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The Merchant of Venice Essay

In the play The Merchant of Venice, Shylock, a money lender, has the right to take a pound of flesh from Antonio, a Merchant. Shylock was abused and not given the same rights as Christians, who thought themselves as far superior to the Jews, Shylock’s religion. Antonio had agreed to the bond which he and Shylock made, which entitled that if Antonio was not able to repay the 3 000 ducats by a certain day, then Shylock would cut off the pound of flesh. Antonio could not repay Shylock the money so Shylock, by law, must take the pound of flesh.

Shylock should be able to take the pound of flesh from Antonio because Antonio agreed to the bond, knowing whole heartedly the full agreements and arrangements of the deal. The bond stated that if Antonio did not repay the 3 thousand ducats by a certain day, then Shylock shall be able to cut off a pound of Antonio’s flesh from whichever part of his body that Shylock pleased. Now Antonio, as it would seem, only agreed to this remarkable deal because he believed that his ships would return before the day of payment, bringing many times the value of the money owed. So basically, Antonio was very foolish to accept this contract. A deal is a deal and when both parties know the full arrangements, the consequences must follow. It’s the same as a contract. If not for Portia, this case would never have gone to court, which it did not deserve to because it was a fair bond between two honest, hard working citizens.

Shylock was intent on gaining revenge for the insults and abuse he had been given by Antonio. Wouldn’t you feel the same way as Shylock if you had been cursed at, called an unbeliever of your sacred religion, spat on and overall treated as if you were not equal, as if you didn’t belong in the same area or deserve the same credit for hard work?. This is the abuse Shylock had to take from the Christians, people who thought they were far superior than the Jews. All of this is the reason that Shylock arranged the bond, as if to prove a point to the whole Christian society that Jews had power too and are also human beings. As Shylock said to Salerio, “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? And if you wrong us, do we not revenge?” (3.1.57). The last question in particular, “If you wrong us, do we not revenge?”, sums up the one thing Shylock was after, revenge. Revenge is a normal emotion that every human feels and this is what Shylock wanted.

Throughout the play, the audience, is asked to take an ugly view on Shylock from what Antonio and the other characters had said. We are also asked to have sympathy for him and display empathy by understanding the position he has been put in. An example of this is in a speech made by Shylock in a conversation with Salerio, when he exclaimed “I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, senses, dimensions, affections and passions? “ (3.1.53). Here, Shylock is talking about how Jews and Christians are equal and that they are the same people, but just believe in different religions. We sympathise for him and understand where he is coming from, imagining being in a similar circumstance. We tend to forget that, on top of all this, Shylock’s daughter, Jessica, has just run off with her partner Lorenzo, a Christian himself. Now not only did Jessica take off with half of Shylock’s wealth, she insulted him by running away with a Christian after knowing what her father had been put through by the Christian community. Once again we empathise for Shylock. This shows the character and determination of the man who, despite all these problems, still pursues his case against Antonio just so he can prove a point and be treated fairly. Not just for himself, but for the whole Jewish society. Take a moment and put yourself in Shylock’s shoes. Think about what you would do and how you would feel after you had worked extremely hard and still had to put up with insults and abuse just because of your religious belief and adding to all this, your only daughter abandons you. Your reaction, of course,is to seek revenge on the people who caused you this grief. Which is exactly what Shylock was doing.

During the court scene, Bassanio offered Shylock the 3 000 ducats repaid as many times over as he wished. Shylock, rightly so, declined this offer as if he had agreed and received the money, it would have been another sign to the Christians that they were better than the Jews and that they could control what the Jews did. But the brave Shylock stood up to them, he wasn’t after more money, he was just trying to demonstrate a point.

If a Christian harms a Jew, he will get a small punishment, but on the other hand if a Jew harms a Christian, he will be condemned to death. The Christians, of course, saw no wrong with this ridiculous belief because, as they viewed it, they were a cut above the rest. So as long as the Christians felt this way, the Jews would have to go on suffering. Until Shylock thought enough was enough and he got an opportunity to chase justice by following through with the bond.

Shylock has the right to take the pound of flesh off Antonio because he has been abused, insulted, spat on, discriminated and treated like a dog by the whole Christian society and in particular the Merchant, Antonio. Shylock made the bond with Antonio, where they both agreed on the arrangements and consequences of the deal, to try to prove a point to the Christians and to get just revenge. Given these circumstances, Shylock has the right to take the pound of flesh off Antonio.

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