The Plots Of The Merchant Of Venice English Literature Essay

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So far in the play, Bassanio a nobleman with money problems wants to woo Portia, a wealthy heiress of Belmont. He asks his friend Antonio, a successful merchant of Venice to loan him the money necessary. Antonio agrees but, as all of his assets are at sea, he will have to use his credit in order to get the money for his friend. Antonio and Bassanio go to Shylock, a Jewish moneylender for a loan since Antonio can't lend his friend money. Shylock has an "ancient grudge" against Antonio, who has made a habit of criticizing Shylock and other Jews for their usury. Although Antonio refuses to apologize for his behaviour, Shylock acts pleasantly and offers to lend Bassanio three thousand ducats with no interest. Shylock adds, however, that if the loan isn't repaid in three months time, Shylock will be entitled to a pound of Antonio's own flesh "Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken". Despite Bassanio's warnings, Antonio agrees "Yes, Shylock, I will seal unto this bond".

In Act 1 Scene 3, the audience expects Antonio and Shylock to immediately hate each other before they meet in the play. This is because in the Elizabethan era Jews were commonly disliked by Christian nations throughout the 16th century, as Christians believed that in biblical history Jews were the people that killed Jesus Christ (Christian messiah). Jews suffered harsh persecution over the centuries, including torture, loss of property, and forced conversion to Christianity. England expelled all Jews about 300 years earlier to William Shakespeare's time, much of what remained of them were tales filled with anti-Semitic response ranging from exaggeration to complete lies, which portrayed them as vile, evil and despicable. Jews in Elizabethan times were not viewed as citizens. Instead, they were viewed as outsiders, and were often banned from many occupations because of their religion. Only Christians could belong to professional associations and own land, which left Jews with few means of earning a living. Christians, however, could not lend money with interest, and many Jews earned a profitable living as usurers. We know Shylock is a Jew since the narration specifies that he's a Jew "Enter Bassanio with Shylock the Jew". Shakespeare puts an emphasis on "Shylock the Jew" since he doesn't state the religion of the other characters.

The audience are introduced to Shylock as a greedy man because the first thing he said was about money "Three thousand ducats, well". Shylock describes Antonio as a "good man", even though some people might think it means Antonio is kind and generous but to Shylock this means that Antonio has enough money to repay him. It is made clear from the way Shylock is introduced that he is hatching a cunning plan from the start because Shakespeare specifies that Shylock is a Jew but for the other characters he doesn't state their religion. The audience begin to think Shylock is devious and has something up his sleeves. "...and then there is the perils of the waters, winds and rocks. The man is notwithstanding sufficient.... I think I might take this bond." Shylock knows that Antonio will lose his ships (all Antonio's money is invested in his ships) yet he still wants to lend him the money. Bassanio invites Shylock to dine with them "If it please you to dine with me", Shylock denies saying "I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you" this indicates that even though Shylock will do business with Antonio and Bassanio he will not eat, drink or pray with them this shows how Shylock has religious differences that set him apart from the Christian Venetians. Shakespeare presents Shylock this way so that the audience's hatred would be directed towards Shylock. Shakespeare, while describing the Jewish moneylender Shylock according to stereotypes, fills Shylock with humanity and produces sympathy for the troubles of the Jews.

Just before Shylock speaks to Antonio, he lets the audience know in aside that he hates Antonio "I hate him for he is a Christian" This phrase said by Shylock is based on the beliefs of other Jews on other Christians. Shylock is being very stereotypical because Shylock doesn't really know Antonio, Shylock heard of Jew-hating Christians, so he thinks that all Christians hate Jews. Shylock hates Antonio because he "lends out money gratis" or free of interest, so bringing down interest rates for professional moneylenders such as Shylock and for having humiliated him in public by spitting on him and calling him names such as "dog" and "cutthroat Jew". Shylock tells the audience he hopes to exact revenge on Antonio both for his own humiliation and for the persecution that the Jews have long suffered at the hands of the Christians." If I can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him. He hates our sacred nation . . . Curs'd be my tribe if I forgive him!" Shylock reveals his prejudice against Christians and explains the way in which he has experienced anti-Semitic prejudice himself. Both groups' ideas of the other revolve around ideas of business: the Christians believe it is wrong to practice usury (lending money for interest), whereas the Jews-who were forbidden by law from engaging in most other professions-often opted to usury as a way to make a living and identify themselves in the Venetian society.

"I hate him for he is a Christian;

But ... more for that in low simplicity

He lends out money gratis, and brings down

The rate of usance here with us in Venice.

If I can catch him once upon the hip,

I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.

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. Cursed be my tribe

If I forgive him!" Shylock's quote in Act 1 Scene 3 line 36-47 tells us that Shylock is as concerned with money as religion, and possibly even more so. Shylock views money as a way to get back at Antonio and feed his personal grudge, but it also seems that Shylock views the lending as an opportunity to stick it to Christians in general for their ill-treatment of Jews. It's like a war of the two religions, fought using the money that's as important to both of them as a means of battle. Shylock and Antonio can be considered substitute for their religious issues. But money is their way of throwing in personal accusations while fighting the religious fight.

