The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare
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Why does Shylock hate Antonio and Christians in general in The Merchant of Venice?

Shylock hates Christians because, as a Jewish man, he is heavily discriminated against in Venetian society. Shylock hates Antonio specifically because Antonio frequently humiliates him in public and undermines his business practices, impeding the living Shylock can make off one of the few professions Venetian Jews were actually allowed to enter.

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Shylock is the antagonist of the play, who lends money to Antonio to finance Bassanio's trip to Belmont under the condition that he can exact a pound of flesh from Antonio if the loan is forfeited. Despite Shylock's malevolent, spiteful terms, Shakespeare humanizes his character by depicting the numerous ways Shylock is discriminated against in Venetian society. In medieval and renaissance Europe, Jews were prohibited from practicing many trades and segregated from Christians. Given the prejudiced culture of Venetian society during the time period, moneylending was one of the few professions Shylock could enter. As a Jewish moneylender, Shylock resents Antonio because he loans money to other Christians without any interest, which significantly undermines Shylock's business. Shylock makes it quite clear why he hates Antonio by saying,

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. (Shakespeare, 1.3.34-37)

In addition to Antonio undermining Shylock's business practices, Shylock is also prejudiced against all Christians. He comments on the "ancient grudge" between Jews and Christians and resents being persecuted in Venetian society for his religious beliefs and ethnicity. Shylock also holds a personal grudge against Antonio, who has publicly insulted him numerous times. In act three, scene one, Shylock offers a moving speech identifying the various ways Antonio has harmed him by saying,

He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies—and what’s his reason?" (Shakespeare, 3.1.50-56)

Despite Shylock's callous, malicious personality, the audience sympathizes with him to a certain extent and can understand his motivation for attempting to take Antonio's life, which makes him a complex character. Overall, Shylock's hatred towards Christians in general stems from his constant persecution in Venetian society. Shylock's hatred towards Antonio also stems from enduring his public insults and harmful business practices.

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Shylock hates Antonio because Antonio has the privilege of being a wealthy Venetian who charges no interest on his loans, and he also hates Antonio for being a Christian. Additionally, Shylock hates Antonio for the outspoken disdain that Antonio displays towards him.

Early in act I, Shylock expresses his hatred for Antonio.

I hate him for he is a Christian. . .
He lends out money gratis and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice.
If I can catch him once upon the hip,
I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him. (1.3.34-38)

Antonio not only loans money interest-free to many, he has also covered the loans of Shylock's victims without charging them interest to repay him. This action has enabled Shylock's victims to escape total ruin, as they pay off their loans to Shylock quickly without having to pay most of the added charges for these loans. Then, they can repay Antonio simply for the amount of their loan. Furthermore, Antonio's action also undercuts Shylock and forces him to lower his interest rates in order to get others to borrow from him. 

In addition to undercutting Shylock, Antonio has denounced Shylock in public, calling him a dog. He has even kicked and spat upon Shylock. Shylock reminds Antonio of these insults: 

In the Rialto you have [be]rated me
About my moneys and my usances.
Still have I borne it with a patient shrug. . .
You call me misbeliever, cutthroat dog,
And spet upon my Jewish gaberdine—
And all for use of that which is mine own. (1.3.105-111)
Antonio's insults help motivate Shylock to loan Antonio money with a horrific penalty for failure to make repayment. If Antonio fails to repay Shylock, Shylock can exact a brutal revenge against his enemy.
Shylock would hate Christians in general since, at the time of this play, Jews in Venice were made to live in a ghetto and were prohibited from being in Venetian society. The word ghetto may have been derived from the Italian word, getto, meaning foundry. (The first ghetto was established on the site of a foundry in Venice in 1516), or from the Italian word borghetto, which is the diminutive of the word borgo that means borough.
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In Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Shylock hates Antonio for many reasons. First, Shylock claims that he hates Antonio because he is a Christian. Historically, many tensions have existed between Christian and Jewish communities, with Jews often facing significant persecution at the hands of Christians. As such, it's hardly surprising that Shylock would regard any Christian with distaste. Second, Shylock hates Antonio because he lends money without charging interest. As a moneylender, Shylock makes his money by charging interest on loans, and any competitors who charge lower rates (or no rates at all) are likely to cut into his profits. Finally, and most importantly, Antonio proves himself to be anti-Semitic, bullying and abusing Shylock on several occasions simply because he is Jewish. As such, it's hardly surprising that Shylock hates both Antonio and Christians in general, as it seems that he is regularly oppressed by Antonio and the general Christian community in Venice. 

Understanding the reasons for Shylock's hatred of Antonio changes the meaning of the play. Before delving into the many motivations behind Shylock's anger, it's possible to feel sorry for Antonio and see him as a victim. However, once we realize the full extent of Antonio's abuse of Shylock, it becomes much more difficult to feel bad for him. Sure, he may not deserve to be carved up, but Antonio's oppressive treatment of Shylock certainly does not earn our respect. Indeed, by the end of the play, it becomes much easier to sympathize with the oppressed Shylock.

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