The character of Shylock (The Merchant of Venice)

Shylock is undoubtedly the most memorable and vivid character in “The Merchant of Venice”. It is he who, of all other characters, most claims our attention and forces us to 'tarry a little’ to judge him. He is so forceful that the balance of the comedy is threatened to be lost to tragedy. Even the magic and fantasy cannot deter us from his sufferings. But in the eyes of Elizabethan he was a perfect villain who reaped what he had shown.

Shylock is a Jew by religion and a money-lender by profession. He was not looked upon with honour for his miserliness in the society. The extraction of unusual money from the pocket of the needy made him hated person. His love for money surpassed every other relation in the society. Other merchant in the Rialto of Venice looked down upon him for his excessive love for money. Antonio, a noble and benign merchant of Venice would miss him no change to subject him to public shame. Even he would spit on  him. Shylock is thought to be a Vampire as he did not consider anything in the realization of interest from his debtors. Shylock, instead of praising Antonio for his sympathetic attitude to the poor and needy, considering him to be an obstacle to his business. Money is the only concern to him and to earn money he can go to any length. For leading money at a higher rate , Antonio expresses hatred for the Jews. Shylock vows revenge on Antonio:
“If I can caught him once upon the hip,
I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.”

Shylock is a hypocrite of the first rate. When approached for leading money by Bassanio, on the surety of Antonio, he readily agrees concealing his thirst for revenge. He even praises Antonio and says:
“Rest you fair good Site
Your worship was the last man in our mouths.”
In order to take revenge, Shylock agrees to lead money on a peculiar condition that he would cut off one pound of flesh in case of his failure. Antonio accepted his condition because he was sure of his ability to repay the debt. But , as I’ll luck would have it, Antonio’s ships did not return and he failed to pay off his loan to Shylock.

Shylock is design to take revenge upon Antonio was now on the point of fulfillment. The cruel nature of Shylock came out and demanded his bond to be carried out in court. He was now devoid of humanity, mercy and sympathy that no appeal could move him away from his decision. Like all criminals, he instead of the cutting off of flesh but Shylock did not know that the hand of Justice is  severer than his will. Portia, in the guise of the lawyer, baffled his plan and he had to depend on his mercy for his life. At last, he had to lose his entire property  and save his life by accepting Christianity. All his crafts ended in utter defeat.

Some Critics in the 19th century hold that Shylock was more sinned against than sinning. He deserved punishment for his corrupt character but was too much for his crime.

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