Shakespeare Essay, Research PaperShakespeare & # 8217 ; s Portrayal of JewsIn Shakespeare & # 8217 ; s drama, The Merchant of Venice, there are, as is typical ofShakespeare, several different subjects.
One that emerges at the beginning and ispresent throughout the remainder of the drama is anti-Semitism. Many of the people ofShakespeare & # 8217 ; s clip shared the belief that Judaic people were inferior toChristians, a belief making far back to antediluvian times. To these prejudicedpeople, the Judaic character of Shylock appears to posses the typical negativequalities of Jews. However, today & # 8217 ; s audience is better able to see that thesequalities are stereotyped and non at all typical. Further analysis has besidesled to controversy about whether the “ Merchant of Venice ” supportsanti-Semitism or efforts to expose it as a misconception. William Shakespeareportrays the life of a Jew in his work, The Merchant of Venice. When the drama isforemost read, Shylock, the Jew is the villian, but he is besides a adult male that has beenpersecuted all of his life because of his Judaic background.
The Englishmans thatlived during Shakespeare & # 8217 ; s clip viewed Jews as usurers, Satans, and aninferior race. Some of their constructs of the Jews were true, while some weremisconstrued.Regardless of how it is portrayed in The Merchant of Venice, anti-Semitismhas its roots in a clip long earlier Shakespeare.
Rabbi Roth says that anti-Semitismday of the months back to ancient civilisations who shared different beliefs. One suchillustration is Rome. The Romans believed in several Gods, so they strongly opposedHebraism and they resented Jews, believing that they must change over these ill-conceivedpeople.
Subsequently, Christians grew to dislike the Jews because of their opposingposition on Christ. Christianity stemmed from Judaism, and the Christians believedthemselves a flawlessness of the Judaic faith. They, excessively, viewed the Jews aspeople that needed converting, and took it upon themselves to change over the Judaicpopulation. These negative positions of the Jews led tomany adversities brought upon the Judaic people, including the expatriate of theHebrews from England three hundred old ages before Shakespeare wrote The Merchant ofVenice.Hebrews have been persecuted throughout all clip and in England it started in1290 under Edward IV. He deported all the Jews life in England to France. Notuntil Cromwell & # 8217 ; s Commonwealth in 1656 were Jews allowed to set up communitiesin England.
However, there was a instance merely before Shakespeare wrote the Merchantof Venice, of Queen Elizabeth & # 8217 ; s doctor. He was a born-again Jew and wascondemned to decease for confederacy against the Queen & # 8217 ; s life and the test broughtForth all of the old accusals against the Judaic people. During this clipTorahs were passed that that placed particular limitations on where Jews lived,curtailed their societal and economic interactions with Christians, and increasedforce per unit area on Hebrews to change over to Christianity. The Crusades were a turning pointin the history of anti-Jewish feeling because they set off a moving ridge of public violences thatkilled many Hebrews and forced more to fly from Western Europe to Eastern Europe.Myths and superstitious notions grew in the Middle Ages about the Jews. Jews were blamedfor catastrophes that could non be explained, an illustration of which would be theBlack Plague. Even though the Jews died from the pestilence besides, it did non discouragethe accusals made against them for the 1000s that died.
When the drama was written, the Jews would still stay in expatriate from Englandfor another 50 old ages. This is besides a major beginning of the false beliefs andmisconceptions that comprised the anti-semetic beliefs of that clip period. Manyof these anti-Semites had ne’er really seen a Jew. Therefore, they merelyrecognized all of the myths about the Hebrews because they had no footing forcomparing. For case, one of these beliefs was that all Jews were black, andthat they possessed an atrocious odor.
This was surely nontrue, but it is an illustration of what the people of the Elizabethan clip periodidea of the Jews. They were willing to believe the negatives about the Hebrewsbecause they were purportedly the enemies of Christianity, something likelypreached by the Church leaders in their effort to extinguish Judaism. Thefeatures in The Merchant of Venice are no different. The narrative takestopographic point in Italy, but the people at that place seem to portion the same sentiment of the Jews.
They are all life in the ghettos, virtually forced to populate at that place because ofthe disapproval of the Venetian citizens. Their life style is looked down uponbecause it is against The Law of God. Usury, the pattern of imparting money forinvolvement is considered a wickedness. Many of the Jews pattern this merely because theyare forced to. However, this is non realized by the others, and it is apparent byAntonio and Bassanio & # 8217 ; s intervention of Shylock prior to the trade.
