Do you see Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice as a misguided, erring, self-deceiving hero like Othello or as more similar to Malvolio?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is in most ways closer to Malvolio than Othello. Although both Othello and Shylock can be considered similar in so far as they are members of marginalized classes, they are quite different from each other as individuals, with the "noble Moor" being a heroic and tragic figure, the victim of a plot by Iago, but himself having immediately apparent virtues of character admired by the leading nobles of Venice and his soldiers. Shylock, like Malvolio, is a comic character, reacting to being on the margins of society by indulging in petty malice, and portrayed to a large degree comically. Shylock, unlike Othello, is more a villain than a hero. Shylock's character is illustrated when he gives as the reason for his hatred of Antonio:

I hate him for he is a Christian;
But more for that in low simplicity
He lends out money gratis, and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice.
(I, iii)

muddy-mettled | Student

My thanks to thanatassa for exploring yet  another subject and thereby suggesting further matters for study.  The three characters are placed in circumstances that differ.  Othello is a career soldier and a newlywed.  Malvolio is an employee of Olivia(compare Portia) and, it seems, a bachelor.  Shylock is a banker and, it seems, grieving the loss of his wife. 

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The Merchant of Venice

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