How can Shakespeare's view on Judaism and Christianity be represented through the characters in Act 1 Scene 3, Act 3 Scene 1 and Act 4 Scene 1 of 'The Merchant of Venice'

Essay by no_1knowsHigh School, 11th gradeF, March 2004

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"The merchant of Venice" is a play written by William Shakespeare before the duration 1958 and most probably in 1596. The play is set in the Capital city of Venice in Italy. Two characters dominate the main issues of this play Shylock and Antonio, at first we are introduced to the protagonist Shylock. Shylock is a Jew his character is stereotypically as evil and manipulative. Shakespeare has done this as throughout history and even within the Elizabethan period Jews were loathed, feared and branded Christ killers. Which form the barriers between the Jews and Christians in the play. The second character is Antonio who is a Christian and is not seen as a victim of anti-semitism like Shylock but when contrasted he is presented to be superior. The themes and issues explored in this play by the two characters interrelate injustice, power and racism. In this essay I hope to show how Shakespeare's view on Judaism and Christianity is represented through the characters in the different scenes that I will be exploring.

In Act 1 Scene 3 introduces Shylock in a street where Bassanio seeks him to borrow money in Antonio's name to pursue his love. The loan is for three thousand ducats, three times the amount of the bond. In this scene we as audience learn where the barriers are very obvious and Shylocks hatred for Antonio and the Christians.

How like a fawning publican he looks,

I hate him for he is a Christian:

He hates our sacred nation, and he rails

(Act 1, scene 3)

This immediately depicts Shylock is displaying elements of belligerence in rejection to ever forgive the Christians. We also see that how Shylocks believes his religion is more important than Christians, this is expressed clearly through his blunt direct statement 'I hate him...