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English Coursework The Merchant of Venice The merchant of Venice is a multifarious play with many levels of interpretation Telling the story of a Jewish merchant living in the predominately Christian capital of Venice it can be seen as a play about persecution justice and of social cruelty The merchant of Venice is representatively driven by the same set arguments of racial and religious prejudice that existed in Shakespearean society In the 15th century as Jews were forced out of Israel during the dispersia many thousands migrated to countries in Europe and other continents around the world Often met with suspicion 15th century English literature perceives Jews as treacherous and evil going as far as to link them with savage animals and the satanic practices of the devil Christopher Marlowes play the Jew of Malta played on these prejudices appealing to Christian audiences who retained similar beliefs In the Jew of Malta Marlowe depicted an outrageously stereotypical Jew who was villainous killing Christians for enjoyment The plays popularity amongst Christian audiences can be accounted to its justification of prejudice the play offered a character towards which the audience were able to vent their loathing and abhorrence for Jewish immigrants and validate their cruel treatment towards their minority In comparison Shakespeares play the merchant of Venice is instead more complex and ambiguous then a simple crowd pleaser Although entertaining there are several underlined political messages throughout this can be seen as an observation of human nature Through the character of shylock Shakespeare attempts to explore the many issues of indifference justice accountability and social discrimination The play can be interpreted in many ways as can the character shylock and his plight with Venetian society The question as to whether shylock himself is a positive or negative character is therefore a difficult one to answer due to several methods employed by Shakespeare his character can be seen in two perspectives as either a cruel and calculated
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