The Merchant of Venice Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Start Your Free Trial

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.

Expert Answers info

Carroll Khan, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

bookB.A. from Indiana University of Pennsylvania

bookM.A. from Indiana University of Pennsylvania


calendarEducator since 2020

write94 answers

starTop subject is Literature

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...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 914 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write10,315 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write11,320 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

check Approved by eNotes Editorial


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.