In this essay I shall be looking closely at the character of Shylock, analysing his contribution to the play all the way through the essay and the effective qualities, which are used to make the dramatic conclusion. I intend to investigate what Shakespeare does to create such an immense character, filled with many layers of personality, which are completely unpredictable. I also wish to examine how Shylock contributes to such a phenomenal conclusion. But first I shall look at relationship between Christians and Jews, as this is the key storyline underneath all of the drama.
Nowadays there is a large fraction of Christians on the planet, and just a handful of Jews in comparison. The Jewish religion has always been in the minority. When the play was set the ratio was still very similar. The Jews were hated and treated awfully since 250BC. The Jews were hated because they possessed too much wealth and power compared to the Christians. In some areas Jews were not allowed to have jobs so the only job they could do was lending money. Another reason why the Christians hated the Jews was because they ‘arrogantly’ claim that they are the chosen people.
It is speculated that a lot of the animosity felt between the Jews and Christians in the past, is due to the death of Christ. The Jews have bared this punishment for centuries. Due to all the name-calling, disrespect, physical abuse and having been forced to live in ghettoes, it wouldn’t be surprising if one would want revenge… The ‘Merchant of Venice’ is classed as a chaotic comedy. Nowadays we see this play as a piece of art from Shakespeare. The outline of the story is about Bassanio’s love for Portia. He wanted money, so arranged to meet his good friend Antonio.
Unfortunately all of his money was on board his ships, so the two men went to see a moneylender in Venice. When they arrived and met Shylock a Jewish moneylender, he refused to lend money to these two Christian men, due to the amount of aggravation Antonio has given Shylock over the years. Antonio then pleads for Shylock to bestow him money as an enemy, rather than a friend. Antonio is attaining the loan for Bassanio. Antonio wants Shylock to lend the money to him as an enemy in a sense to get Shylocks attention, as Antonio knew Shylock would take the bait and lend the money to him.
Shylock agrees on the condition that if he does not get all of his money by the date due, Shylock may have a pound of flesh from anywhere on Antonio’s body. Being a chaotic comedy, it would have to live up to its name. It appears that all of Antonio’s ships have been lost at sea. Shylock takes his bond to court and demands his pound of flesh. A lawyer and clerk arrive at the court, which the audience realise are the two lovers of Bassanio and Gratianio in disguise. Shylock is told several times to be merciful and take the money offered but he refuses. Portia, the lawyer finds a flaw within the bond that does not specify taking any blood.
She tells Shylock to cut a pound of flesh off from Antonio but he may not take any blood. He realises that he has been beaten, Portia then finds another situation within the case. Shylock had intended upon murder, which is strictly forbidden within the Venetian law, as he was caught he must give half of his land and money to the state, and the other half to the Antonio. Antonio asks for two things, the first is that he does not want the money from Shylock, but wishes it to go Lorenzo after Shylocks death, Lorenzo is Christian man whom had married Shylock’s daughter.
Antonio’s second wish was that Shylock, the very strict Jew should turn Christian. Antonio knew that to become Christian is worse than death for Shylock. This makes an astonishing conclusion to the play as everything that Shylock has been fighting for has now been reversed. There are positives to be considered such as he may now live within the city and out of the ghetto. Shylock is a very complex and divergent character, an average summary of the script would suggest Shylock is the villain in the story. It is only when the script is looked at in a lot of detail that elements of Shylock being the victim of the story can be analysed.