William Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice was written around in 1600. The play takes place in the 17th century. The play is about the bloodthirsty Jewish moneylender who lends money to the Merchant of Venice, Antonio, a Christian. And later cannot pay it back. In the Merchant of Venice, Judaism and Christianity aren't just religions; they are constructed as racial (and even nation) identities as well. The central themes of the play are justice and mercy, love and hate, appearance and reality, and value and worth. After watching the play, the common question that comes in audience's mind is "Is Shylock a villain or victim? " In my opinion, I think Shylock is a victim.
I think Shakespeare was clever when he designed Shylock's character because he is a fully developed character that dually is a stereotype. Shylock is a victim as a result of the bad treatment he is getting from the Venetians because of being a Jew. His overreaction towards the bad treatment is what makes him a villain but he is not actually a villain. Life for the Jews in the Elizabethan period was often very hard. They were not given equal rights as the Christians. There were many restrictions for them. They had to follow unfair rules. If the Jews committed any mistakes, then they were punished very badly without any evidence that they were guilty and if the Christians did the same mistake then they were not given any punishment. So, Shylock always wanted the Christians to feel the same pain that they feel, when they are punished for no reason. We see this when he says, "The villainy you teach me I will execute ". This means that he is doing the same thing that his Christians neighbours have taught him and nothing is wrong or unfair in it. This claim becomes an integral part of his character and his argument in the court.
In the court Shylock says, he wants pound of flesh of Antonio. When asked "why? " Shylock chooses his word very carefully and replies "It will feed my revenge ".