Why does Shylock hate Antonio and Christians in general?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.
iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

Read the study guide:
The Merchant of Venice

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