Antonio approaches Shylock, saying that he usually would not take part in a deal involving interest but that, this one time, he will break a custom in order to help his friend. Their greeting has ironic suggestion for the audience, which has just heard Shylock's opinion of Antonio "I hate him for he is a Christian". Shylock agrees to lend Bassanio the money. Shylock then defends his practice of charging interest by citing the Biblical story of Jacob. By citing the Book of Genesis, Shylock shows how different understanding is the beginning of his religious and personal differences with the Christians. The Christians believe that usury is immoral because it is unnatural to breed money from money. But Shylock interprets the Bible to say that charging interest is no different than Jacob's breeding of animals, which Christian law would permit as totally natural.

"The Hebrew will turn Christian; he grows kind." Antonio says this, thinking that no Jews are kind, highlighting naiveness. Then Antonio sees the Hebrew, Shylock, become kind, so he believes that's impossible. So Antonio takes the situation as Shylock being Christianized, because he is becoming generous. This quotation shows how Antonio thinks that his religion, Christianity, is superior to Judaism. The previous quotation "I hate him for he is Christian" illustrated how Shylock was stereotypical about Christians. Both characters have similar beliefs about other religions.

Antonio has publicly abused Shylock many times and even spat upon his clothing "spit upon my Jewish gabardine" Why, Shylock asks, should he lend to Antonio as freely as he would to a relative or friend? Enraged, Antonio begins to insult Shylock again. There is no need to pretend to be friends, he says: lend money to him as to an enemy "If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not as to thy friends... But lend it rather to thine enemy". Shylock then goes on to propose an unusual deal. He says that, this time, he will not charge interest on his loan. However, if Antonio is unable to pay, Shylock will be entitled to cut one pound of Antonio's flesh from any part of Antonio's body that Shylock chooses. The bond Shylock proposes is hard for the Christians, and a modern audience or reader, to understand. By trading in flesh, rather than making money "breed" by usury, Shylock is actually adopting the Christians' stated business principles but directing them toward a monstrous end, which mocks those Christian principles in turn. Shylock then tells Antonio that he wants to be friends with him and will conclude the bond for a pound of flesh as a "merry sport."

Antonio agrees "Yes Shylock, I will seal unto this bond" to Shylock's bond despite Bassanio's nervousness "You shall not seal to such a bond for me" about binding his friend to such a dangerous bond. For the first time, Bassanio shows some conscience about putting his greed before his friend-who, by agreeing to put a price on his pound of flesh (and his life) has become like an animal headed to slaughter. Antonio will not be held back in his generosity, and by signing the contract agrees to be bound by law. Antonio says "there can be no dismay", this line is ironic because later in the play there is a reason to worry when Antonio's ships are destroyed at sea so he can't pay Shylock his money back. This then means that Shylock would want his pound of flesh. Since Shakespeare ended the Act 1 with Antonio's quote: "Come on. In this there can be no dismay. My ships come home a month before the day." By ending the play with Antonio reassuring Bassanio not to worry because e his ship will come home a month before the money is due to be repaid. This makes the audience sense that something wrong is going to happen to Antonio's ships which will then mean that Shylock will get his pound of flesh. The audience will already know that something is going to happen to Antonio's ships since Shylock didn't hesitate to choose the punishment Antonio will receive if he doesn't pay his money back on time.

Act 1 Scene 3 is an important scene because it completes the description of the two major plot lines of the play: Antonio agrees to Shylock's bond - three thousand ducats for a pound of flesh; and second, and more dramatically, this scene introduces Shylock the Jew. In this scene, Shakespeare makes it clear at once why Shylock is the most powerful dramatic figure in the play. Antonio and Shylock are both successful entrepreneurs in Venice but they both have different attitudes and experiences. When Antonio is asking Shylock for the loan he says, "Within these two months, that's a month before this bond expires, I do expect, return of thrice times the value of this bond.". Antonio and Shylock both are well off and successful businessmen. Antonio, being a man who is treats everyone nicely, lends his good name to Bassanio to woo Portia. Shylock on the other hand, could never do that and is a very greedy man who asks for three times the value of the loan. Also, Antonio is a risk taker and thinks things will always go the right way for him and his success will continue, which is shown when he accepts the high interest rate and the bizarre payment if the money isn't received.

Shylock is a wicked man who wants a pound of Antonio's flesh if his money is not paid back, whereas, Antonio is prepared to risk his life for his friend - who happens to be in love with the wealthy, intelligent and beautiful Portia- Antonio's sacrifice for his friend shows how different he is from Shylock. The Jewish old testaments states "an eye for an eye" which means that if someone wrongs you, seek revenge, on the other hand the Christians New Testament gives us Jesus' message of peace, love and forgiveness "forgive and forget".

I feel that the scene is a very complicated scene as it explains how Christians and Jews acted towards each other in Shakespearean time as well as how Shylock tricked Antonio into accepting a dangerous bond. I feel that both views of Jews and Christians are wrong since I'm sure not all Jews and Christians II acted how Antonio and Shylock did in Shakespeare time. I think the play is somewhat related to the persecution of Jews in World War as well as the killings of the genocide. Even though Shylock was represented as such an extremist by Elizabethan audience/ Shakespeare, he wouldn't be represented as such by a modern audience.