AntiSemitism And The Merchant Of Venice Essay

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Anti-Semitism And The Merchant Of Venice Essay, Research Paper Anti-Semitism and The Merchant Of Venice The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare, depicts the strong anti-Semitic views of the Elizabethan era, through Shakespeare’s choice of plot, characters’ personalities, and even his words. His play makes the attitudes, and actions of Jews seem foreign to those of a good Christian. These stereotypes are most evident in the character, Shylock, a greedy Jewish money lender. Shylock’s antagonistic relationship with Antonio, a generous Christian merchant, only exaggerates these already obvious anti-Jewish attitudes and perceptions that would have infiltrated Elizabethan life. When the play begins, we find Antonio in a horrible state of depression. Quickly,

Antonio’s good friend, Bassanio, appears to ask if he may borrow 3,000 ducats so that he may ask the wealthy Portia to marry him. This marriage would also ensure that Bassanio could repay all of the interest free debts he owes to Antonio. Antonio agrees, but has to borrow the money from Shylock. Antonio’s intention is to pay Shylock back after his ships come back to port. However, Antonio and Shylock already have a long history of hatred and insults. Shylock’s hatred for Antonio is even stronger, because Antonio refuses to collect interest on his many loans. Shylock tricks Antonio into agreeing to give Shylock a pound of his flesh if the loan is not paid off in three months. During this time, Shylock’s daughter, Jessica, elopes with Antonio’s friend, Lorenzo, and

converts to Christianity, creating even more hatred of Antonio by Shylock. Bassanio travels to Portia and follows the wedding plans that were her father’s will. He correctly selects from a gold, silver and lead casket to find her picture and win her hand in marriage. Their joy is brief, however. Bassanio receives a letter explaining that Antonio’s ships were lost at sea and of Shylock’s determination to get his pound of flesh in accordance with the loan’s terms. Bassanio and Portia wed, as do his friend Gratiano, and Nerissa, Portia’s maid. Bassanio and Gratiano travel to Venice to help Antonio in court. Lorenzo and Jessica are left in charge or Portia’s home. Portia then disguises herself as a lawyer and arrives at the trial with her clerk, the disguised Nerissa.

Portia agrees that the contract is valid, but she also reveals that Shylock must remove the flesh without shedding Antonio’s blood. It is illegal for a Jew to shed Christian blood in Venice at that time. Shylock retreats accepting the money, but the court decides he must be punished for plotting against a Christian. He is then forced to leave half his wealth to his daughter and convert to Christianity. After some confusion, Bassanio and Gratiano are coerced to give their wives rings to the young lawyers. Portia and Nerissa accuse them of giving the rings to other women. Eventually, Portia’s deception is revealed. Antonio’s ships are recovered and the group celebrates. This plot strongly enforces the perception of Jews as being murderous and money hungry. The attempts by

Shylock to have revenge on Antonio are the main focus of the plot. At the end of The Merchant of Venice, Shylock has lost all his wealth, and is forced to convert to Christianity, a horrible fate for a devout Jew. This shows the good Christians triumphing over the evil Jew. The character, Shylock, is portrayed as a blood thirsty murderer by Shakespeare. His first appearance in The Merchant of Venice is in Act one, Scene three. His feud with Antonio then controls the action in the following three acts of the play. When first faced with Antonio, Shylock states, “I hate him for he is a Christian” (I, iii, 39). He then speaks on how his business depends on usury, and Antonio does not practice this. He then concludes with the other two reasons why he despises Antonio saying, “He