The Merchant of Venice Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Is Shylock a victim, a villain, or some combination of both?

Shylock is a combination of both a victim and villain in The Merchant of Venice. Shylock is a victim of discrimination and mistreated by Antonio and his daughter, Jessica. Shylock's greedy, vengeful nature is what makes him a villain, who helps drive the plot of the play.

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Shylock is one of Shakespeare's most memorable characters and can be viewed as both a victim and a villain in the play The Merchant of Venice. As a villain, Shylock is a heartless, cruel money-lender, who is determined to take Antonio's life. Shylock is more concerned about his wealth than his daughter and desperately desires to see Antonio die. Once Shylock discovers that Antonio's merchant ships are lost at sea and he cannot pay his bond, Shylock demands justice and refuses to accept six thousand ducats, which is twice the amount of the original loan. Shylock scoffs at Portia's mercy speech and is thrilled to remove a pound of flesh near Antonio's heart. As a villain, Shylock is vindictive, hostile, and selfish. Fortunately, Portia disguises herself as a young lawyer and prevents Shylock from murdering Antonio by making a persuasive argument.

Despite Shylock's greed and hostility, the audience learns that Shylock's vengeance is somewhat justified. In Act 1, Scene 3, Shylock says that...

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ayy-dee | Student

Thanks alot!! it really helped me!!!! much appreciated

muddy-mettled | Student

That word "villain" has been a problem for me.  As you may have noted already, we have seen the term before( type it into the search MV box, above right).  So, I have finally picked up my dictionary and found:  1. A wicked or evil person; scoundrel.  2. A dramatic or fictional character who is typically at odds with the hero.  If one regards, as some do, Portia as the heroine of the play or the sole principal character, then if one argues that Shylock is at odds with her we find Antonio, Bassanio and Gratiano("Speak not so grossly," Act 5, scene 1) are as well.  In the book STORIES FROM SHAKESPEARE, by Marchette Chute, we do not find the word "villain."  Shylock is, as noted, here and elsewhere, a victim.