Where are specific instances of anti-semitism in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice"?

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robertwilliam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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There are not, actually, that many instances of anti-semitism depicted by the play itself (in fact, unless you count calling Shylock "Jew" - of which there are several instances - it's difficult to think of a specific anti-semitic action that a character undertakes). More usually a character describes something anti-semitic that has happened before.

So, Shylock, in Act 1, Scene 3, repeatedly says that Antonio has spat upon him:

You call me,—misbeliever, cut-throat dog,
And spet upon my Jewish gaberdine,
And all for use of that which is mine own.

And here's Shylock in Act 3, Scene 1 arguing to Salerio and Solanio that Antonio treats him consistently in a racist way:

He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew.

There are lots of other, similar examples. But the key point here is that Shakespeare didn't write down the stage directions that usually appear in printed versions of his texts - the words are all we know are his. Never forget that these plays are meant to be acted out; and, if you think a little about what an actor might do in saying a certain speech (look at Solario in Act 3, Scene 1) you might find reasons to accuse characters of being still more anti-semitic!

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