“The Merchant of Venice” is a play written by William Shakespeare.There is an unclear verdict as to whether Shylock is a villain or victim. Thisis expressed evidently throughout the whole play and anti-Semitism should be consideredbecause we witness overwhelming prejudice against Shylock.
As well as that, when Shylock exacts hisrevenge, he is called cruel and ruthless. This is a difficult answer as Shylockis a complex and ambivalent character. Shylock is written this way purposely byShakespeare to cause controversy and provoke readers, making Shylock aremarkable character.
Bassanio asks Antonio, an Italianmerchant, for money to visit his soon-to-be wife Portia. Antonio is short of money,so he goes to Jewish moneylender named Shylock.Antonio has always ridiculed and mocked Shylock, therefore when they make a short-term bond for three thousand ducats, thepenalty for not returning the money is one pound of Antonio’s flesh to beexacted by Shylock.
After Shylock’s daughter Jessica, elopes with a Christianman, Shylock desires revenge more than ever. Meanwhile, two of Antonio’s shipshave sunk. When the news about Antonio’s plight reaches Bassanio, he goes backto Venice, leaving Portia behind. Portia then travels to Venice with Nerissa,her maid, disguised as a male lawyer and his clerk. Antonio does not repay hisdebt to Shylock and their case is therefore taken to court. Shylock, determinedto get his revenge, is allowed to get his pound of flesh on the condition thathe doesn’t shed blood as it is illegal to shed a Christian’s blood.
Since thepound of flesh being exacted will most likely kill Antonio, Shylock is deniedhis pound of flesh. To add to his misery, Shylock is convicted of attempting to murder a Venetian citizen, due tothat, Portia demands he loses all his wealth. Half of his wealth is to go toAntonio, and the other half is to go to the city.
Antonio gives back his halfon the condition that it goes to Jessica. Shylock is also then obligated toconvert to Christianity. Shylock, broken, with no other means of getting hisrevenge, accepts.
During the start of the play Shylockis depicted as a victim as we are only seeing how Shylock has been abused andthe treatment he has gotten from Antonio. In Act 1, Scene 3 when Bassanio andAntonio are borrowing money from Shylock he says”Fair sir, you spit on me Wednesday last… I’ll lend you thus much moneys?”. Thisis relevant because Antonio has spat on Shylock, he has victimised andbelittled him making him a victim.However, Shylock isn’t always victimised.Shylock is frequently acting like a villain creating an odd balance betweenvillain and victim.
In Act 1, Scene 3, Shylock says “I hate him for he is aChristian”. This truly shows how deep this grudge between Shylock and Antonioruns. In Act 1, Scene 3, in a moment of darkhumour Shylock says “in a merry sport, If yourepay me not on such a day… nominated for an equal pound of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken Inwhat part of your body pleaseth me.” Shylock is saying that if the bond issealed and the sum is not repaid, then a pound of Antonio’s flesh will be cutoff by Shylcok from wherever he pleases. Shylock is portrayed as a villain as thisis a spiteful and revengeful condition as cutting off 1 pound of Antonio’s fleshwill most likely kill him.