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Please give me suggestions on how to improve this essay based on Shylock from The...

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rainbow224 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted April 28, 2013 at 4:44 AM via web

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Please give me suggestions on how to improve this essay based on Shylock from The Merchant of Venice.


(I was nothing more than an anguished soul, excluded from society. I had been a victim of bigotry. Since birth, I have been excluded from the Venetian society, occupying the scorned profession of a money-grubbing usurer. Jews are hated by the Venetians; despised for our religion, culture, and occupation. Please do not put the blame all on me. Why are we despised for the only occupation that we are only permitted to practise by law? How could I make a living if I did not take interest? How was I meant to live, raise a daughter alone and face a cruel reality? I have faced many psychological sufferings in the past.)......... Many times (Antonio)I was  cursed( me), called (me) a heathen, a cut-throat dog and had  my Jewish gabardine spat upon. I  HAVE borne it with a patient shrug,( for sufferance is the)a badge of  sufferance. (all our tribe.)  I was incensed by( Antonio’s) frequent denunciations of me BUT ( I do not recall committing any wrong to anyone, other than offending by practising) my Jewish culture and making a living ARE MY SINS.

(There has not been a day that goes by in which someone is not hurling anti-Semitic insults at me.  I have never been understood because no one has even seen me for anything other my Jewishness. Jews remain the quintessential victims and the timeless sufferers.) In the shadow of unbearable suffering, is there (no) ANY sense of justice? Every indignation penetrated my soul, left me in agony, in shame. Vicious words (about me were and still are on the tip of the tongue of every Venetian Christian. I was regularly humiliated publicly by Antonio in the Rialto. My esteem had been degraded, stepped upon.)PENETRATED MY SOUL.( I was known as the ‘malicious Jew,’ another thing added to the abundant hatred already inflicted upon me. Normally, I was left)LEAVING ME  defeated and feeble on a daily basis.( Even when Antonio came and requested for money, he spoke with such brutal words. I do not know what happened to me on that day, but it was as if all my hurt was elicited) After what seems like centuries of insult and outrage, (and)  I (was)felt provoked and  was STIRRED(inspired) to DEMAND (draw) such conditions of the bond.( I know now that) I am undeniably at fault, AND I apologise, (and I beg of you to consider the source of such actions committed by me for they were not provoked on their own nor typical of my true character. ) 

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 29, 2013 at 8:29 PM (Answer #1)

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Every good drama requires a villain and, in The Merchant of Venice, Shylock certainly delivers.  Using questions in your opening paragraph is a good way to engage with your audience such as you have done but you also need to introduce yourself. Shylock is abrupt so the tone is good but rearrange the order  - introduce the Jews and their repeated persecution first so that the reader has something to work with but do NOT insult the Venetians.

 The essay is quite intense and so needs a strong and definitive introduction. However, in Shakespeare's day, the Jews were disliked and so it may be better to start with the references to bringing up his daughter which will give him something in common with the Venetian, rather than highlighting all the distinct differences and being too confrontational.  Appeal to the compassion of the Venetians. Repeating what the Venetians already believe - Jews are scorned, hated, blamed - will only remind them of the reasons they "despise" Jews - and we really do not want to do that. 

  You could try starting with the plight of raising a daughter in a harsh environment, for example, rearranging your own words :

  Raising a daughter alone and facing a cruel reality, after my wife was so cruelly taken from me, has been such a trial. You can understand how difficult it has been to make a living in such a despised profession, the only occupation that we are only permitted to practise by law. How could I make a living if I did not take interest?

Continue with the version above (from "Many times..." but take care to avoid direct insults and personal affronts. I suggest the use of the third person and that you consider leaving out the bracketed sections as they tend to be very involved. This is more likely to distract the reader. The highlighted areas will introduce Shylock and his pain and by the end, the reader will understand what the problem is  - demanding his "pound of flesh" and the intention - to apologize.  This ending then serves as the thesis statement:

"After what seems like centuries of insult and outrage, I felt provoked and was STIRRED to DEMAND  such conditions of the bond. I am undeniably at fault, AND I apologise."


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