The Correct Victim in The Merchant of
Shylock is by far one of the most fascinating, greedy, jealous and debated characters in
the play The Merchant of Venice. He can be seen as both the victim and the villain. Shylock was
humiliated and abused but he was also merciless and crude. Shylock is the victim rather than the
villain. From the harsh abuse from the Christian’s, the utter betrayal of his only daughter and the
complete humiliation during his trial at the courtroom in Venice, he was treated very unfairly.
For these reasons, Shylock is seen as less of a villain and more as a victim.
Shylock suffered abuse in different ways by the Christian’s because of his faith. He was
called names, spat on and constantly mocked. For the duration of the play, Shylock was labeled
“Jew” because that is what the Christian’s addressed him as. Antonio said,
“Hie thee, gentle Jew.
The Hebrew will turn Christian;
He grows kind.” (I,iii,191-192)
They put Shylock down by refusing to call him by his real name but by his choice of faith. Some
parts during the play the Christian’s even went as far as referring to him as a “Jew dog.” The
Christian’s were also abusing Shylock by bombarding him with racial slurs. They accused his
faith of killing Jesus, loaning money with interest because of their devilish or un-Christian ways
as well as saying Jews murdered Christian’s for their blood that they would later use in rituals.
You call me a misbeliever, cutthroat dog,
And spet upon my Jewish gaberdine,
‘Fair sir, you spet on me on Wednesday
You spurned me such a day; another time
You called me a dog; and for these courtesies
I’ll lend you thus much moneys’?
I am as like to call thee so again,
To spit on thee again, to spurn thee too.” (I,iii,121-122;135-141)
Shylock confronted Antonio for treating him so rudely but Antonio stated that it shall continue
despite Shylock speaking up. Salerio took part in the abuse as well as Antonio by constantly
mocking Shylock throughout the play. He said,
“Why, all the boys in Venice follow him,
Crying, his stones, his daughter, and his ducats.” (II,viii,3)
Here, Salerio and the boys of the town mock and make a fool out of Shylock instead of pitying
him. This is just one of many occurrences of Shylock getting mocked in the town. The abuse is
an important part of why Shylock is the victim and not the villain in the play.
Shylock’s only daughter, Jessica, betrayed her own father by marrying a Christian and
stealing a portion of his wealth. By leaving her home, Jessica was essentially leaving her Jewish
heritage behind as well. Shylock felt as though his entire family should stay Jewish and that no
other religion is just. Jessica said,
“Alack, what heinous sin is it in me
To be asham’d to be my father’s child?
But though I am a daughter to his blood,
I am not to his manners. O Lorenzo,
If thou keep promise, I shall end this strife,
Become a Christian and thy loving wife. (II,iii,16-21)