question suggest, he's both.

He's disgracefully treated by the Christians: they mock his religion, refuse to trade with him, spit on him in the street, and - even in the trial scene - mock him and taunt him to his face. Throughout the play he's referred to as "Jew" rather than "Shylock", and you can see why he longs to "feed fat" his grudge against the Christians.

He is devastated when his daughter leaves him, without any warning, and without any evidence of negative behaviour towards her from him (she says "this house is hell", though the scene doesn't make it clear exactly why she feels like that). Shylock is, I think Shakespeare makes it very clear, a victim.

He is also a villain. He deliberately opts for the "pound of flesh" because he has a grudge against Antonio, and, when the chance comes to get his revenge, he behaves in an extremely undignified and certainly unmerciful way. He gloats in front of Antonio, even attending the gaoler who arrest him, and openly proclaims his right to the flesh, against any sense of common humanity, in a public court. He also values his money extremely highly - not negative in itself - but, when he seems to value his ducats more than his daugther, you have to be suspicious. He's undoubtedly also a villain.

You can make a case either way. For me, I'd argue that he's both at once: though like the Wittgenstein duck/rabbit, at any one moment he seems one or the other.

Merchant of Venice Essay: Shylock - Antagonist or Victim?

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The Merchant of Venice: Shylock - Antagonist or Victim?

In The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare, there appears Shylock - a Jew. As the play unfolds Shylock is seen to be the villain and is portrayed as being cold, unbending, and evil. Shylock can easily be assumed to be the antagonist in this play or, after careful research and study, he can also be viewed as persecuted individual who resorts to revenge as a last resort after he has been pushed too far.

To fully understand the character of Shylock we must first look at Elizabeathen attitudes towards Jews. In the sixteenth century Jews were rarely if ever seen in England. In the Middle Ages Jews had fled to England to escape persecution in…show more content…

Shylock tells the audience he hopes to exact revenge on Antonio both for his own humiliation and for the persecution that the Jews have long suffered at the hands of the Christians. I hate him for he is a Christian;. . . If I can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him. He hates our sacred nation . . . Curs‚d be my tribe if I forgive him (I,iii,40-49) Shylock then tells Antonio that he wants to be friends with him and will conclude the bond for a pound of flesh as a "merry sport." In the second act, however, he still seems to bear a deep grudge against the Christians, for he tells Jessica that he is going in hate and not in friendship to dine with them. "But yet I'll go in hate to feed upon the prodigal Christian. . . .I am right loath to go." (II,v,14-16) After Jessica's elopment, Shylock suspects Bassanio and Antonio of abetting her escape, and this suspicion increases Shylock's animosity toward Antonio. We learn later in the play that Antonio has personally rescued a number of debtors from Shylock's bonds when Antonio says "I oft delievered from his forfeitures; Many that have made moan to me." (III,iii,23-24) We also discover that Shylock cannot or will not explain his reasons for demanding Antonio's flesh. "But say it is my humor," is all the reason he is able to show.

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