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The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare is a comic, revengeful and tragic play which is set in Venice and the nearby country estates of Belmont. Shakespeare wrote the play during times when England like much of the Europe had restricted the rights of the Jews and even escalated to extremes of banishing them from England in 1290 by King Edward I and were not officially allowed to return until1655 when Oliver Cromwell allowed them. This exile of Jews was still in effect when Shakespeare wrote this play and many scholars believe that some Jews still lived in England at the time of the Christian guise.
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At the time renaissance Christians disliked the Jews because they believed that their behaviour of charging interest on money they lend (usury) was against the societal morals. During the time of renaissance Christians had become heavily indebted to the Jews who had loaned money to them with interests rates hence their increased hatred for the Jewish counterparts who started terming them as inhuman by demanding usury on the monies they lend. This was a selfish and unfair reaction from the Christian community in Venice because they started treating Jews harshly by imposing hefty taxes on them failure from which their land was confiscated and defaulters imprisoned. Such heavy taxing was intended to boost the financial status of the government especially during adverse economic times (Mahon, 345).
Merchant of Venice is a revenge tragedy play which its plot revolves around the quest of its main character shylock a Jew who is bitter on the way his neighbors supposedly Christians treat him and he is on a mission to avenge for such in human treatment. He plans and implements his revenge by engaging in money lending which offers him chance to avenge when a Christian defaults him after he lend the money.
In Venice Bassanio borrows money from his merchant friend Antonio to help him woo a wealth noble woman Portia. Antonio does not have ready cash to lend to his friend but he gives him a permission or guarantee to borrow the money he needs on his credit. Antonio is expecting his ships to arrive at the harbor with a lot of merchandise that will enable him to settle the loan. Bassanio is given loan of 3000 ducats by the Jewish moneylender Shylock that is not in good terms with Antonio. Their dispute is a racial and religious one and shylock seizes the opportunity to offer a bizarre alternative to Antonio if he defaults and for sure Antonio chances of defaulting hits peak as the news that his ships had been wrecked. Shylock then takes the case to court demanding that he be given permission to cut one pound of flesh from the defaulter's chest as agreed upon earlier. The case is solved amicably by the judge and the play ends in a good way when the main characters Bassanio and Portia marry each other and the ships of the Antonio are found and arrives at the harbor.
Shylock is a Jewish money lender who lives in Venice and he has been bittered for many years by the way Venetian Christians have been mistreating him especially by the merchant Antonio. The mistreatments by the Christians have shaped the religions and racial identity of shylock.
The character of Shylock in the play merchant of Venice is portrayed as devilish and murderer whose dear intentions is to take away the life of the Christian Antonio believed by his fellow Christian to be the most kind mind to have ever lived in Venice. Shylock wants revenge on the Christian Antonio because he wants to avenge his revenge on the Christians who even call him a villain because nothing seems to stop him at getting the pound of flesh from Antonio's chest even after Bassanio offers to pay him twice the agreed upon debt of six thousand ducats. He adamantly refuses to accept the money and demand for the pound of flesh which he claims he bought it hence he must have it because it's legally his.
Jews like shylock hate Christians at the time so dearly because Christians themselves had no liking for Jews because they believed they killed crucified Jesus Christ hence were on the side of the devil. Christian also hated Jews because they believed they were not human by charging usury on money they lend to Christians but the truth is that Christians had become heavily indebted to Jews who had lend money to them hence their intentional unfair reaction by being anti-Semitic. So the murderous character of Shylock is as result of the hatred and bitterness his arbors against Christians who constantly show hatred towards him and other Jews. He claims for what he believes is his rightfully and seizes the opportunity of Antonio's defaulting to make himself to be recognized a as a just man by the Christians who always sees him as an unjust man. This newly earned character of shylock can mainly be attributed to Christians who forced him to hate them and even have a conspiration to kill Antonio, hence offering yet evidence why Christians are portrayed to have contributed to the construction of Shylocks character in the play.
Shylock is forced to charges some interest on the money he lends and this becomes his obsession as he wants to acquire lot money to ensure his own security from the ungrateful Christians. With is addiction to getting more money he becomes a greedy person who is not his true self he only need the money as a reaction to the treatment he receives from the Christian community. Shylock sees that getting financial security is the only way to proof to the Christians like Antonio that he is also somebody worth respect and human dignity and not the way they always see him. He thinks that being wealth will make the Christian treat him well but that ends up not the truth as everything he has worked for ends up in the possession of his enemies when the court fines him for conspiring to kill Antonio and that costs half of his property and he later becomes broke and desolate forcing him to become a Christian hence making him loose his identity. Shylocks fate of losing his identity as a Jew is attributed to his past greedy behavior of charging usury on the money he lends to Christians to get as much wealth as he could just to get at his Christian enemies hence it can be successfully argued that Christians can be held responsible for the final man that Shylock becomes as its their hatred and ill treatment that forced him to charge usury which converted him to a greedy person.
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