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The Merchant of Venice

            Examine and evaluate some different interpretations of the role of Shylock in "the Merchant of Venice".
             "The Merchant of Venice", one of Shakespeare's comedies, is based around a group of Venetian Christians. The real power of the play however lies in the characterization and history of Shylock, a Jewish usurer, who charges high rates of interest on his lendings. Shylock is dedicated to his faith and has a good knowledge of the Torah, which he uses in his general conversation, showing he is a well-educated figure. As John Palmer explains, "The man lives in every word he utters. He has a distinct language of his own and every syllable denotes his quality." Antonio is the merchant of Venice he is also a Christian but in my opinion Shylock is the protagonist of the play. At the time the play was written anti-Semitism was rife due to myth and the infamous trial of the Queen's physician, Roderigo Lopez who was accused of treason. Jews became evil villains of Elizabethan drama. They were portrayed as Machiavellian, greedy or both they were not complex characters more devices. Actor's interpretations changed over time however, as have critics. Kean revolutionised the idea of Jews by presenting Shylock as a persecuted martyr. Gradually the audience have become more sympathetic to the character following historical events such as the Holocaust. .
             Shylock is presented as a harsh, strict and over-possessive father who enjoys the power he has over his daughter.
             "Let not the sound of shallow foppery enter my sober house."(Act2, Sc2, Line35-6).
             This is an example of the effect of his oppression on her, she has little love for him, but as he shows in the trial scene, he truly loves her. .
             "I have a daughter, -I would any of the stock of Barabas had been her husband rather than a Christian."(Act4, Sc1, Line294-6).
             Jessica leaves shylock a very lonely and isolated figure. The fact that his own daughter despises him adds to the hatred the audience feel for him because we feel that if Jessica doesn't like him then there must be a good reason for it.

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