Probably one of the most notable characters in all of Shakespeare’s works is Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. However, as it is evident among literary critics and commentators, this character is often confused to be either an evil person or a religious one. Since he kills and is always willing to do so when he chooses to, others say that he ought to be seen absolutely as an evil person. In contrast, since Shylock experienced more wrongdoings from others than did his own wrongdoings towards others, many argue that he should be sympathized and be considered a religious person. Nevertheless, Shakespeare may not intend to let us view Shylock merely as a villain but there is a certain position one may hold in this.
First, Shylock in the onset of the play seems to be knowledgeable of the Law or the Scriptures. As a Jew, he should have knowledge of it. Antonio even speaks of him as able to “cite Scriptures for his purpose producing holy witness” yet has a “goodly outside falsehood” (America Public University System 313). Today, many religions know the Bible and even accept it to be true, yet live as if the Bible is not true at all. They are knowledgeable of it but, as Shylock is in the play, do not live righteously. It is evident in the story that Shylock is willing to pay evil to those who do evil to him. He does so in order to “feed his revenge” (America Public University System 323) as he finds to satisfying to own self. But this is absolutely not the characteristic of righteous living even from the past. Everybody knows that man has to pay to evil what is good.
Moreover, although Shylock lost his money, property, daughter, and even religion, he does need to be sympathized for these in order to consider him as righteous. Everyone can experience such great loss in life. Shylock should have responded to these in a kind way rather than revenge. In so doing he would have proven to all that his religion or faith is more real than those of others. He could have not been a victim of religious difference. Thus, what we can have in Shylock’s character and response in his life is more of a villain.
America Public University System. ENGL 200: Composition and Literature. New York:
McGrawHill, 2011. E-book.