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Write briefly on the theme of racial prejudice in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.

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ashishnupur | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 11, 2010 at 5:15 AM via web

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Write briefly on the theme of racial prejudice in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 11, 2010 at 10:15 PM (Answer #1)

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At the time of Elizabethan England, the views of the public were quite fixed about who was who in society. Shakespeare was merely reflecting like a mirror of society how people treated others, and each other. In the case of the Merchant Of Venice Shylock was represented as a vile, cold hearted, and money hungry Jewish man. Antonio, of all people in the story, has most of the charges for racist name calling towards Shylock.

Shakespeare however was very careful not to combine the thoughts of the people with the personality of the character. Although Shylock was indeed money hungry, this had nothing to do with his ethnic heritage. There is a lot much more Shakespeare gives us about him, which makes him sympathetic to the reader, and detaches one from any racial bias. However, it is evident that society was mirrored in the insults he received and this gives you and idea about the feelings of the day.

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