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Word Count: 654
The portrayal of Shylock a Jewish character in Shakespeares Merchant of Venice has been the bud of controversy surrounding the play for decades The attitude towards Jewish people and the fully charged discriminatory language of the play has resulted in it being banned from many school curriculums While this attitude towards Jewish people as portrayed in The Merchant of Venice is appalling to modern day folk this view was traditional for the English society of Shakespeares time However while the language of the play is extremely antisemitic close examination of the play proves it to be more of an attempt to critique antisemitism rather than a direct expression of antisemitism The character of Shylock is supposed to be the typical blood-thirsty Jewish villain but Shakespeare portrays Shylock in such a way that the audience sympathizes with him and sees him not as a villain but as a human being By expressing these antisemitic views in The Merchant of Venice Shakespeare does not promote antisemitism but deconstructs it Shakespeares critique of antisemitism can be seen through examination of act 13 of the play the scene where Antonio asks Shylock to lend him 3 thousand ducats for his friend Bassanio Upon Antonios entrance in the scene Shylock has an aside which reveals his hatred for Antonio In this small speech Shakespeare reveals the seed of Shylocks hatred for Antonio He hates our sacred nation and he rails Even there where merchants most do congregate On me my bargains and my well-won thrift Which he calls interest 1345-8 Shakespeare seems in this small speech at least to understand the ill-treatment of the Jewish merchant and the audience in turn feels empathy towards the character of Shylock He is not just being cruel for no reason it is society that has brought him to this extreme A few lines later in the same scene Shylock questions Antonio as to why he is asking to borrow money from a Jewish
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