There are many ways to portray a biased view of a certain character in a play. Two of the ways they can be portrayed are either a victim or a villain.The Jewish character of Shylock in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is portrayed in a way that is extremely biased and prejudiced. He is presented in a very anti-semitic way, but how is this anti-semitic view shown, is it as a victim, or as a villain? The answer to this question is not one or the other, rather he is represented as both a villain and victim at many times and many instances through out the play.

He is depicted as a villain more, though, than he is as a victim. At the start of the play he is depicted as the villain. One instance he shows his villainy is when he is making a deal with Antonio in the first act:

Shylock: This kindness I will show.

Go with me to a notary, seal me there

Your single bond; and, in a merry sport,

If you repay not on such a day,

In such a place, such sum or sums as are

Expressed in the condition, let the forfeit

Be nominated for an equal pound

Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken

In what part of your body pleaseth me

(The Merchant of Venice 1.3.135-43)

 

Later in the play slowly but surely more and more through out the play he becomes more and more victimized:

Portia: Tarry, Jew!

The Law hath yet another hold on you.

It is enacted in the laws of Venice,

If it be proved against an alien

That by direct or indirect attempts

He seek the life of any citizen,

The party ‘gainst the which he doth contrive

Shall seize one half his goods; the other half

Comes to the privy coffer of the state

And the offender’s life lies in the mercy

Of the Duke only, ‘gainst all other voice.

In which predicament, I say, thou stand’t;

For it appears, by manifest proceeding,

That indirect and directly too

Thou hast contrived against the very life

Of the defendant; and thou hast incurred

The danger formerly by me rehearsed.

Down therefore, and beg mercy of the Duke.

(The Merchant of Venice 4.1.341-58)

The character of Shylock starts out at the beginning of The Merchant of Venice as being pictured as a villain but gradually through out becomes more and more victimized.

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