The Tragedy of Shylock Essay

I had non read the _Merchant of Venice_ before this category. All of my acquaintance with the drama was based on rumor. and for some ground I got the thought in my caputs that it was a calamity. I thought that Shylock_did_ receive a lb of flesh from Antonio. but that it was merely skin removed from his dorsum. This ghastly image was what I was waiting for during my full reading of the drama. But I was cheerily surprised to happen that this was non the instance. Besides. I found out ‘Comedy’ agencies ‘Happy Ending. ’ And that ‘Happy Ending’ means ‘No One Gets Their Skin Cut off for Defaulting on a Loan. ’

But I found the work to be non as comedic and happy as that stoping implies. This is a happy stoping if you identify and sympathize with those characters that triumph in the terminal. But reading this drama in this twenty-four hours and age. Shylock becomes a much more sympathetic character. We look at Shylock through our cognition of unfairness perpetrated against Jews for 1000s of old ages. We know and love flesh and bone humane Jews in our mundane life. and if non that. at least we all enjoyed _Seinfeld. _ Shylock becomes non a depositary for our hatred as old coevalss could construe him. but as a human being who has been wronged. It allows me to look at _The Merchant of Venice_ non merely as a Comedy of the Merchant. but as the Tragedy of Shylock.

Shakespeare’s the _Merchant of Venice_ has endured for this long because of the absorbing character of Shylock. His contradictory presence of both human and Satan. the familiar and the strange is what continues to pull audiences to this work. Leslie Fiedler devotes an full chapter of his book _The Stranger in Shakespeare_ to this interesting character. a chapter entitled _The Jew as Stranger. _ This unfavorable judgment offers a wealth of information. some of it utile and insightful. some of it less so. But I shall utilize Fiedler’s work as a usher to deconstructing the _Merchant of Venice_ .

If Shylock is the victim. we must recite the cases where he is wronged. Upon his first entryway into the action of the drama. he has already been called by Antonio a “misbeliever. cutthroat Canis familiaris. and spit upon [ his ] Judaic gabardine. and all for usage of that which is [ his ] own” ( I. iii. 108-110 ) . Antonio seems to hold an drawn-out history of insulting and dehumanising Shylock. and these actions of Antonio’s seem cruel and motiveless. He has insulted and spat upon Shylock. apparently for practising a concern that provides nutriment for him and his household. and breaks no jurisprudence of Venice. And does Antonio offer any defence to these accusals. or experience any compunction if he had. in truth. acted this manner?

Does he apologise to shylock now that he requires service from him? Not at all. He replies “I am as like to name thee once more. to reject thee too” ( I. iii. 127-128 ) . Antonio feels wholly justified in his intervention of Shylock. and show no marks of altering this temperament in the close hereafter. Not even when necessity calls for him to sponsor Shylock’s antecedently scorned services does Antonio offer to piece things up with the Jew. He continues stubbornly in is contempt. In this. the first visual aspect of Shylock. Shakespeare has already humanized more than demonized him. He has taken the chance to do this character non as much of buffoonish imitation as a true fleshed out relatable human being.

He is besides allowed to further humanise himself in at least one extra address. He comments as follows:

“He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million. laughed at my losingss. mocked at my additions. scorned my state. thwarted my deals. cooled my friends. heated mine enemies – and what’s his ground? I am a Jew. Hath non a Jew eyes? Hath non a Jew custodies. variety meats. dimensions. senses. fondnesss. passions? … If you prick us. make we non shed blood? … And if you wrong us. shall we non avenge? If we are like you in the remainder. we will resemble you in that. ”

He calls into light the similarities between the Christians and the Jews. stressing his ain humanity throughout all his address. He one time more calls to illume the legion wrongs he has endured. therefore explicating his actions. But most articulately he reminds us all of the humanity indoors. that this is non some despicable monster. but a adult male driven to the border as any adult male. Christian or Jew. would.

This intervention of Shylock. even leting for there to be cause for a sympathetic reading of Shylock. is testament to Shakespeare’s involuntariness to yield to utilizing stereotypes and imitations. Harmonizing to Fiedler. he was under a enormous sum of force per unit area to make a Judaic whipping boy for the phase for the community to vent its defeats over a tribunal dirt affecting a Judaic doctor. The fact that he has no other Judaic characters in all of his dramas raises a ruddy flag to state that he did non desire to make a monster out of Shylock. but by necessity. created half of one. Through his authorship he gave the people what they wanted. an easy scoundrel to detest. but besides a manner to look at this character without arrant disdain. Shakespeare found a manner to delight his audience and besides to go forth room for a more charitable reading of Shylock.

If Shylock is to the hero. so. accordingly. another character must be the scoundrel. Because of the manner the characters contrast with existent heroes. peculiarly when they cite Jason and the Argonauts and Troilus and Cressida. it is easy to see these ‘heroes’ as ludicrous play-acting scoundrels. The non obstructions they must get the better of for love and money contrast aggressively with the heroic poem tales they themselves reference. They have no firedrakes to get the better of or long journeys to ship upon for their love. They do non construct a ship and gather powerful warriors. but instead Bassanio hits up his friend for some hard currency to look presentable. and ropes another friend in to be his wingman for his lady’s amah. These are non the actions of heroes.

