William Shakespeare's Shylock: Villain or Victim Essay

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William Shakespeare's Shylock: Villain or Victim

In "The Merchant of Venice" Shakespeare confronts a considerable issue of his time, known as Anti Semitism. "Shylock", his stereotypical Jew lends money to a Christian in an agreement that flesh would be cut from the Christian's body, should it not be paid.

Looking at the history of Jews in England, it is evident that Jews were persecuted and murdered up until 1290, when Jews were expelled from the country. Jews were treated with strong disrespect because of their alternative religious beliefs, their financial status and because of their ways of living.

One can safely assume that Shakespeare never actually met a Jew, as Jews had been expelled
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The Jews were insulted and despised, without even having to make an appearance in the country! History reminded people that they had always been prosecuted, and that their rights had always been restricted. And as the years progressed so, perhaps, the truth continued to stretch.

Jews, with their different rituals and even language, were forced to lead a difficult life when finally allowed into England. They were not allowed to be openly Jewish, and were forced into Christianity. This meant keeping their actual beliefs hidden from the world that they knew. Cleverly, Jews attended religious ceremonies in secret and at night without the Christians' knowledge.

Jews were forced into money lending, which was one of the few professions open to them. Christians believed that to lend money with interest was wrong, and so only Jewish would work in those roles. Jews were mocked, and people were very racist. It was not as easy routine to live by.

In Venice, "ghettos" were allocated to Italian and German Jews. Italy did not follow the rule of persecution strictly, yet numerous individuals did suffer. They did not have the same rights as Christian society and although they were authorized to erect property, only bare walls were sanctioned to face the rest of the city, and nightly curfews were forced upon them.

The Jews had a colossal reputation by now, previously set out for them by

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