The Merchant of Venice Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Why does Shylock hate Antonio?

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Shylock is a usurer who mercilessly exploits his victims. His relationship with Antonio is a contentious one because Antonio has denounced Shylock in public, and he has rescued many from their debts to Shylock.

In act 1 when Shylock talks to Bassanio, he agrees to lend him three thousand ducats because Bassanio promises that “Antonio shall be bound” for the debt if Bassanio cannot repay it. When Antonio enters the scene, Shylock speaks in an aside, which is always a true revelation of a character's feelings. First, Shylock observes that Antonio is "like a fawning publican" (1.3.33). (A publican is a Roman tax-gatherer. Shylock may be using this term as an inexact but bitter term of reproach.) Secondly, Shylock hates Antonio for being a Christian because the Christians have imposed restrictions upon him. In accordance with the Venetian Republic, Jewish lenders, doctors, and clothing merchants—who had fled the Spanish Inquisition and come to Venice—were permitted to engage in Venice's commercial interests during the day. But at night and on Christian holidays, they were locked into the gated island of the Ghetto Nuovo (New Foundry). Thirdly, Shylock has been publicly berated by Antonio in the Rialto, where he has called Shylock a "misbeliever, cutthroat dog, / And spet upon [his] Jewish gaberdine" (1.3.104-105).

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Perhaps Shylock is simply an angry person in general and doesn't like anybody. That's possible, but the text shows specifically that Shylock really does not like Antonio.  

Shylock is a Jew, and at the time of the play, Venetian laws segregated Jews with extra laws. Antonio is a Christian, and Shylock sees Christianity and Christians as the reason Venetian law is what it is. In fact, Shylock specifically states that he hates Antonio, because Antonio is a Christian man.  

I hate him for he is a Christian...

Shylock is a money lender.  He also charges high interest rates.  That wouldn't be a problem if he was the only money lender around or all of the other lenders charged the same interest rates.  That isn't the case, though.  Antonio also lends out money at times, and he doesn't charge any interest.  Shylock hates Antonio because he is a business rival that is massively undercutting his business.  

But I think the main reason that Shylock hates Antonio is because Antonio has publicly insulted Shylock and spit in his face.  It would be tough to walk away from that perfectly cheery and happy.  

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