Is Justice Served in ‘The Merchant of Venice’?
By: Emilija Jakovlevaite
In this play ‘The Merchant of Venice’ by William Shakespeare, situations occur which seem to prove the theory that doing the right thing does not always seem to be the most straight forward thing to do. Technically, the correct thing to do is to follow and obey justice and the law. However, in this case, justice means taking a man’s life for revenge.
In my opinion, justice was not severed for the character of Shylock in this play. He was treated unfairly by most of the Christian characters in the play. Antonio, who is the namesake of the play, treats Shylock as a lesser of a person due to his religion. This sentiment is mirrored by other Christian characters such as Bassanio, Solerio, Portia and many others, as I will be discussing in more detail, later in this essay. Lastly, in the courtroom scene, coming in to the end of the play, Shylock experienced further anti-Semitism when he is forced to convert to Christianity in order to save his own life.
In my opinion, Shylock, is a normal human being with rights, like everyone else. But in Shakespearean times Jews were looked down upon. Shylock lived in Venice, in which Jewish citizens were illegal. Although, Christians did not mind Shylock working and living in Venice, due to the reason that he was wealthy and was a moneylender. His competition the Christian, Antonio who also lended out money, but he did so, interest-free.
Jews were not treated as equals to the Christians, and in this case Shylock had a well justified reason to hate Antonio. Christian characters seemed to regard Jewish people more as animalistic dogs rather than as human beings. Antonio had called Shylock a ‘cut throat dog' and he had ‘spit upon his Jewish gabardine.’ Antonio said that he didn’t regret this harsh treatment and would do it again. ‘I am as like to call thee so again, to spit on thee again, to spurn thee to.’ I think that this is a much disrespected thing to do to any one, regards what religion they are, and nowadays. Antonio would never have been to get away with it.
Shylock said that Antonio’s reason for disrespecting him, was only because he was a Jew, which I think Shylock had the right to say that he hated Antonio for his religion, ‘I hate him for he is a Christian.’ Shylock didn’t want people to hate each other simply based on religious reasons, and tried to explain that Christians and Jews are the same thing, expect they follow different beliefs. ‘Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapon, subject to the same disease, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is.’
Antonio’s greatest friend came to him one day about his money issues. Bassanio didn’t have money, and was in a lot of debt, but wanted to woo a women named Portia. ‘In Belmont is a lady richly left.’ He felt that if he would have had money, he would have got to Portia’s wealth and heart. Antonio had ships to at sea, which...