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The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 3394 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The Merchant of Venice: To what extent does the audience sympathise with Shylock?

The way’s in which and the extent of which the audience would sympathise with Shylock is mainly due as Shakespeare having created an intresting yet complex atmosphere. This is mainly due also from imporant key events through out the play in which would result the audience sympathising towards Shylock.

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There is mainly a time difference between the time in which, shakespeare had wrote his plays and now. As there is a time difference this would mean they would be “different” events in which may have occured at the time of when the play was written by Shakespeare. What i mean by different, events as they may be more “racial” conflict between different racial groups. However the time in which Shakespeare wrote many of his own plays and as they were performed the audience were mainly Chrisitains. They were a racial conflict between Jews and Chrisitans in Shakespeares time and so Jews were often labbeled as ‘lower class’ people. Many or even most of the samll minority of the jews were often persecuted as they were a group of people who differ racially from a larger group ( Christians) of which it is a part. We know have two different sets of audiance too look at, one is in which the Christians audience and the other Jews audience. The ways in which the Christian audience would have reacted is being strongly arrogant, and strongly critical. By having an uneven distrubution of the Christians ‘heavily’ being arogant towards the jews and in which this mean that Shakespeare would of have had to indulge to this audience. in order to make the play more appealing to them. The ways on which ShakeSpear does this is by using Shylock. Shylock is a jew and has many uniqe charestristics in which these charestristics are quite the opposite of the Chrisitains attitude of the way they react about him how they would react towards him. The overal, view is that as he is Jew, automaticaly they will be discrimination against Shylock. By doing this the audience would have the main and basic concept and so would understand the play much more. An example of this is as in Act 3 Scene 3, Shylock tells the exact ways of how the christians have abused him physicaly and verbaly. They abuse him physcialy and verbaly by calling him ‘names’ such as a cut- thoat dog. they physicaly abuse him by spitting on his Jewish gabardine and on his beared. They also take there anger on him resulting in them kicking him “as you spurn a stranger cur”. As Shylock continues to express his feelings by explaining the abuse his received from Christiance this, would then cause more or less of a “guild trip” to the audiance. This would result in the audience to sympathize with him. As just the “‘statements he had made’ shows his mortality as a human and the strength he has to express himself. It would make us think, what he really is dispite him being a jew, he still has emotions, he is a human-being with with not only emotions but feelings. The only exception is that he is different race. The aimed target audiance of the play appeals to a young, old however modern audience. The reason being is because a moder audience would have less tension between races. A modern audiance would, and could be described as a ‘neautral multi- racial’ society. The modern audiance in this way reduces the ‘effectt’ of Shakspeare in order to succesfully adress to a more contemporary audience. The reason being is because a modern audience would feel the pain and will be quite less critical. A modern audience can be described as being multi-racial or neaurtal, taking away the motive of Shakespeare’s efforts to grab more attention and appeal to a contemporary audience.By having this moder audience the play would now be much more tolerant and therfore resulting in it to be much more enjoyable.If this was not the case and there was a contemporary audience they would have much different views and perspectives on this matter. They would have not cared about Shylock at all and that abuse he got from them.

