In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare does not intend to present Shylock explicitly as a villain, but also as an upstanding member of the community who endures abuse, forgives easily, and upholds the customs and law.
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Shylock endures many of Antonio’s abuses for a long time. The sheer amount of the disgraces he has withstood is the evidence of this proposition. An outstanding instance is Shylock’s lament that Antonia has disgraced him many times, laughed at his losses, mocked his gains, scorned his nation, and thwarted his bargains among other things (3.1.52).
Besides, Shylock has a magnanimous spirit. This appears when he offers Antonio, who has abused him terribly, an interest free loan. Shylock is willing to give money to someone who has totally disgraced him in public on terms that are better than his usual business terms. This forgiving side of Shylock is evident when he says, “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” (1.3.148).
In addition, Shylock is honest, respectful, and law-abiding. This comes to be true before the very end of the play. His immense respect for the law is shown in quotes like “I stand for judgment” (4.1.104), “I crave the law” (4.1.213), and “O noble judge!” (4.1.257) among others.
Shakespeare does not urge us to understand Sherlock only as a bad guy. The evidence of this is Sherlock’s upstanding statements and actions. However, my attitude draws profound influence from my socialization in the current religious tolerance. My opinion might have differed if it was in the Shakespearean error as there was a stigma against the Jews.
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