The Merchant of Venice Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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To what extent do you sympathize with Shylock throughout The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare? Thanks.

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Shylock, in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, is a complicated character. While it is possible to feel some sympathy for him, he does create many of his own problems.

Several elements about Shylock do (or could, anyway) engender some sympathy from the reader. First he is a Jew, and in both the play and in history, Christians had a great and active disdain for Jews. To that extent, what happens to Shylock because he is a Jew makes him a sympathetic character. Second, he is a father whose daughter elopes without his permission and with his money; both of these things certainly create some sympathy for Shylock. Finally, he is a moneylender, a profession which Venetians abhor but whose services are evidently needed or Shylock would not stay in business. It is not a crime to do business and make money; in fact, most readers want to do that, too.

Other aspects of the moneylender are based on choices he makes, and they are less likely to prompt any sympathy from the audience. They are...

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