Shakespeare, the introduced portia in Act 1 Scene 2. Portia is basicaly, Shylocks daughter and so portia expresses her feelings and emotions. She expresses these emotions and feelings very clear, however more importantly portia expresses her fellings about a Young British Baron named Falconbridge. As throught the descripitions portian was giving of her fellings about the Young British Baron Shakespear includes ‘hints’ of criticisms of the Christian audience, when Shakespeare was giving information and describing him. The descripion in which Portia uses can be quite relevant to the audience. An example of this is when portia states directly to the audience stating “He is a proper mans picture, but, alas! Who can converse with a dumb show? How oddly he is suited! I think he bought his doublet in Italy, his round hose in France, his bonnet in Germany, and his behaviour everywhere.” This statement that she makes, would make you want to read it again. What she actauly is saying is; On the outside is a different person and on the inside is a different person, he is living two lives. On the outside he looks like a perfect gentlemen however his behaviour and attitudes are below appalling.This is a criticism of the audience. This would criticize the audiance, as it is exactly what they are this statement relates directly to them, as there were very anti-semetic. They are many criticizms from this statment another criticism is implys that not many people can talk to them as they ‘think’ they are some high ranking people. Shylock is introduced at the begining of Act 1 Scene 3. The first glance of appearance towards, Shylock is that he is quite wealthy and rich. The reason being is because his starting couple of words, and statements are all ‘something got to do’ with money. Shakespeare has done this on purpose, in order to associated Shylocks his lines with money is because Shylock is a, user useuer. Bassasnio and Shylock have a conversation at thhe beginning of Act 3 Scene 1. Bassanio requests alot of money from Shylock. Infat he asks Shylock for a sum of money which is a loan of three thousand ducats, and this some is an incredibly large sum of money. The audiance auttitudes varies of Shylock in his first lines. Antonio and Shylock do not like each other, and so Shylock sees a great oppurtunity in order to get ‘revenge’ on Antonio by making him angry and ‘tries to play with Antonios head’. Shylock makes him confused and surprised as he offers him to have friendship, and an interest free loan.

In the duration of Act 3 Scene 1, Shylock has a and presents an intresting speech. Shylock starts by answearing to a question posted by Salerio. The question stated by Salerio is that in as to why he needs on pound of human flesh. Shylock gives a direct answear back stating to bait fish- “to bait fish withal”. Shylock then proceeds (with a short breath) “If it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge”. By Shylock saying this he is meaning that it will indeed satisfy his desire and wants for revenge as he has had constant abuse from Christians. Shylock continues with his speach and begins to list the every day- to day abuse he had received from Christians and in which these actions that Christians have done him have has a negative impact and effect on him.The result of this would have created an atmospher of confusion and emotions in the contemporary audience. Even though the main fact that they are being assed and ‘looked’ at as an critical anti-semetic audience, despite this face they would most defiently would of had known how it would make a Jew feel in a Jews perspective. They would not have a very good idea of how and what their hatred of Jews would imagined to be like but more like a glimpse. Trying to gain sympathy in a modern audience, would be much more easier.The sympathy would also have been much more uniquley different than the sympathny of a contemporary audience. The way a modern audience would look at things, is they would look at all the aspects of the different types of racial groups, or ethnity and so would be multi-racial and as a result they would be a neautral opinions and so they both would have and feel the balanced amount of emotions. Basicaly they have the same balanced levels of emotions, however it would be quite different, as a quite yet powerful small minority of the modern audience, would of kept the Jews as their targets, and so victimized the Jews so therefore, they would be on the exact same levels of Shylocks emotions, and they can contrast to this, as some of these events may of occured to the Jews and also Shylock gived he gives a strong and intresting performance. His speech is then realy just asking for help with further gaining of sympathy, by delivering a powerful yet strange speech, “If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh?” By saying this powerful statment Shylock is implying that “He is not A religion” but but beleives in on, and so he is a human. This particular sentence has become very knowleadgable, and increases the amount of sympathy. It also shows that Shylock is human with feelings and has a (powerful enough) accurate, authentic reason for wanting revenge.

