AntiSemitism and The Merchant Of Venice Essay

This essay has a total of 1430 words and 6 pages.


AntiSemitism and The Merchant Of Venice




Anti-Semitism and The Merchant Of Venice

The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare, depicts the strong anti-Semitic
views of the Elizabethan era, through Shakespeare's choice of plot, characters’
personalities, and even his words. His play makes the attitudes, and actions of Jews seem
foreign to those of a good Christian. These stereotypes are most evident in the character,
Shylock, a greedy Jewish money lender. Shylock's antagonistic relationship with Antonio,
a generous Christian merchant, only exaggerates these already obvious anti-Jewish
attitudes and perceptions that would have infiltrated Elizabethan life.
When the play begins, we find Antonio in a horrible state of depression. Quickly,
Antonio's good friend, Bassanio, appears to ask if he may borrow 3,000 ducats so that he
may ask the wealthy Portia to marry him. This marriage would also ensure that Bassanio
could repay all of the interest free debts he owes to Antonio. Antonio agrees, but has to
borrow the money from Shylock. Antonio's intention is to pay Shylock back after his
ships come back to port. However, Antonio and Shylock already have a long history of
hatred and insults. Shylock's hatred for Antonio is even stronger, because Antonio refuses
to collect interest on his many loans. Shylock tricks Antonio into agreeing to give
Shylock a pound of his flesh if the loan is not paid off in three months.
During this time, Shylock's daughter, Jessica, elopes with Antonio's friend,
Lorenzo, and converts to Christianity, creating even more hatred of Antonio by Shylock.
Bassanio travels to Portia and follows the wedding plans that were her father's will. He
correctly selects from a gold, silver and lead casket to find her picture and win her hand in
marriage. Their joy is brief, however. Bassanio receives a letter explaining that Antonio's
ships were lost at sea and of Shylock's determination to get his pound of flesh in
accordance with the loan's terms. Bassanio and Portia wed, as do his friend Gratiano, and
Nerissa, Portia's maid.
Bassanio and Gratiano travel to Venice to help Antonio in court. Lorenzo and
Jessica are left in charge or Portia's home. Portia then disguises herself as a lawyer and
arrives at the trial with her clerk, the disguised Nerissa. Portia agrees that the contract is
valid, but she also reveals that Shylock must remove the flesh without shedding Antonio's
blood. It is illegal for a Jew to shed Christian blood in Venice at that time. Shylock
retreats accepting the money, but the court decides he must be punished for plotting
against a Christian. He is then forced to leave half his wealth to his daughter and convert
to Christianity.
After some confusion, Bassanio and Gratiano are coerced to give their wives rings
to the young lawyers. Portia and Nerissa accuse them of giving the rings to other women.
Eventually, Portia's deception is revealed. Antonio's ships are recovered and the group
celebrates.
This plot strongly enforces the perception of Jews as being murderous and money
hungry. The attempts by Shylock to have revenge on Antonio are the main focus of the
plot. At the end of The Merchant of Venice, Shylock has lost all his wealth, and is forced
to convert to Christianity, a horrible fate for a devout Jew. This shows the good
Christians triumphing over the evil Jew.
The character, Shylock, is portrayed as a blood thirsty murderer by Shakespeare.
His first appearance in The Merchant of Venice is in Act one, Scene three. His feud with
Antonio then controls the action in the following three acts of the play. When first faced
with Antonio, Shylock states, "I hate him for he is a Christian" (I, iii, 39). He then speaks
on how his business depends on usury, and Antonio does not practice this. He then
concludes with the other two reasons why he despises Antonio saying, "He hates our
sacred nation, and he rails,/ Even there where merchants most do congregate,/ On me, my
bargains, and my well-won thrift,/ Which he calls interest" (I, iii, 45-48). Shylock accuses
Antonio of verbally and physically abusing him in the past. " You call me misbeliever,
cutthroat dog,/ And you spet upon my Jewish gaberdine," and Shylock even continues to
say, " You did void your rheum upon my beard/ And foot me as you spurn a stranger cur/
Over your threshold!" (I, iii, 108-116). These actions at the time were acceptable for
Christians and Antonio openly admits to them saying, " I am as like to call thee so again,/
To spet on thee, to spurn thee too" (I, iii, 127-128). Antonio even ignores Shylock's
presence, referring to him in the third person. "Is he yet possessed?" (I, iii, 61).
Later in the play, we discover that Antonio has actually rescued many of Shylock's
debtors from their loans, thus preventing Shylock from collecting his interest. Antonio
describes this when he says, "He seeks my life. His reason I well know:/ I oft delivered
Continues for 3 more pages >>




