How do Shylock's speeches reflect his character in "The Merchant of Venice"?Analyze Shylock's rhetoric and elements of voice paying special attention to the quality of his language...

How do Shylock's speeches reflect his character in "The Merchant of Venice"?

Analyze Shylock's rhetoric and elements of voice paying special attention to the quality of his language (metaphor and repetition for example).

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robertwilliam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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Let me first make a caveat: although we can all spot the SAME features of Shylock's language, what they tell us about his character is subjective. There's no absolute right answers.

The first thing I notice about Shylock is that he constantly repeats himself:

I will be assured I may; and, that I may be assured,
I will bethink me.

...let him look to his bond: he was wont to
call me usurer; let him look to his bond: he was
wont to lend money for a Christian courtesy; let him
look to his bond.

There are lots more examples (see the link below for a complete list of Shylock's utterances).

Shylock's motto - "Fast bind, fast find" - is, like much of his language, rhythmic, pared right down to the bone, and repetitive. His speech is full of antitheses (balancing one thing against another - as "find" is balanced with "bind" in the quote above) and with an almost obsessive need for even his words to be fitted exactly into place courtesy of a verbal pattern or rhythm. This, you might think, is appropriate for a man obsessed with his money and his things being exactly as he wants them, where he wants them.

John Gross has pointed out that Shylock's speech is full of "linguistic idiosyncracies": words like "synagogue" and "Nazarite" are not found elsewhere in Shakespeare's canon, nor is "moneys", Shylock's odd plural of "money". This, surely, is to mark out Shylock's foreignness in Venice. He is also a direct, plain-speaker in a play full of lyrical poetry.

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