William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice tells a story about money, hatred, justice and mercy. The central character in the play is Shylock, a Jewish moneylender. Shylock is portrayed as greedy and has great resentment for Antonio, the merchant of Venice, because he interferes with his business. Because of the other character's admiration for Antonio, the audience warm to him and in turn, see Shylock as a villain, someone who preys on the hardship of others in order to increase his own wealth. Despite the negative views of Shylock, at times the audience is forced to sympathize with him, as it is the Christians whose racial insults have made him the vengeful character he is.
Antonio does not charge interest on his loans, ultimately causing Shylock to lose money. Shylock hates Antonio not just because "He lends out money gratis and brings down The rate of usance here with us in Venice,"(I,iii,41-42) but also because Antonio insults his religion at every opportunity. This results in great anger and bitterness directed towards Antonio. Antonio acknowledges the bitterness between himself and Shylock, .
"Shylock seeks my life; his reasons I well know: I oft delivered from his forfeitures Many that have at times made moan to me; Therefore he hates me" (III,ii,21-24).
Antonio appears as a charitable Christian, he is described as the "kindest man" and is generous, noble and understanding. This is quite a contrast to the miserly Shylock. It is quickly made clear to the audience that Shylock is immoral, judging Antonio on his wealth. Many characters offer insight of the cruel behavior of Shylock: Lancelot explains, "the Jew is the very devil incarnation."(II,ii,26) We learn immediately that Shylock values two things: revenge and money. This makes him, somewhat an evil character.
Antonio's best friend, Bassanio is in need of money. As Antonio is unable to lend the money, but still wants to help his friend, he decides to borrow from Shylock.