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Discuss Antonio's character relative to religion and money lending.

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user6895675 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 4, 2013 at 12:31 PM via web

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Discuss Antonio's character relative to religion and money lending.

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted November 4, 2013 at 4:25 PM (Answer #1)

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Antonio is hated by Syhlock the moneylender in Shakespeare's play 'The Merchant Of Venice ' for two main reasons - but they are linked. Shylock is despised for being sharper in business than he needs to be - for charging interest and not only that , but exorbitant rates of interest. Because of this, he feels persecuted by gentiles and non-Jews. 

Shylock tells Antonio, "suff'rance is the badge of all our tribe". In this case by tribe, he means the Jewish religion which is important because Antonio is from a different religion which affects the way he does business and the interest he himself charges.

Shylock  gets verbally abused, hustled and bullied by many characters throughout the play because even other sharp businessmen see him as being unreasonable and usurous. He gets called names including "villain with a smiling cheek, bloody creditor, and even 'damned inexecrable dog’ whilst Antonio's business practices are seen as acceptable and Shylock does not like the competition.

As he is obviously a shrewd businessman he is very observant and makes it his business to know other businessmen's news - he has found out everything to do with Antonio's business plans, and that because he is a Christian he is becoming popular because of the fair way he is perceived to conduct his business affairs - usury or 'charging interest' was frowned upon in many rreligious circles, including Christian ones.

So the top  reason he dislikes Antonio is financial: "I hate him for he is a Christian; / But more, for that in low simplicity / He lends out money gratis". This means that he suspects Antonio of lending out money at much cheaper rates than he does because he is a Christian.

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