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On the Charater of Shylock in the Merchant of Venice

By Raymond Bennett,2014-09-13 09:44
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On the Charater of Shylock in the Merchant of Venice

    Abstract: Shylock is one of the most controversial figures created by William

    Shakespeare in the Merchant of Venice. For the past 300 years or more, anyone who has been an audience or a reader of Shakespeare’s the Merchant of Venice could not deny that the titular and

    protagonist Antonio and the antagonist shylock differ greatly in their religious belies, values and attitudes toward money and frendship. Their difference as best manifested in the pound of flesh bond is the dominant one that unifies the drama , thrilla the audience and readers and reveals the implied victory of Christianity over Judaism. Whether shylock is a comic villain or a tragic hero heated discussion among Shakespearean critics. We all know , Shylock, one of Shakespeare's most complicated and least sympathetic characters--the guy who wants the pound of flesh for an unpaid debt.. So, we can say, Shylock is the most vivid and memorable character in the Merchant of Venice, and he is one of Shakespeare's greatest dramatic creations. There are so many debates about Shylock, including his character, religion and so on .

     In my article, I do not simply classify him as comic or tragic figure. I interpret Shylock from three perspectives and then draw a conclusion——Shylock is a multi - dimensional

    character and Shakespeare reveals to us how the social factors and Shylock’s personality result in his tragic life.

    Key words: Shylock, Jew, usuver , individual, religious

     : 在莎士比亚创造的威尼斯商人中?夏洛克是具有争议的人物。在过去的300

    年或更远的时间里, 任何观众或莎士比亚的读者都不能否认安东尼奥 和对立者夏洛克他

    们在宗教、金钱的价值和态度上有很大的区别?剧中以一磅肉为焦点。观众和读者都认

    为基督战胜犹太教。夏洛克是一个可笑的恶棍或一个悲剧的英雄成为评论家讨论的热点。

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    大家都知道,在莎士比亚笔下的夏洛克是一个想要以一磅肉作为债物的最复杂和最缺少同情心的人。而且我们也能说夏洛克的人物形象是最生动和最难忘的, 并且他是莎士比亚的巨作当中的一个。关于夏洛克有很多不同的评论,包括他的个性特征,宗教信仰等等.

    在这篇论文里面, 我不单只分析他作为可笑、悲剧的一面,并且还更进一步透视然后得出结论。分析莎士比亚笔下的夏洛克所处的社会因素和个性导致他悲剧的生活。

    关键词: 夏洛克, 犹太民族,高利贷,个性,宗教

    Contents

    Abstract ………………………………………………………………………i Contents……………………………………………………………………iii Introduction …………………………………………………………………1 1. Shyclock as a Jew ………………………………………………………2 1.1 The origin of Jew ………………………………………………………2 1.2 Jews images in European works …………………………………………2

    1.2.1 Greeding and cheeseparing ……………………………………………2

    1.2.2 Colding and cunning …………………………………………………3

    1.2.3 The highest heart of revenge …………………………………………3 1.3 As a Jew, the significance of shylock images under shakespeare…4 2. Shylock as a usurer ……………………………………………………6 2.1 The definition of usury ………………………………………………6 2.2 what is the usurry being ………………………………………………6 2.3 Shylock as a usurer is no doubt ………………………………………6

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3. Shylock as an individual ………………………………………………8

    3.1 Shylock is hypocritical ……………………………………………8

    3.2 Shylock is self-centered ………………………………………8

    3.3 Shylock is stubborn and literal ………………………………………9

    Conclusion ……………………………………………………………………10

    Bibliography …………………………………………………………………11

    Acknowledgement …………………………………………………………12

Introduction

    The Merchant of Venice is a well -known play by William Shakespeare in 1596. In the play, Antonio, a Christian, is a Venetian merchant. In order to help his friend Bassanio to woo Portia of Belmont, he borrows 3000 ducats for three months from Shylock, a Jewish usurer, and signs a contract: if the money is not repaid on time , he will forfeit a pound of flesh. With the money, Bassanio succeed in proposing to Portia. After three months, Antonio, being unable to repay the money, is requester by Shylock to forfeit the flesh. At that critical moment, Portia , disguised as a lawyer , wittily help Antonio out of trouble and make Shylock a convict. However, the name of the play is not justified, for Shylock out earns Antonio--the merchant of Venice in terms of critical interest and public attention. Whether Shylock is a comic villain or a tragic hero has been a controversial issue. No doubt Shakespeare intends the noble Antonio as the hero of the play, who is the representative of the perfect Renaissance man. However,