There are (two) main plots in the play. These two main plots in the play are the flesh-bond plot and the marriage- caskets plot. Bassanio requested in order to gain permission for marriage with Portia, Portia being the Heiress of Belmont. The only problem there is that Bassanio is not financial rich enough to ‘impress’ Portia. As a result of this Bassanio cannot compete against the others that would want to marry her. Portia is basically the heiress to a fortune of riches. As a result of having this fortune her father, who is Shylock states she is only allowed to marry a man under the conditions that the man who chooses a correct casket out of 3 caskets total caskets is the one she is allowed to marry. Each Casket is made of either Gold, Silver or Lead. In the casket will contain her portrait and in which case, whoever chooses the correct casket beholding the portrait will become her loyal husband. In the location of Belmon the two princes have tried to to choose the correct casket containing the portrait hoever both have failed to do this. The two princes are called; Prince Morroco and Prince Aragon. Bassanio is next in choosing the correct casket. Bassanio chooses succesfully the correct casket in which included her portrait in and so Portia looking overwelmed and glad gived Bassanio a ring. The ring symbolises him becoming her husband. Portia is happy that he is her husband. Bassasnio then vows never to part with it with it. This is quite relevant as it creates sympathny towards Shylock. It creates sympathny towards Shylock as the contrast of Portia’s events, are simmilar (oppose) to the events in Shylocks life. Portia is overwelmed and is living blissfully, after just becoming engaged. On the other hand Shylock has lost his precious daughter in which he cares about alot. Shylock at the moment he is burning for revenge as he his daughter was mainly the main thing he has. The sympathny comes exactly from in whicn the contrast between portia nd Shylocked life.

Jessica is ‘sick’ and angry of her father and so Jessica becomes a Christican, purely for material reasons. Thereasons include to move herself away from her Fathe, who takes way too much pride in being a Jew and money instead of raising Jessica. She does this on purpose in order that her father will be hurt and so by doing these actions (converting to christian), it shows the extent in which she will go in order to acheive her objective which is upset her father. Even though Jessica had converted to Christian, this action that she had taken would have even resulted in making the contemporary audience feel sad for Shylock and so would sympathise towards Shylock. The reason being in which the contemporary audience fellt sympathy is because they have got to unserstand him fully. Dispite the facts about his religion which is a Jew they would , want to know more about his, they would care where he has gone and what has happened to him as they know this would cause the up most harm to him. It would cause him great hard as he takes great Jessica’s intentions of converting to Christianity are finally opened and revealed in Act 2 Scene 3. They are opened and reaveled as they were in a conversation with Launcelot she says “to be ashamed to be my fathers child, but though I am a daughter to his blood, I am not to his manners” proving her hatred of him. (It is also revelaed that Shylock had almost forced her away without knowing mentaly after the tragic loss of her mother). She had run the household, herself, manage herself and grow up by herself whilst her father was too busy trying to gain money. This created tention and eventualy created a hatred and in some ways an envy of him, and he was slowly pushing her away, eventually losing her. Jessica seeing an opportunity converts to Christianity, hoping that this will get her ‘back’ and her revenge against her father. Between her and Shylocks plot there is a great similarity, the simalarity is that both plots were aimed for the main objective revenge.

However the contemporary audience may sympathise with Antonio. Shylock appears to be very self consious and cautious. When Shylock takes notice of Antonio, Antonio does not acknowleadge Shylock, who speaks openly to the audience, but not to his untrusted ones making them his enemy. Shylock is now becoming more and more ‘depressed’ and so he is rapidly changing charecter. No longer can a Christian audience sympathize with him, as his true plot to “catch” or grab a Christian comes out. This would now result in the audience sympathize someone of their own type and religion. Shylock becomes increasingly restless and so as this happens the audiance will fall apart from Shylock and so the audiance sympathy will fall.

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Shylocks plan is comming to a purposed end, as it is stated that he can only take a pound of flesh, no more, no less, even if he took a bit more, the bond would be broken in which case Shylock can be accused and charged with attempted murder. In a way Shylock has boxed himself in, ruining his own plan as he was telling everyone the bond has to be carried out exactly as it is written and so, he has trapped himself.The pound of flesh has came to an end to Shylock. Shylock imediently is then told about the charges and in which case the penalty for attempted murder. He then goes onto strutter and is told that the penalty for attempted murder results in death, and all his goods will be taken from him. Gratiano trys humerisoly saying Shylock will have to beg for a rope to hang himself, as he will have no money to but one. The way a modern audience would feel and react is that they would firstly feel much sympathy for Shylock. The reason as being is that he has worked hard for this moment, in which he gets his revenge, his ‘back’, for the years in which he has greatly paineded and instead of getting the way he wanting thing to go and what he wanted he ended up getting nothing. So basicaly the moder audience would sympathize more with Shylock as now they can full understand his full charecter and the potential in this charecter.

