Is The Merchant Of Venice Promoting Or Criticising Anti Semitism?
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Shakespeare passionately portrays characters in the Merchant of Venice that exhibit his conflicting perceptions towards anti-semitism in which he both advocates, condemns and remains neutral towards.
Shakespeare can be seen to promote anti-semitic behaviour predominantly but not exclusively through the Jewish moneylender- Shylock. Who falls short to the many accounts of bigotry noted and directed towards him in the play. Antonio, who was consequently in relation to the more dominant Christian society casted a belittling shadow over Shylock. In the early scenes of the play this is evident when Antonio says: ‘The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.’ in relation to Shylock. Similarly when Shylock complains; ‘’you call me a cut-throat dog.’ and [you] spit upon my Jewish gaberdine’ and Antonio relentlessly replies with ‘I am as like … to spit on thee again.’ Proving to us the direct prejudice that suffocates Shylock and Antonio’s lack of remorse. Shylock can be seen as no better for saying ‘I hate him for he is a Christian.’ in relation to Antonio. This statement allows us to recognise that prejudice wasn’t limited towards the Jewish community. It does however pose a questionable motive on behalf of Shylock for this directed hate. Perhaps it was in defense of the prejudiced attack on him and his religion posing him as the victim rather than the villain. Another example of the promotion of anti-semitism…