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Antonio And Shylock Essay

The Presentation of Shylock and Antonio as Conflicting Opposites in The Merchant of Venice

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The Presentation of Shylock and Antonio as Conflicting Opposites in The Merchant of Venice

Shakespeare personifies the juxtaposed themes of this play; justice and mercy, forgiveness and revenge. He contrasts characters of Shylock and Antonio to represent these key ideas. Shakespeare’s character representations of these themes certify that they are constantly played out against each other throughout the play. The play presents anti-semitic ideas, depicting Shylock, a Jew, as evil and Antonio, a Christian, as good. Stereotyping in this play is used to portray Shylock as malicious, selfish and hateful man who only cares about money. Antonio, on the other hand, is portrayed as the ‘perfect Christian’;…show more content…

The ‘idea of scales’ used to represent the way the characters are seen, also represents the juxtaposed themes of justice and mercy in the court scene and for each theme that each character stands for- Shylock for justice, Antonio for mercy. The themes begin balanced but as the play proceeds mercy triumphs over revenge and this is personified through Shylock’s downfall.

The reason behind the portrayal of Shylock is because of the anti-semitic attitudes of the Elizabethan’s of that time; therefore Shakespeare painted Jews in a bad light to get a bigger audience. The Elizabethans inherited the fiction, fabricated by the early Church, that the Jews murdered Christ and were therefore in league with the devil and were actively working to destroy Christianity. Jews were classified as an "inferior" race with specific physical and personality characteristics. Racial prejudice created negative stereotypes existing from Christian anti-Semitism. A reason behind this stereotyping was an increasing nationalistic fear, highlighting the Jews as a ‘foreign element’. This anti-semitism is reflected in the literature of the time, and Jews were used to portray evil, heartless characters. In ‘The Jew of Malta’, for e.g., Christopher Marlowe uses a Jew, Barabas to represent his central malevolent character.

The personal view of Shakespeare may have been different as within this

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The relationship between Antonio and Shylock is contentious; Antonio is heroic, but Shylock is villainous. Certainly, they are rivals in their moneylending: Antonio is kind and generous while Shylock is selfish in all aspects of his life.

One reason that Antonio and Shylock are such rivals as moneylenders is the fact that Antonio allows those who have borrowed from Shylock to come to him in their desperation when their loan and interest are due and,...

The relationship between Antonio and Shylock is contentious; Antonio is heroic, but Shylock is villainous. Certainly, they are rivals in their moneylending: Antonio is kind and generous while Shylock is selfish in all aspects of his life.

One reason that Antonio and Shylock are such rivals as moneylenders is the fact that Antonio allows those who have borrowed from Shylock to come to him in their desperation when their loan and interest are due and, in his liberality, he lends them money at the last minute. On the other hand, Shylock is completely materialistic. Not only does he demand the payment on his loans, plus his usury charge, but he is most concerned with his own personal material possessions. When, for instance, he is told that his daughter Jessica has run off with a Christian to be married, he seems more concerned about his money:

My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter!
Fled with a Christian! O my Christian ducats! (2.8.15-16). 

Another reason that Antonio and Shylock are at ends with one another is that they play opposing roles. Shylock is the villain, the obstacle to love, while Antonio aids his friend Bassanio in romance; his love for Bassanio follows the Renaissance concept of friendship, a concept which overrides even romantic love. For, Antonio is willing to lose his life by giving up a pound of flesh so that his friend can marry Portia. But, Shylock is greedy and vindictive; he demands his pound of flesh because he hates Antonio.

More than a lodged hat and a certain loathing
I bear Antonio, that I follow thus
A losing suit against him. (4.1.60-63)

So strong is this hatred against Antonio that Shylock refuses payment, even three times the amount.

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