Jewish people in the Merchant of Venice, a play by William Shakespeare, are characterized by villainy and greed. Later, the Jews are considered saved, when they are brought to justice by forced conversion to Christianity. While some people may think that The Merchant of Venice is a play written to bring sympathy from the audience for the unbelieving Jewish villain, this play is really a work of anti-Semitism because of obvious promotion of hated toward Jewish people, their apparent lack of rights, and sheer lack of respect from anyone else. While this is an obvious theme throughout the play, Shylock, a Jewish man, also plays a key role in the facilitation of anti-Semitism.
From the first moment we experience interactions between Shylock, the Jewish moneylender, and the other Venetians in the play, the single fact that he is Jewish is clearly a strong motivator for hating him. Our first experience of Shylock being mistreated by others in the play is when Bassanio and Antonio come to ask for a loan so Bassanio can woo Portia, the wealthy heiress from Belmont. Antonio says to Bassanio, “Mark you this, Bassanio, The devil can site Scripture for his purpose. An evil soul producing holy witness is like a villain with a smiling cheek, a goodly apple rotten at the heart” (1.3.?). In a span of two sentences, Antonio manages to call Shylock the devil, an evil soul, a villain, and a rotten apple. It is acutely clear how Antonio feels about Shylock, even though he has no pretense for feeling this way. Furthermore, when Shylock calls Antonio out on his hatred, he says, “many a time and oft… you have rated me about my moneys…you call me misbeliever, cutthroat dog, and spet upon my...
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...nd negative. Throughout the play, Jews are called everything from the devil and a dog, to a rotten apple and villainous. There is nothing a Jew can do right unless they convert to Christianity. Even though people need them for their own business ventures, people still treat them as if they are undeserving of citizenship. The Venetian market would probably fall quickly without the Jewish people loaning the merchants money for their businesses. Unfortunately, not everyone is perfect and while Shylock originally did nothing wrong, he did just add fuel to the fire. If he hadn’t been hell-bent on revenge against Antonio, the Venetian citizens wouldn’t have been as hard on him. Shylock actually had his chance to just take his money and be done with his business with Antonio, but he couldn’t control his desire to get him back and because of this, Shylock sealed his fate.
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