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    Shakespeare’s power of characterization is too rich to subordinate the complex personality of Shylock to the sober hero Antonio. The critic Charlee Nowton Coe comments,― Shylock is over characterized for the role he was intended to play ‖ Then, here emerges an unavoidable question: how to interpret Shylock. After the detailed study of the Merchant of Venice, I would like to interpret him from three perspectives, namely, Shylock as a Jew, Shylock as a usurer , Shylock as an individual.

1. Shylock as a Jew

     In European literature, Jews are usually characterized as usurers and profiteers who are avaricious, mean, cunning and full of anxiety. Moreover, Jews are usually in subordinae status to serve as the Christian’s foils. Such images are not in accordance with the real Jews, but they reflect the Christian writer’s bias towards Jews. It lays emphasis on the ususual significance of Jew’s images under

    shakespeare and scott’s pens.

    1.1 The origin of Jew

    Anciently, the Jew called Hebrew. It was made of over ten Jewish tribes. The Jewish history was full with embarrassments and tears. The Jewry is always a puny nation. From thousands ago, the Jewry have suffered lots of pressure and crucifition at the hands of the Christians. But a lot of great people come from this nation. For example, MarxAlber Einstein. It’s enormous contribution for

    developgment human civilization. It shows tough Jewry extraordinary wisdom

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and creation.

    1.2 Jews images in European works

    In European literature works, the Jews images are not good. We can understand in lots of works about Jewish history and culture.

    1.2.1 Greeding and cheeseparing

     Money is their all life .In their eyes, everything is not over it. In the Merchant of Venice, Shylock is a typical greeding and cheeseparing people. He did not care his daughter but taken jewllery and looked for his daughter’s cost. ―A diamond gone, lost me two thousand ducats in Frankfort! The user never fell upon our nation till now; I never felt it till now. Two thousand ducats in that, and other precious, precious jewels. I would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear; would she were rear’d at my foot, and the ducats in her

    coffin!‖ ―Nay, take my life and all, pardon not that. You take my house when you do take the prop that doth sustain my house; you take my life when you do take the means where by I live.‖ (III,i)

    1.2.2 Colding and Cunning

    Just for a coin, it has two sides, like the Jew’s trade.

    I can see it from play. For example: ―No, none that thou hast wit enough to make.‖ ―To cut the forfeiture from that bankrupt there.‖ (IV,i)

    1.2.3 The highest heart of revenge

    We are first introduced to Shylock in Act1Sceneiii where we learn of the abuse he has suffered at the hands of the Christions.

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    Many people are villainous in the way they behave. Their villainous acts may be attributed to their desire to destroy others and in turn elevate themselves to a higher financial or social level. However, the root cause of their villainy may be a response to the treatment they have endured at the hands of others. In short, they have been taught villainy, rather than it being an integral part of their personality. In such instances, revenge can be a key motivator in inspiring them to act in a villainous way.

    ―So can I give no reason, nor I will not, more than a lady’d hate and a certain loathing I bear Antonio.‖(IV i) ―I have a daughter – would any of the stock of

    Barrabas. Had been her husband, rather than a Christian!‖ (IV i)

    1.3 As a Jew, the significance of Shylock images under Shakespeare

    Discussion concerning Jewish Shylock has been a hot issue over many centuries. During the entire Middle Ages, the Jews were alternately protected and persecuted. The persecution was due to the religious bias, for Christians inherited the fiction fabricated by the early Church that the Jews murdered Christ and were therefore in league with the devil and were actively working to subvert spread of Christianity. Jews were contempt and biased by all the Christians. In Elizabethan times, anti-Semitic still went on. From the Merchant of Venice, we can see that Shakespeare knew the plight of the Jewish people and therefore created accurate background for Shylock. There are two opposite positions concerning the relationship between anti-Semitic and Shakespeare’s intention of depicting

    Shylock , namely, Romantic view and Historical view. According to the research

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    of J. L. Cardozo in The Contemporary Jew in Elizabethan Drama , Shakespeare did not know any Jews personally and he was not actively engaged in anti-Semitic crusade. He was simply following a centuries old stereotype of the Jewish people as in Marlow’s The Jew of Malta. In my article , the emphasis is

    not laid upon Shakespeare’s intention , but upon the character of Shylock unfolded in the play.

