what is the character sketch of shylock in the merchant of venice?

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ant911 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

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In the Merchant of Venice, Shylock is often portrayed in a negative light, him being a heartless and cruel Jew who seeks nothing but revenge from the Christians. This is evident in Act 4, during the court scene where Portia, disguised as a lawyer, asks Shylock to have mercy. However, Shylock's reply is 'tis not in the bond' and demands to have Antonio's pound of flesh, saying that by preventing him from doing so would cause other foreign Merchants of Venice to have a feeling of insecurity. This obviously shows that Shylock is a character to be loathed, his intentions of killing Antonio evident. However, earlier on in Act 3 Scene 1, Shylock gives his famous 'Hath a Jew not eyes?' speech and gives hints that deep underneath his Jewish skin, is just another man, capable of feeling emotions and pain just like any other man. This is the only portion of the book where Shylock seems to deserve some sympathy, seeing that he is cast in such pityful light. However, as a whole, Shylock is a menace, and is not to be trusted as even his daughter, Jessica cannot bear to live under his roof any longer and fled from him to elope with the Christian Lorenzo, even going as far as to convert to Christianity, thus detaching herself from Shylock. This shows how cruel Shylock is, such that even his own 'flesh and blood' dares to rebel against him. Therefore, the character of Shylock is a villainous person who is not to be trusted, always thinking of schemes to get his revenge on the Christians.

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