In Act 1, scene 3 of The Merchant of Venice, what is the effect of Shakespeare's leading Shylock's speech (lines 101-124) to this point in the scene?
Does Shakespeare intend to portray him as an outright villain?
Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is arguably one of the most difficult to interpret in contemporary times because of the burden of political correctness that imposes itself upon this play. Perhaps turning to the analysis of Harold Bloom, renowned Shakespearean critic and a Jew himself, can lend objectivity to the argument that this play should be "staged with Shylock as comic villain." Bloom writes,
If I were a director, I would instruct my Shylock to act like a hallucinatory bogeyman, a walking nightmare flamboyant with a big false nose and a bright red wig, that is to say, to look like Marlowe's Barabas [from The Jew of Malta, upon which Shakespeare based his drama].
It is also important to note that an Elizabethan audience as a populace that certainly held no sympathies for Jews probably would perceive the character of Shylock as a character ripe for humorous mockery. Thus, his attitudes are rather immature; he speaks in asides about how he hates his rival and immaturely excuses his villainy by using euphemism for his usury, calling it "interest-making." Another factor that gives some of Shylock's utterances humor is the spirit in which he talks. In Act I, Scene 3, Shylock is childish, complaining like a boy to a bully,
You call me misbeliever, cutthroat dog,
And spet upon my Jewish gaberdine,
And all for use of that which is my own. (1.3.108-110)
Shall I bend low, and in a bondsman's key,
With bated breath, and whis'ring humbleness,
You called me dog; and for these courtesies
I'll lend you thus much money? (1.3.120-126)
Why, look how you storm!
I would be friends with you, and have your love (1.3.134-135)