    Taken the Jew’s being persecuted as a background, Shylock is definitely one of them. From Act I Scene iii, Shylock appealingly reveals to us how he, as a Jew, has been wronged. ―You (Antonio) call me misbeliever, cut throat dog, and spit upon my Jewish gabardine.‖(I, iii,) After his pitiful complaint about his social status as a heresy, he presents us his seemingly plausible logic: ―Have not a Jew

    eyes? Have not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? …If a Christian wrongs a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute; and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.‖(III, i,)

    Shylock suffers a lot from unbearable racial discrimination. In this sense, he seems to be partly justified. However, according to psychology, everyone tends to overstate one’s miseries and tries to find sound excuse for one’s own behavior. From this, we can infer that Shylock, in order to justify his revenge , movingly reveals his misfortunes and to some extent , exaggerates his being ill treated as a Jew so that he may seem to be a noble member of a down trodden race out crying the miseries of the race instead of his own. However, the case is that not

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    all his ill fate is derived from his identity as a Jew. His tragic life is, in fact, due to many factors. So in short, to the Jewish people as a whole for which Shylock serves as a mirror, we do show considerable sympathy and deploration. It is a persevering nation, including Shylock, and his revenge is justified, however, only partly justified, for only after the discussion all the three identities, can we explicitly interpret Shylock.

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2. Shylock as a usurer

    Usurer in people’eye, It is a bad pronoun. In this play, Shylock would be a usurer, or moneylender, with a beautiful daughter that he held on to as tightly as he did his ducats.

    2.1The definition of usury

    Usurythe lending of money at exorbitant rates of interest , was legalized in England in 1571. Usury was forbidden to Christians by the church of the Middle Ages, and as a consequence, money lending was controlled by the Jews; as a rule, it was usually the only occupation which the law allowed to them. As a result, a great deal of medieval literature produced the conventional figure of the Jewish moneylender, usually as a minor character, but also too, as a major character 2.2 What is the usury being

    Restricted as Jews from owning real properties and keeping serfs which were essential to the agrarian economy of the Middle Ages, more and more Jews became usurers, which was the only occupation the Christian world has left open to them. Meanwhile, the Church has established that Christians were not allowed to lend money at interest, which was a violation of the New Testament concept of charity. So at that time, usurers were mostly contempt Jews, and Jews were mostly contempt usurers.

    2.3 From medieval literary tradition that Shakespeare borrows the

    figure of Shylock

    From medieval literary tradition that Shakespeare borrows the figure of

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Shylock, just as marlowe did for hia Jew Malta.

    In the Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare’s identity as a usurer is never in doubt because in ActI Sceneii , his first line defines himself ,―three ducats-it is a

    good round sum. Three months from twelve then let me see the rate.‖To Shylock, his business is just― use of that which is mine own‖(I, iii,) and ―thrift is blessing if men steal it not.‖(I, iii,) So far his occupation, though indecent and corrupt in Christians’eyes, is not for us to criticize ,for that is all he can do in the world. What I want to comment is on his disagreement with Antonio. The underlying reason accounting for Shylock’s hatred lies largely in the usury affairs rather than

    religious affairs. He says―(Antonio) lends our money graits, and he (Antonio) disagreed me and brings down the rate of usance here with us in Venice,‖(I, iii,) and ―(Antonio) hinder me of half a million; laugh at my losses, mock at my

    gains.‖(III, i,)

     It is natural for our human beings to compete with others in order to survive and to be angry with the one who disdains our occupation. So, Shylock’s hatred towards Antonio is understandable, however, he over leaps too much and takes his hatred as a good excuse to execute inexorable action. In the trial scene, he is just like a maniac driven by the nervous frenzy of accumulated hatred. As a usurer, he is supposed to lay his interest on money, but at last, we come to realize that his real intention is on Antonio’s life — a rival’s life. In brief, he does justify his

    hatred. However, he can by no means justifies his relentless mrevenge. The only explanation would be that Shylock is so passionate that he always takes extreme

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