Stereotypes In The Merchant Of Venice

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Stereotypes are ideas that generalize a group of people, and are forced onto someone to isolate or weaken them. Stereotypes are integrated into all forms of literature and can be important to the progression of the plot. This is true in William Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice. Shylock, a Jewish money lender in the play, has been ridiculed by a Christian merchant, Antonio, and his friends for years. Antonio, in need of three thousand ducats, decides to go to Shylock for a loan and the two agree on a pound of Antonio’s flesh as a bond. Unable to pay his debts, Shylock and Antonio wind up in court, with Shylock set on getting his bond. Shylock, being characterized as a cruel, frugal money lender, supports stereotypes against Jews, but…show more content…
While considering whether or not he should make a deal with Antonio, he points out the many ways he has been abused by Antonio. Shylock recalls being called many names, including dog, and being “spet upon” (1.3.121-2). After enduring years of unjustified abuse and alienation, Shylock is expected to agree to giving a loan to Antonio without being given an apology. In fact, Antonio admits to committing these wrongs and goes so far as to say he would do them again. It seems logical that Shylock would feel anger towards Antonio and would want Antonio to understand the pain he had been forced to go through. Breaking down stereotypes further, Shylock is depicted grieving the loss of an item of large sentimental value, which is stolen by his daughter upon her running away. He explains that what she took, a turquoise ring, was worth more than “a wilderness of monkeys,” (3.1.121-2). In other words, Shylock held this item so dear to him that he would not trade it for anything in the world, no matter the extravagance. This humanizes Shylock by showing to audiences that he is capable of feeling the same emotions: anger, sadness, and joy. By showing Shylock in these different states of being, it is made clear that he holds the same humanity as any other character in the show and that the only thing setting him aside is the fact that he is Jewish. In showing Shylock’s reactions to different situations, Shakespeare works against stereotypes placed on the Jewish community. Stereotypes about Jews are both proved and disproved in The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare. Ways in which they are proved are by characterizing Shylock as greedy and vengeful. However, they are also disproved when justifications for these behaviors are encompassed. Shylock, like other literary characters, justifies and invalidates ideas placed upon him
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