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Word Count: 1,668
Throughout the course of history Jews have been relentlessly persecuted The English are not an exception since their history shows that the general English attitude towards Jews during the Elizabethan Era is anti-Semitic This negative bias towards Jews is apparently clear in Elizabethan literature including William Shakespeares The Merchant of Venice Shylock the Jewish antagonist in Shakespeares play is stereotypically portrayed as a villain in accordance to popular prejudice Thus Shylock is labeled as a villain because he is a Jew This misconception of Jews as being villainous in nature persisted well into the 20th century until the recent mass genocide of Jews in Hitlers Nazi Germany This appalling incident is the marking point that sensitized the modern reader to Jewish sufferings Thus in the eyes of the modern reader Shylocks characterization as a villain due to his religious convictions is refuted Still it is not only sympathy that deems Shylock as a hero but also the injustice he suffers in the hands of the Christian society which includes his converted daughter Jessica Shylocks character is defended from its villainous interpretation upon two factors the sociological which exonerates Shylock on the basis of environmental pressures and the racial which assimilates him to the whole appalling history of anti-Semitism 1 Based on the racial issue Shylocks character is condemned because he is a Jew Shylocks role as a villain in the play reflects the general racist prejudices against Jews Therefore from his first appearance Shylock does not have a chance to appeal to the audience Thus to the modern reader Shylock is a victim of injustice which is representative of his race By understanding the history behind the creation of Shylock his tribulations can be assimilated to the general Jewish suffering Judaism has a long history of persecution A brief historical analysis of Jewish and Christian relations in England reveals a general anti-Semitic attitude towards the outnumbered Jews A
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