In Act 3, Scene 1, of The Merchant of Venice, explain the lines: "The curse never fell upon our nation till now; I never felt it till now." Please allude to the fact that God has cursed the Jews...

In Act 3, Scene 1, of The Merchant of Venice, explain the lines: "The curse never fell upon our nation till now; I never felt it till now." Please allude to the fact that God has cursed the Jews because they disobeyed his laws and so were condemned to exile. Shylock looks upon all his misfortunes as a blow to the Jewish race. 

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

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In The Merchant of Venice, Shylock and Antonio have a mutual and ongoing hatred for each other and do not hide their contempt, continuing to express their opinions of each other. Antonio cannot see how his actions and hatred of Jews are as reprehensible or shameful as Shylock's. In Act III, scene i, Shylock has just made his well-documented speech regarding how the Jews have, in fact, learned from the Christians and reminds the audience that he will not only seek his revenge (much like a Christian) but that he will also do it better. As he says, "I will better the instruction." 

Shylock continues to berate Christians for their effect on his people. There would have been very few Jews in Shakespeare's England, as all Jews had been banned in the thirteenth century. However, Shakespeare reveals that Shylock has always prospered, despite Christians having used religion as their excuse to persecute Jews. 

In the passage from Act III, scene i, from line 74, Shylock is anxious to receive news of his daughter, Jessica, who has run away with valuables and, he feels his loss most profoundly; it is the loss of his money together with the money it has cost him to send someone to search for Jessica and the consequent loss of his dignity that, to Shylock, intensify the real loss that the Jews have suffered, historically. Shylock feels his personal loss as if it were as bad or worse than any enduring suffering of the Jewish people. This is evident in his words: "I never felt it till now."

Everything that Shylock does, he attributes to the "curse" on his "sacred tribe." It never occurs to him that he can behave any other way; neither does Antonio, otherwise a seemingly noble character, attempt to understand or respect Shylock. The "ancient grudge," referred to in Act I.iii.42, that Shylock refers to, defines the two characters and their actions and Shylock feels that his misfortune is linked to the actions and beliefs of people like Antonio who, in line 94, calls Shylock, "an evil soul producing holy witness." It seems that Antonio uses the same excuse for treating Shylock so badly. It is further evident that Shylock perpetuates and preserves the basis of  this so-called "grudge," when his people were condemned to a life in exile, suggesting, in line 104 of Act I, scene iii that he, Shylock has "borne it with a patient shrug for Suff'rance is the badge of all our tribe."  This is what reinforces the plot as it unfolds in Act III, scene i, as Shylock seeks to blame Jessica's actions on "the curse."

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