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ANTISEMITISM IN MERCHANT OF VENICE
In the Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare illustrates his feelings towards Jews in 17th century England through the use of a commonly known stereotype during the time, the Jewish views of the law.
Shylock is the focal point of the play, and acts as the traditional stereotype of the Jew in Elizabethan times. He is comically caricatured as a greedy miser and wears a traditional "Jewish gabardine". He is a middle-aged man who has a keenness of observation, a memory for details, and a strong amount of energy. He is well versed in the Bible and is able to draw analogies from various Biblical sources and stories, which relate to the different situations he finds himself in. His manner of speaking shows a bossy, commanding tone with frequent references to the great and ancient names from Scriptures, which he uses to justify his own practices. His speech reveals a cold and calculating mind, reflective of his shallow thinking. Shylock suffers from religious persecution, which is the main theme of the play.
Antonio has reviled and despised this Jew, even humiliating him publicly because of his money lending and usury. Shylock believes that his profiteering is not a sin, which is contrary to the Christian belief, held by Antonio, that money should be lent for charity and not for profit. By his profession and his religion, Shylock is seen as the outsider in a happy and fun-loving Venetian society. His being an outsider causes him to be bitter and his humiliation makes him seek revenge. Antonio becomes the target of that revenge, and Shylock uses the letter of the law to try and take a pound of flesh from his enemy. His strict interpretation of the law backfires on him however, and he winds up losing his wealth and barely saving his life. Although he appears in only five scenes, Shylock is a very powerful character, whose love of money has destroyed any natural human feelings.
In Shylock’s opening scene, the animosity between Jew and...