Jessica and Lorenzo duet together in Belmont, after the trial. After the trial aswell the arrival of Portia and Nerissa is announced. When the husbands return they are imediently confronted for giving the rings away. The final act would be comical to a contemporary audience. There are two main reasons in which the audiance may think this is comical. The first comical reason is in which Portia is angry with Bassanio because has given away the ring that expresses their love. Intrestingly the comical thing i would suggest is that the audience knows that Portia had infact received the ring however Bassanio doesn’t. Portia pretends that she is extremley angry and that she and Nerrisa will have love with the barrister and his clerk if they return to Belmont. Both a contemporary audience and also a modern audience would also find this comical. Portia demands for Antonio to give Bassanio a ring and so is amazed it is the same ring. The ending was quite happy and comedy and so this is what shakespear had delivered by stating the lovers are restored to their loving relationships, Antonio’s supposedly lost ships arrive miraculously in port, and no threatening presence looms in the distance in order to only suggest that the happiness is not long term, but temporary. There is many sighns of the language of the play which returns to the comedy romance after Shylock’s departure. Now that Shylock been vanished, Lorenzo becomes creative in his lanuage and so imagines that the each star in the sky produces music as it moves, “choiring to the young-eyed cherubins” . Lorenzo was saying this as he was describing the “sweet power of music” to Jessica. Lorenzo claims that such sounds have the ability to tame even the wildest beasts. As the music plays on the hills of Belmont, there is a huge amount of flexability between all the charecters and so the characters seem confident that the forces requiring taming. Shylock and his ‘plots’ have been tamed which will result in the rest of the charecters to enjoy the “concord of sweet sounds” (V.i.83). A modern audience may find this inappropriate because Shylock has been ‘forced’ to give up his religion and his humanity and the Christians are celebrating his conversion. However a contemporary audiance would not react in this way.

In my overall view (opinion), I beleive Shylock’s punishment to become a Christian is not neccasary and does not deserve this punishment. The main reason in which i think this is because, in reality what had Shylock done, is a negative thing and so being provoked into do somthing is also a negative and so somehowthey rationalise each other out. I feel his punishment is not needed and “‘unjustice’ and should he should have the right to die a Jew. It also mainly depends on the type of audiance there is, such as a contemporary audience would find it lawful and justice that Shylock had this punishment. Throught the play ShakeSpeare is trying to make a ‘hidden’ point in which is is that h is trying to imply that Christians are racists but at the time they would be too arrogant to notice this slight negative of themselves. Throught the play shakespeare is expressing a point to the more Anti-Semitic audience that they should be treated just the same way they treat themselfs and they way in which they would like to be treated. Shylock is the main and most rechognised inThe Merchant of Venice.You could ‘read’ Shylockand intrepert him as, a joking Jewish stereotype, or even a charecter in which sense of decency have been shattered by the neglect and abuse from the Christians. Certainly Shylock is a creation of circumstance, and even thought without thinking twice about his pursuit of a pound of flesh, his constant mentions of the cruelty, abuse, and neglect in which where all at the hands of the Christians and so as a result it makes it hard for us to target him as someone that is bad. Shylock in a way to “rationalise” his doings out argues that Jews are humans just like everyone else and calls his quest for vengeance in the product of lessons taught to him by the cruelty of Venetian citizens. However on the other side, Shylock’s strongly yet coldly precalculaters plan in order to have a go to revenge the negatives done to him. The result in the negatives done to him is that he attempt by murdering his persecutor Antonio, in which prevents us from seeing him in a positive way. This is then in other ways making the audiance to sympathise with Shylock as this is what , ShakeSpeare had intended.

 

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