Shylock's Attitude Towards Antonio

Explain why Shylock hates Antonio in The Merchant of Venice. And was Shylock a victim in his own community?

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poetrymfa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shylock hates Antonio for two main reasons. First and foremost, Shylock is Jewish, while Antonio is Christian. Their differences in faith create a rift between the two, which is furthered by the larger implications of the historical Christian persecution of Jews. We see this realized in the play through the fact that Shylock is forced to live within the Venetian Ghetto under the decree of the Republic, which was largely Christian; this geographic containment was meant to restrict the physical, economic, and cultural presence of Jewish people, their faith, and their businesses. Antonio himself regularly behaves in an Anti-Semitic manner and has no qualms about bullying Shylock and mocking his Jewishness. The feelings of animosity between the two worsen once Shylock's daughter Jessica runs off with a Christian man (and Shylock's money), with Shylock proclaiming,

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.

Secondly, Shylock dislikes Antonio because he regularly lends money to others without charging interest on those loans. This directly hurts Shylock's profits as a moneylender, since Antonio is consistently undercutting his rates and, thus, siphoning business away from him. As a Jewish man in Venice, Shylock does not have many other vocational opportunities; the interest he charges on loans is his livelihood.  

I would argue that, despite Shylock's status as the antagonist within the play and his outwardly miserly attitude, he really is a victim within the community. Antonio, Shylock's own daughter, and the Christian authorities of Venice treat him unfairly and cause him great grief; it is no wonder that he is filled with spite.

lit24 | Student

In Act I sc.3 Shylock states three reasons why he hates Antonio.

1. "I hate him for he is a Christian," Shylock is a Jew and Antonio is a Christian. Traditionally there has always been hatred and enmity between the Jews and the Christians because the Christians accused the Jews of killing their God, Jesus, while  the Jews never accepted Jesus as their Messiah.

2. "He lends out money gratis and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice."

Shylock hates Antonio because Antonio lends money without charging any interest, while Shylock charges very high rates of interest. Consequently, this cuts into Shylock's profit margins and additionally earns him a bad reputation.

3. "You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,
And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine"

Shylock hates Antonio because Antonio has constantly bullied and harassed him.

4. In Act IV sc.1 in the famous court scene, Shylock remarks, "so can I give no reason, nor I will not, / More than a lodged hate and a certain loathing I bear Antonio." Meaning, his hatred for Antonio is based solely upon Antonio's malicious behavior.

manxbutterfly | Student

"Was Shylock a *victim in his own community?"

Hi, sorry my answer is three years late. I am currently studying MoV and so i was doing some research and came across this. I am in year 10 in the UK. - apologies if that seems random, i just thought it was relavent.

Yes. You could say Shylock was a victim in his own community, however, was it really his community? and was he only treated badly because of him being Jewish or because of his down right bitter attitude.
As you will already know, Jews were treated with no respect in those times however in MoV, Shylock was not a part of the italian community by choice, but because he was forced to relocate the 'ghetto' and to live in it with the other Jews. Therefore, it was not technically his community however i do pitty him because he was not accepted when in times such as today, he should have been. Back then, things were different. It is sad.

Also, you must question yourself. Was Shylock really only treated badly because of his Jewishness or because of his bitterness. He wasn't exactly innocent, right?
He was not a nice man and he was very bitter. Perhaps this was more the reason to why he was treated so badly. 'Treat others how you want to be treated'.
He may have used being a Jew as an excuse to gain pitty which worked, did it now?
I do not completely believe this theory however i am sure it was half of the problem.

Racism was terrible then and it was a huge problem world wide, especially towards Jews, so I believe that Shylock was a victim, but not as much as he makes out. He was also a very cruel man in return!

Hope this helps, even if i was a few years late...



user2969879 | Student

I believe that Shylock was a victim.

-Firstly, he was the subject of a lot of discrimination. Not only was he a Jew, but he was also a banker, which can't have made him many friends amongst those he took interest from.

-Secondly, while his personality wasn't the most appropriate, it is not something that is easily changed, and probably Jessica should have just got used to it (maybe a lesson for us all).  

srishti27-arjun | Student

The main reason for Shylock to dislike Antonio is that,Antonio is a Christian nd Shylock is a jew .. due to this differences in faiths nd beliefs..he hates Antonio

Antonio has often abused Shylock in the Venetian Stock Exchange...abt his money nd his money lending practices..he has called Shylock as a cut throat dog..spit on his jewish robe..he had pushed Shylock aside to make a way for himself... all this behaviours of Antonio gave him a reason to seek revenge against Antonio..

Shylock's daughter Jessica eloped wid Lorenzo who was a christian..nd a dear frnd of Antonio.. This frustrated him more..

All this made him hate Antonio

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