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At the time the play was set Jews were considered 'second class'
citizens in Venice despite the fact that Venice was famous for its
quality of justice.
There was a lot of prejudice against the Jewish minority and they were
even forced by the Venetian government to obey special laws. These
consisted of wearing distinctive clothing such as coloured arm bands,
not being able to be involved in trades such as the military, the
government and guilds and most of all they were forbidden to retaliate
in any circumstances to the way Christians treated them. These laws
meant that most Jews lead a very restricted lifestyle and were often
singled out from the rest of the Venetian citizens.
The history of Jews around the world is a very cruel and complex one.
Jewish persecution dates right back to the middle ages. The Christian
church thought that they should be despised for rejecting Jesus. They
began spreading rumours about Jews killing children at pass over and
using their blood to make unleavened bread. During the fourteenth
century, Europe was gripped by fear of the Black Death. Christians did
not miss this newfound opportunity to spread anti-Semitist ideas, they
accused the Jews of poisoning wells and so anti-Jewish stereotypes
were reinforced. Christians thought themselves superior to all other
faiths and the hatred and persecution they inflicted on Jews was
Jews were tolerated in Venice but made to live in the original walled...
... middle of paper ...
...has caused Shylock, 'a ring that he
had off your daughter for a monkey'. She knew how much it meant to her
father and selling it for a monkey ridicules this by making it
We even start to feel sympathy for Shylock as we know by this quote
that he must have treasured it, 'I had it off Leah when I was a
bachelor. I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys.' This
has a big impact on weather Shylock is a victim or villain as it
humanises him so he is no longer just a one-dimensional villain.
There is a certain amount of Irony in the fact that his 'Christian
ducats' are now returning to a Christian through Jessica. Life has
become even harder for Shylock because through status you gain power,
now Jessica has taken all his money he has the lowest status it is
possible to have in Venetian society.
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