Symbolism In The Merchant Of Venice

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Mohit Ray’s Shakespeare’s Construction of the Jew discusses the complex nature of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. The central argument is that Shylock’s construction relies more heavily on “historical imagination” than on “historical reality” (Ray 1). Shylock is created using the contemporary and prejudiced views of the audience; this image “becomes the stereotype and historical image of a Jew” (1). Although Shylock is a very strong adoption of the traditional image of the Jew, Ray points out that he is a man of dignity that pleads on behalf of the Jewish race and humanity (1). He also reveals the reason why the Jews were despised by the Christians and Venetians, as well as how their prejudice influenced the Jews. Despite the continual mistreatment by the Christians and Venetians throughout the play, Ray insists …show more content…
His point about Shylock’s three distinct stages of rebellion against justice was backed by substantial evidence from the play and very compelling. I never would have realized the bigger picture and thought about Shylock’s speeches as speaking from his personal experience with mistreatment, speaking for all Jews, and even speaking for humanity. It started with Shylock confronting Antonio about how he spits on him, calls him ‘dog’, and spurns him (Shakespeare 1.3.122-138). In Act III Scene 1, Shylock clearly speaks for his people and tries to make them more human in the eyes of the Christians who think otherwise when he says, “I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions” (3.1.57-9). Then in Act IV Scene 1, Shylock addresses the fact that owning a slave should be no different than owning a pound of flesh. While Shylock does recognize that the Christians are treating their slaves like animals and conveniently uses it in his argument, they aren’t his priority because he is more concerned about his pound of

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