  • Polygamy
    polygamy What exactly do you mean by "polygamy"? "Polygamy", as referred to on this site, is meant in its popular usage, where one husband has more than one wife at the same time. This is technically known as "polygyny", but you would have to be really keen to know that. On this site "Polygamy" does not refer to "polyandry", where one wife has more than one husband at once. That is a practice which has never been prevalent in human societies and which major world religions condemn. It is also a
  • Polygamy
    polygamy What exactly do you mean by "polygamy"? "Polygamy", as referred to on this site, is meant in its popular usage, where one husband has more than one wife at the same time. This is technically known as "polygyny", but you would have to be really keen to know that. On this site "Polygamy" does not refer to "polyandry", where one wife has more than one husband at once. That is a practice which has never been prevalent in human societies and which major world religions condemn. It is also a
  • The Great Transcendentalist Movement
    The Great Transcendentalist Movement The Great Transcendentalist Movement During the late 1800s and early 1900s, a new era was developing in American society. The United States was an idealistic nation with separate beliefs and lifestyles. One of the most intriguing lifestyles introduced during this time was transcendentalism. Many authors, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathanial Hawthorne, Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau, developed this idea and tried to make people understand the meaning b
  • Orientalism A Brief Analysis
    Orientalism A Brief Analysis Lauren Michaud April 5, 2000 ORIENTALISM: A BRIEF ANALYSIS Said describes Orientalism as, “...the generic term that I have been employing to describe the Western approach to the Orient; Orientalism is the discipline by which the Orient was (and is) approached systematically, as a topic of learning, discovery and practice”. By this, Said is saying because we treated the East like a school subject, we have learned to treat the East as an inferior. Which has developed i
  • William Carlos Williams
    William Carlos Williams William Carlos Williams 1883-1963 Nationality: American New Entry : 03/01/1999 Place of Birth: Rutherford, New Jersey, United States Genre(s): Poetry; Novels; Short Stories; Plays; Autobiography/Memoir; Philosophy; Letters; Essays; Songs/Lyrics and libretti Award(s): Dial Award, 1926, for distinguished service to American literature; Guarantors Prize from Poetry, 1931; LL.D. from University of Buffalo, 1946, and Fairleigh Dickinson University, 1959; Russell Loines Memori
  • Womens brain
    womens brain Womens Brain When you look up the dictionary, the definition of Science is a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws (Websters dictionary). In order to make a truth, many scientists take the time to observe or test with scientific method. In nineteenth century, there are some incorrect truths even if it looks like truths logically arranged by scientific method because the scientists
  • The Degenerate Arab
    The Degenerate Arab Edward Said argues in Orientalism that the American media and literature represents the Arab male as a "degenerate." This charicature most assuredly applies to the film Not Without My Daughter. Said says that the pop culture Arab in the United States is "associated either with lechery or bloodthirsty dishonesty. He appears as an oversexed degenerate, capable, it is true, of cleverly devious intrigues, but essentially sadistic, treacherous, low" (286). He is seen as a "colorf
  • Suzuki was obsessed with proving Buddhism as a uni
    Zen Suzuki was obsessed with proving Buddhism as a unified tradition to be scientific and in accordance with modern, universal culture. He calls it "rational" and "positivistic" (1959a, x) and "radical empericism" (1974, 2). "Buddhism is reality, reality is Buddhism" (1970D, 7), it is an "ultimate fact of all philosophy and religion" (1956, 111). Like his Victorian predecessors, he rejected all ritualistic activity as merely symbolic (or as a spiritual gestus towards the unenlightened folk beli