About any other major character in this drama would measure up. but the main Villain to Shylock’s Hero is without a uncertainty Portia. She is the biggest hero in the comedy. but her heroics can easy be reduced to villainy. because the defects of her character are legion. Her first defect is her ability to abuse and justice with rather some easiness. All of her old suers that she hoped against hope would non take coffins right are insulted in some manner form or signifier. She calls the Frenchman a poser. the German a rummy. the Scotsman a coward and so on. She shows no restraint in allowing these abuses fly at any alien. adjustment that she should take the Native Bassanio for her suer. She militias a particular trade name of racism and lies for the Moor. the Prince of Morocco. Portia says she would desire nil to make with anyone of his skin color. even “if he have the status of a saint and the skin color of a Satan. I had instead he should absolve me than wive me” ( I. ii. 124-126 ) .

His personality and sort bosom would count nil to her if his skin color does non accommodate her. and this is earlier even run intoing him! And when she does. her temperament does non better much. Morocco makes an apology for his skin color as his debut to Portia. and she replies that he is “as just as any comer I have looked on yet for my affection” ( II. I. 20-22 ) . But as we. the audience. cognize. she didn’t think excessively lovingly of the other suers she encounters. So she courteously lies to this adult male she has judged before meeting. And one time he chooses falsely. she comments “a soft elimination. Pull the drapes. travel. Let all of his skin color take me so” ( II. seven. 78-79 ) . She was seting on an act for the Moor while he was in her presence. non merely detesting irrationally but besides lying through her dentitions to him. This character is a perfect scoundrel full of racial bias to be a foil to Shylock.

Talking of lying through her dentitions. that is what Portia is about ever making. Her biggest ‘heroic’ minute in the full drama is achieved under wholly false pretences. First of all. she is non a adult male. and most surely non a physician of Torahs. Yet she plays one for the tribunal. victimizing Shylock of his bond. and what’s more. his support. She lies to her hubby Bassanio. playing a fast one on her purportedly darling hubby for no other ground than to prove his fidelity. Of class. through her artifice she is proving Bassanio’s fidelity to his placeholder male parent Antonio against his fidelity to his bride. There is no point to this trial other than to set the psyche of Bassanio on test.

I find it ugly and unneeded to make such a thing to the adult male she allegedly loves. She uses this to undermine relationships and endanger her hubby. She performs before the tribunal a long address about clemency. likely burying the manner she has created a gag of the tribunal through her caricatures but besides is prophesying ‘mercy’ while utilizing her advantage to demand pitiless retaliation upon Shylock. I am aghast at these actions and can see no motive or ground behind them. and this is what I find nefarious about her. Her self-seeking ways are every bit abominable to me as any of Shylock’s evildoings and even worse in their unmotivated nature.

But with any Tragedy. we must hold a tragic defect and a tragic autumn. Shylock is a affluent money-lender with a girl and a all right estate. He is undone in the terminal for his deficiency of clemency. and rigorous attachment to the jurisprudence he himself had laid out. His insisting on keeping his bond despite offers of many times the original loans deserving shows the deepness of his hate for Antonio. and this deficiency of clemency is what causes the job in the drama. This reminds me of an episode of the Television show _Arrested Development_ . wherein Gangie. comments “They turn you into a monster. and so they call you one. ” This puts in perfect footings the unfairness enacted upon Shylock. He has been driven to the threshold by the intervention he has received. but so he struck down once more for the manner the other characters have made him. His insisting on rigorous reading is turned back around on him. and other Torahs. doubtful in nature. supply his concluding undoing.

Through her luxuriant artifice Portia is allowed to reprobate Shylock to poverty and the loss of all that is his. But that is non even the worst of the discourtesies. as Shylock is compelled to give his faith. He is violated in the most thorough manner. robbing him of his girl. his faith. his individuality. his retainer. his ownerships. and his profession. This arrant devastation of his life is a awful blow. and made all the more humiliating by the loss of his faith. This is treated as a happy juncture. non as the awful inhumane process it would be considered today. This stoping is as harsh a destiny as can be normally permitted in a comedy. It is sad what happens to Shylock. particularly sing the manner we now relate to him.

So in the terminal of the drama. Shylock is condemned for the manner the other characters have made him through their contempt. ridicule. and intolerance. They preach mercy while utilizing falsities and the jurisprudence to demand avenge upon him. He was robbed of everything he had by people who created him. and was tragically reduced to nil. It is non all that hard to recognize the _Merchant of Venice_ as finally the Calamity of Shylock.


Fiedler. Leslie. The Stranger in Shakespeare. 1972. Stein and Day Publishing. New York.

Shakespeare. William. The Merchant of Venice. 1598. London.