The Merchant of Venice Questions and Answers
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....

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 951 words.)

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