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English 10 Merchant of Venice Final Project

By Meredith Clark


on 30 October 2014

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Transcript of English 10 Merchant of Venice Final Project

Merchant of Venice Project - English 10
Character Analysis of Shylock
Beyond the Text: How does Shylock interact with the other characters? How do they view him?
Character Type
Shylock has many different personality traits.
To understand the main conflict of this play, and how Shylock is related to it, we need to go back to the beginning.
Main Conflict
For the purpose of this project, I have chosen the character of Shylock to analyze. Shylock is a Jewish moneylender residing in Venice. Angered by his mistreatment at the hands of Venice's Christian population, he schemes to eke out his revenge by ruthlessly demanding one pound of flesh from one of his biggest rivals, Antonio. Despite his menacing ways, Shylock does, at times, diverge from his conventional image and reveal himself to be quite human. These contradictions, combined with his eloquent expressions of hatred, have earned Shylock a place as one of Shakespeare's most memorable characters. I have chosen Shylock for my assignment because I, myself, found him to be the most captivating character in the play.
In Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, the role of Shylock is varied and open to many different interpretations. Because of this, the affect that his character has and the reactions he provokes also depends on the interpretation of each spectator.
Is He a Villain?
Act 3, Scene 1:

"He hath disgraced me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies..."
Despite all, it is shown in Act 1, Scene 3 that Shylock does, deep down, have a forgiving heart. He is willing to loan money to a person whom had ridiculed and insulted himself, and his religion, for years.
"Why, look how you storm ! I would be friends with you and
have your love, forget the names that you have stained me
with, supply your present needs and take no doit of usance
for my moneys, and you'll not hear me! This is kind I offer."
Although it is clear that Shylock is a victim of bigotry, his personality as a whole often makes it difficult for viewers to pity him entirely. When he displays his flawed characteristics, we recognize that he is often rude and base in his interactions. He is abrupt with his daughter and mean to his servant, and his house is poorly described on more than one occasion. Whatever his motives or reasons, his personality and lack of human-interaction skills are still noticed as loathsome and malicious to most.
Having said that, many still believe that he has other personality traits that outweigh those that are flawed. Controversially, some conjecture that his between the lines character sports a truly good heart. Unfortunately, this is masked by a more stern outward persona, which he formed due to a difficult childhood filled with ridicule and pain.
Conclusively, Shylock has many different personality traits. These traits range from crude, abrupt, and monstrous to faithful, kind, and misunderstood. Either way you view him, he is certainly a character whom many generations have enjoyed.
Shylock first becomes involved when Bassanio wishes to "woo" Portia, the wealthy heiress. Since Bassanio figures that he will need money to do this, he approaches his friend Antonio. This is where Shylock comes in, because Antonio visits Shylock, a moneylender, to ask for 3000 ducats. Shylock agrees, but warrants a pound of Antonio's flesh as a guarantee on the loan.
Today, I am going to take you on a journey through Shylock's character.
I hope you enjoy this presentation!
Shylock is an interesting and extremely colorful character created by Shakespeare. Partially, he is portrayed as the villainous moneylender, merciless and greedy in every moment of his life. However, Shylock is hardly your typical villain stereotype. Instead, he is more a comedic opposing force. He feels that he has been treated poorly by the Christians because he is a faithful Jew. Shylock is one whom rarely, but occasionally, receives empathy, thus giving him the role of highly dubious miscreant.
What makes people question Shylock's menacing ways?
Often, the character of Shylock is portrayed as a beastly monstrosity, with a lust for Antonio's flesh. However, if you choose to look closer, you will see that he is really just another member of the community. He had endured abuse, forgiven, and upheld the customs and laws of both his religion and his town.
From this initial contact between Antonio and Shylock, a conflict begins to form. Shylock has said that if he does not have his money back within three months, he will instead take a pound of Antonio's flesh. Bassanio sensed that this was a poor idea, but Antonia is fairly confident in it's good result. As we fast forward into the story, Bassanio, at Portia's house, is faced with the fact that he must pick the right casket or never see her again. Tortured by this uncertainty, Bassanio insists on playing the casket game as soon as possible. Here is where the complication arises, because no sooner than Bassanio wins Portia's heart, a letter arrives announcing his dear friends desperate situation. Antonio's ventures have failed, and Shylock is demanding his flesh. At this point in the play, we see Shylock's character more enraged than ever, and his own daughter running away with his money only adds to this anger. Shylock seems perversely committed to having Antonio's hide rather than the money back. The climax of conflict comes when Antonio is practically shirtless in anticipation of the knife Shylock beholds.
At this point viewers are surely almost holding their breath in suspense. Despite appealing in a court, Antonio's pleadings had been overruled, and there he stood, awaiting a cut that could surely kill him. As it happens, the brilliant Portia steps up and saves Antonio, claiming that although Shylock warranted a pound of flesh, he had no right to take any of Antonio's blood. She goes on to say that Shylock can go ahead and cut him, but if he so much as drew a drop of blood or cut anything other than exactly one pound of flesh, he would be put to death himself. Shylock, now humiliated and unable to comply with this stipulation, decides to withdraw his case.
Conclusively, Shylock's character leaves the courtroom wretched and foul. Having lost everything he owns and seeing no presumable way of evading the chargers, he complies and tells the court that he is content to accept the conditions. In the end, Shylock's reasons for desiring to kill Antonio come across as quite arbitrary and obscure. "Some men there are love not a gaping pig, Some that are mad if they behold a cat" (4.1.46-47). He then follows this statement with another, "So can I give no reason, nor I will not, More than a lodged hate and a certain loathing, I bear Antonio" (4.1.58-60). Since Shylock could not give an answer as to why he wished Antonio dead, his true reasons are left up to viewer's opinions. Some believe he is simply a murderous man, while others almost understand him, and believe that Shylock was right to feel that way because of how he had been ridiculed.
Conclusion: My Thoughts
To other characters, Shylock mostly portrays himself as an inhuman brute. Regardless of any reasons he may have for doing this, other characters still viewed him as a Jewish barbarian. Especially his daughter, whom he refused to accept had fallen in love with Lorenzo, and subsequently out of love with the Jewish religion.
After scrupulously reviewing this play, I have come to the determination that I do, at least partially, sympathize with Shylock's character. When you take out his moments of villainous behavior, you are left with only his poor circumstances. He had been ridiculed his whole life for merely trying to be a faithful man to his religion, and his daughter had fallen in love with one of his most prominent enemies. Then, his daughter abandoned and stole from him, running off with her Christian fiancee. It is because of these circumstances that I find I view Shylock as the misunderstood Jew.
In conclusion, Shakespeare was brilliant to write a character like Shylock, and I know that this character, along with this play, will be enjoyed for many more years to come.
Written by Meredith Clark
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