  • On Man Ray?s Violin D?ingres
    On Man Ray?s Violin D?ingres Man Ray\'s Violin D\'Ingres is a perfect example of a modernist photograph. Man Ray pushes both how photography is perceived and what is possible within a photograph in this example. Man Ray himself was an American, born as Emmanuel Rudnitsky, but moved to Paris and engaged in very non-American photography. Europe lacked the American ideals about what "strait photography" should be. While American schools of photography believed that an art photograph should only be
  • Globalisation - Australia and Asia
    Globalisation - Australia and Asia Edward Said states, "No one today is purely one thing. Labels like Indian, or woman, or Muslim, or American are no more than starting points." Said\'s idea illustrates the evolution of relations between communities as a result of globalization, and the understanding and recognition of other cultures through the interpretation of cultural borders. In this essay I will analyse to what extent globalisation is affecting identity formation, and also the roles of cul
  • Frankenstein: The Subjectivity Of The Character s
    Frankenstein: The Subjectivity Of The Character "safie" Frankenstein: The Subjectivity of the Character Safie Even though she is only mentioned in Mary Shelley\'s Frankenstein for a relatively brief period, the character, Safie, is very interesting as she is unique from the other characters in that her subjectivity is more clearly dependent on her religion and the culture of her nation. Contrasts can be made between the Orient and the European society which attempts to interpret it. Often, this
  • Nissim Ezekiel and A.K. Ramanujan
    Nissim Ezekiel and A.K. Ramanujan Nissim Ezekiel (December 24 1924 - January 9, 2004 ) was a poet, playwright and art critic. He was considered the foremost Indian writer in English English-language of his time. Contents 1 Early life 2 Career 3 Books by Nissim Ezekiel 4 Some of his well-known poems Early life Ezekiel was born in Bombay (now Mumbai Mumbai). Ezekiel\'s father was a botany professor and his mother, principal of her own school. He belonged to Mumbai\'s small \'Bene Israel\' Jewish c
  • Poetry Throughout the Ages
    Poetry Throughout the Ages This anthology is a published collection of poetry throughout the five major periods including- the Pre Elizabethan period, Elizabethan Period, Metaphysical Period, Romantic Period and the Victorian Period. The Pre Elizabethan Period was first in Old English and then in Middle English. Old English was used after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th and 6th centuries. The invaders from Germany who settled in England were called the Angles, the Saxon, and the Jutes. T
  • Russian opera
    russian opera Russian Opera The seeds of a distinctively national art music in Russia are usually dated from the first half of the 19th century. The performance of the opera A Life for the Tsar (1836), by Mikhail GLINKA, is usually cited as the turning point for Russian music (Russia\'s national anthem is taken from this opera). In this historical opera, as well as in his subsequent opera Ruslan and Ludmila (1842), the orchestral fantasy Kamarinskaya (1848), and numerous songs, Glinka successfu
  • Israeli conflict
    israeli conflict Ignacio Ramonet, Guerras del siglo XXI , Nuevos miedos , nuevas amenazas: Oriente Proximo. La nueva guerra de los Cien Anos En el tercer capitulo de su libro Ramonet, director del periodico mensual frances Le Monde diplomatique, analiza la situacion conflictiva en el Oriente Proximo. Empieza con describir la situacion como ‘el agujero negro de la politica internacional\' y ‘la nueva guerra de los cien anos\'. Siete anos despues del asesinato de Isaac Rabin (el 4 de noviembre