Shylock & # 8217 ; ssentence at the terminal of the Trial is besides a all right illustration of the sentiment towardHebrews at the clip.To the 16th century audience that first was seen The Merchant of Venice,the character of Shylock would hold appeared to hold been a typical Jew. To themodern twenty-four hours audience, he is a aggregation of stereotypes stemming from the anti-sematicbeliefs of the Elizabethan period which were shared by the English population,and as some critics argue, even Shakespeare. But a closer expression reveals thatShakespeare understood the grounds for the features of Jew such asUsurer who was misunderstood because of anti-Semitism.
In The Merchant of Venice & # 8217 ; s beginning, Shakespeare makes it obvious thatShylock hatreds Antonio because he is a Christian. But it besides apparent that hebesides hates Antonio because he and Bassanio have proclaimed their disapproval ofhim publically, despite the fact that they have no apprehension of his groundsfor his peculiar life style.His punishment for non carry throughing the contract of demanding on ounce of fleshfrom Antonio, would look to be another negative property of a Judaic individual,but it is merely driven by his choler at a people who treat him cruelly withoutcognizing anything about him. Further into the narrative, he appears malicious andwith no clemency when he refuses to accept offerings of up to ten times theoriginal sum of the trade, merely so that he can transport out the originalpenalty agreed upon. It is this greed that finally does him in, nevertheless.
After the aforesaid incidents, it would look that Shylock is so theJew portrayed by antisemitic beliefs. But he is merely an oppressed persondriven by a desire to acquire back at the same people who are maltreating him byutilizing their ain Torahs against them. Any individual from any other faith or culturalgroup could arguably be expected to respond likewise, and this is whatShakespeare was likely portraying.
He surely makes this position clear withShylock & # 8217 ; s reference to the courtroom in which he proclaims the similarities thathe and the remainder of them portion, despite the fact that he is a Jew. Some modernaudiences view this merely as his fallacious manner to derive understanding from the jury.In the Merchant of Venice, Shylock is a usurer of outstanding wealth andstature. Jews were allowed into Great Britain by Henry I merely if they would givea per centum of their net incomes from trade and moneylending. This understanding andthe duties placed on the Jews forced the Jews to hold such high involvement rateson their trades that they might hold a small net income for themselves.
They becamecelebrated for their vigorish. In The Merchant of Venice, Bassino needs money so thathe can tribunal Portia, the adult female that he loves. Bassino goes to his beloved friendAntonio and asks for his aid and Antonio takes him to Shylock. Shylock ishesitant at first because Antonio hindered him in concern and humiliated him inpopulace. He hates Antonio for ptyalizing on him and naminghim names such as “ Canis familiaris ” and “ cutthroat Jew ” .
Shylockwants retaliation for what Antonio did to him and for all the persecutions that heas a Jew has gone through. A batch of choler has built up in Shylock towards theChristians:I hate him for he is a Christian ;If I can catch him one time upon the hip,I will feed flesh out the antediluvian score I bear him.He hates our sacred state & # 8230 ;Cursed be my folk it I forgive him ( 1.3. 40-49 )He articulates how much Shylock hatreds Christians and besides Antonio. Usurerhencemakes a trade with Antonio. He will impart money to him merely if he he pays himback inthree months and if he is non paid by so, so Antonio owes him a lb offlesh.
This lb of flesh is what Shylock calls “ gay flesh ” or insteadflesh for the merriment of it. He tries to do a gag but he earnestly means to takea lb of flesh from Antonio. Shakespeare seems to portray the English position ofthe Jews as Satans. Old narratives that were passed down through coevalssdepicted Jews as “ blood-thirsty liquidators ” that poisoned Wellss andkilled Christian kids for their Pesach rites. This is position is merelyenhanced by Shylock & # 8217 ; s small address after he finds out of Antonio & # 8217 ; s fiscalruin:I & # 8217 ; m really glad of it. I & # 8217 ; ll blight him, I & # 8217 ; llAnguish him, I am glad of it.
( 3.1. 116-17 )This shows the “ homicidal ” side of Shylock and besides a small of thediabolic side.In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare portrays the beliefs of anti-Semitismof the Elizabethan clip period, although a closer analysis proves what is trueof all of Shakespeare & # 8217 ; s works: there is more significance than the actual word. TheJudaic people were persecuted by the English, but more in general by theChristians. There is still controversy on whether or non Shakespeare was anti-semeticor non, and for that affair if The Merchant of Venice was intended to be.