Friday, August 2, 2019

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare Essay -- Merchant of Ven

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare The character Shylock was a stereotypical Jew of his time, and as Jews were generally unpopular, the audience would have been automatically prejudiced against him. In Shakespeare's time, Jews were not treated well at all. This was because they were a minority group, as they had been previously banned from the country by Edward I unless they were willing to become a Christian. But, in large European cities, like Venice there was a large Jewish population. As these cities relied on trade, the authorities encouraged Jews to become moneylenders. This was because the Christian law, which forbade money lending for profit, did not apply to them. Moneylenders were not popular, because up until 1571 it had been illegal to receive interest on lent money, and even after that, although legal (it became vital for trade), it was considered a sin. Many moneylenders charged high rates of interest, even though the legal rate was 10 percent, as people were willing to pay more, and some became very rich. Before Shakespeare wrote The Merchant of Venice, his friend, the playwright Marlowe wrote a play about a Jew, which became very successful. This may have influenced Shakespeare to write a play on a similar theme. Also, in 1594 the Jewish doctor, Roderico Lopez, supposedly tried to kill Queen Elizabeth. Even though he was probably innocent, he was charged guilty and was executed. Because this case was much talked about, the dislike of Jews was a present issue and the audience would have been able to relate to the play and understand how the Christian characters in the play would treat Shylock. One of t... ...an accent. This singles him out and shows he is an outsider. At the beginning of the court scene, when the Duke is talking to Shylock, he says: "We all expect a tender answer Jew." In the production set in the 1920's, the Duke puts huge emphasis on the word 'Jew', showing he dislikes Shylock, although he was asking him to be generous and let Antonio go. At the end of the court scene, after Shylock has been forced to become a Christian, he throws down his skullcap onto the scales. Even though the scales were originally there to weigh Antonio's flesh, they now represent the scales of justice, and Shylock is making a very powerful point that what has been done to him is completely unfair. This happens just after Shakespeare has changed the audience's opinion of Shylock, and adds to the pity that they feel for him.

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