What quotes in The Merchant of Venice are prejudiced?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act one Scene 2, Portia displays her prejudice towards foreigners with dark skin. When her servant informs her that the Prince of Morocco has arrived, Portia says,

"If I could bid the fifth welcome with so good heart as I can bid the other four farewell, I should be glad of his approach. If he have the condition of a saint and the complexion of a devil, I had rather he should shrive me than wive me" (1.2.108-12)

Portia does not care if the Prince of Morocco has the character of a saint because he has a dark skin complexion like a "devil," which is a prejudiced view.

In Act one Scene 3, Shylock illustrates his prejudice towards Christians when he makes a comment about Antonio. Shylock says,

"How like a fawning publican he looks! I hate him for he is a Christian: But more for that in low simplicity he lends out money gratis, and brings down the rate of usance here with us in Venice" (1.3.35-40).

Since Shylock is a Jew who is discriminated against by the Christian population of Venice, he harbors resentment and prejudice towards all Christians. He initially mentions that he dislikes Antonio for the simple fact that he is a Christian. Shylock then proceeds to explain how Antonio brings down the rate of usance in Venice, which adds to his bitter feelings towards Antonio.

Noelle Matteson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Merchant of Venice is a controversial play with many intolerant characters. The Catholic characters are prejudiced against Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, who also resents them as Christians. Even the way characters refer to Shylock as “the Jew” is an expression of bigotry, defining him, negatively, by his religion and ethnicity.

The following are a few examples of many statements of prejudice. Shylock reports that Antonio, one of the main characters, spat on him, kicked him, and called him “misbeliever, cut-throat dog.” Launcelot, Shylock’s servant, rails against his master, whom he calls the devil. He says, “My master's a very Jew,” using the term as an insult. Gratiano compliments Shylock’s beautiful daughter Jessica, who falls in love with a Christian and soon converts to Christianity, as “a Gentile and no Jew.”

The Catholic characters associate Jewishness with negative qualities and Christianity with virtue, while Shylock is frustrated at people like Antonio, who are Christians who condemn Shylock’s moneylending even as they take advantage of it. The play has pointed criticisms of prejudice (as found in Shylock’s “Hath not a Jew eyes?” monologue) as well as numerous expressions of bigotry and antisemitism.

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The Merchant of Venice

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