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Is Shylock presented as a victim or villian? Free essay! Download now

Home > GCSE > English literature > Is Shylock presented as a victim or villian?

Is Shylock presented as a victim or villian?

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Downloads to date: N/A | Words: 1000 | Submitted: 05-Apr-2008
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Shylock is a central character in Shakespeare who famously demanded a “pound of flesh” from the title character. His portrayal as the stereotype of a miserly money lending jew may be demonstrative of the anti-semitic sentiment prevalent at the time.

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Shylock is a central character in Shakespeare who famously demanded a “pound of flesh” from the title character. His portrayal as the stereotype of a miserly money lending jew may be demonstrative of the anti-semitic sentiment prevalent at the time.


First we shall look at the aspects of the text that portray Shylock as a villain. We are first introduced to Shylock in Act I Scene iii where we learn of his usury. It is in this scene that Bassanio seeks Shylock out and asks to borrow money from him in Antonio’s name. Also in this scene do we learn of Shylock’s hatred for Antonio and the Christians: ‘ How like a fawning publican he looks! / I hate him for he is a Christian; ’ (Act I Scene iii)

Shylock also shows himself to be devious and cunning by hiding his hatred beneath a façade of friendship in order to entice Antonio to become indebted to him, not just with money but with his life. Antonio is very naïve regarding the terms of the bond taking the ‘pound of flesh’ clause to be a show of friendship not hatred: ‘ The Hebrew will turn Christian: he grows kind.’ (Act I Scene iii)
Perhaps he receives the terms of the bond in this manner because he is confident that he will be able to repay the bond. Shylock feels justified in exacting revenge upon Antonio because he blames him for all his problems and is bitter about the manner in which Antonio has treated him in the past. He is also resentful of the ridicule and torment of his race by the Christians. Through the bond he feels he will be able to avenge the treatment of his ‘clan’: ‘ To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else, / it will feed my revenge…the villainy you teach me I will execute, / and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction. ’ (Act III Scene i)
He says that he will copy the example of the Christians showing he is no better than they are even though he complains about their behaviour towards him.
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