Merchant Of Venice Anti Semitic Essay Topics

A Study Of Anti Semitism In The Merchant Of Venice

A Study of Anti-Semitism in The Merchant of Venice

‘The Merchant of Venice’ was written by Shakespeare in 1596 and
appeals to both audiences of comedy and tragedy. The play features
anti-Semitism which is a response to 1500’s Britain as well as other
literature of the time. Anti-Semitism is the term used to describe
discrimination towards Jews and Judaism. ‘The Merchant of Venice’ has
received both positive and negative comments over the centuries and
throughout this essay I will look at some of these. I will also look
at reasons why Shakespeare wrote an anti-Semitic play and what other
similar literature there was at the time of writing.

At the time of writing Queen Elizabeth the First was in reign and the
country was Christian. Protestant more than any other form as
Catholicism was banned by the Queen. Some people of the time were also
anti-Semitic and this was only heightened by the case of Rodrigo
Lopez. He was the Queen’s physician and was hung for supposed plotting
against the Queen even though he was considered innocent by many. The
Judge called him “That vile Jew” and he was hanged for being a Jew.
This is an example of the treatment of Jews at the time. It is very
important to stress that not everyone was anti-Semitic at the time.
Many people of Shakespeare’s time did not know what a Jew looked like
and only had medieval tales of Jews drinking the blood of Christian
children to base their opinions on; despite human sacrifice been
against the Jewish faith. This is why so much hostility was held for
Rodrigo Lopez and these stories were very much still believed during
Shakespeare’s childhood and it is thought that an upbringing in this
sort of environment brought along the anti-Semitic views expressed in
‘The Merchant of Venice.’ Many Christians in the 1500’s did not have
discriminative views of Jews and Judaism which and this was despite
the medieval stories and plays.

Shakespeare’s inspiration for ‘The Merchant of Venice’ is believed to
have come from other plays and literature which were circulating at
the time. The two main influences are ‘The Jew of Malta’ written by
Christopher Marlowe and ‘Il Pecorone’ written by Giovanni Fiorentino.
‘The Jew of Malta’ is very similar to ‘The Merchant of Venice.’ The
Jew is called Barabas and he poisons the nuns when his daughter runs
away and becomes a nun. The main themes of ‘The Jew of Malta’ are
racial tensions, religious conflict and political unrest which are
very similar to the themes of ‘The Merchant of Venice’. Barabas is a
stereotypical Jew of the time because he is hated, violent and cruel.
One of the main differences between the two plays is that
Shakespeare’s Jew, Shylock, is more of a man than Barabas because
Shylock did not kill people. The plot to ‘Il Pecorone’ is the same as
‘The Merchant of Venice’ and Shylock...

Loading: Checking Spelling


Read more

"The Merchant of Venice" and Anti-Semitic beliefs.

1393 words - 6 pages Shakespeare’s Jew: Discrimination or Trend?In William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” Shylock seems to be a character of significance....

Shakespeare’s Portrayal of Shylock in 'A Merchant of Venice' is Stereotypical and Anti-Semitic. Discuss

1208 words - 5 pages Untitled Shakespeare's Portrayal of Shylock is Stereotypical and Anti-Semitic....

The Merchant of Venice

1209 words - 5 pages Comparison and Contrast of Shylock and Claudius Introduction This essay looks into the lives of Shylock and Antonio. These are two of Shakespearean antagonists of all time. They are alike in more ways than one. Shylock in Merchant of Venice is a Jewish moneylender based in Venice. He has been tormented and repressed mainly by the Christian population. One finds it easy to sympathize with him mainly because he has his own reasons to be loathing,...

The Merchant of Venice

521 words - 2 pages The Merchant Of VeniceAct 1In the fist act, Antonio is introduced as the Merchant of Venice. A friend of him, Bassanio, desperately needs money because all of his money is on his ships and he wants to go to Belmont to visit the woman of his dreams, Portia. Therefore he goes to Antonio to ask if he is...

"The Merchant of Venice".

1844 words - 7 pages English Coursework: The Merchant of VeniceThe "merchant of Venice" is a multifarious play with many levels of interpretation. Telling the story of a Jewish merchant living in the predominately Christian capital of Venice, it can be seen as a play about persecution, justice and of social cruelty. The "merchant of Venice" is representatively driven by the same set arguments of racial and religious prejudice that existed in Shakespearean...

The Merchant Of Venice

756 words - 3 pages Appearances and Decisions ''Don't judge a book by its cover'' is a famous phrase everyone has heard. In the play, The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare clearly states that outer appearances aren't important throughout many scenes in the play. The inner qualities such as honesty, charity, and kindness are more important.

The Merchant of Venice

2976 words - 12 pages The Merchant of Venice is shows the dynamics of love and to what extent humans will go to show love, they will use their wealth and even be prepared to give up their life for the people they love. Both Antonio and Portia love Bassanio differently. Portia perceives Antonio’s phileo in competition with her eros, (both forms of love will be defined later) and throughout the play she is seen trying to defeat Antonio’s phileo and she does this by...

The Merchant of Venice

2425 words - 10 pages The Merchant of Venice The Merchant of Venice was written in 1598 by William Shakespeare. The story is set in Elizabethan times, which was the sixteenth century. People back then were quite prejudiced towards any race that was not Christian. They would have hated Jews. When Shylock would come onto the stage, the audience would have just booed him back off. The Christians had their reasons for hating the Jews. The fact that they supposedly...

Racism in The Merchant of Venice

2202 words - 9 pages Racism in The Merchant of VeniceWilliam Shakespeare's satirical comedy, The Merchant of Venice, believed to have been written in 1596 was an examination of hatred and greed. The premise deals with the antagonistic relationship between Shylock, a Jewish...

Dispute Resolution in The Merchant of Venice

1315 words - 5 pages Shakespearean literature has been long commended by scholars for its incorporation of legal discourse into its plot structures that further paves way for interdisciplinary study of law. Practically all of Shakespearean texts are known to have tangential relation and relevance to legal practice but plays like “Merchant of Venice” have scenes that do not only depict a courtroom trial but also shed light on some key aspects and methods of dispute...

Unresolved Issues in The Merchant of Venice

1018 words - 4 pages For much of the play, The Merchant of Venice appears to be vintage Shakespearean farce. A group of buffoons vie to marry the beautiful and wealthy Portia; women dress up as men and fool their betrothed; servants are willing accomplices in playful deceits. Where Merchant of Venice departs from the pattern of a typical Shakespearean farce is with the appearance of Shylock, the Jew. Shylock transforms this play from a simple comedy to a work of...

The Merchant of Venice has been interpreted over time as both a defense and an attack on Jews. (“Shylock”) While it would seem improbable that Shakespeare was forward thinking enough to completely reject the anti-Semitic sentiment of his time, the play is too complex to be classified as a simple attack on Jews. Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice was not written to make a precise statement about anti-Semitism, but instead was written to push his audiences to question their own preconceived notions about Jews in England during the Renaissance.

There is no doubt that Shylock is not a pleasant character. As the play progresses, he goes from simply scheming about getting revenge on the Christians to becoming fanatical about killing Antonio. The portrayal of Shylock as a devious and scheming Jew who is virtually a “devil” would have greatly appealed to the anti-Semitic audiences of Shakespeare’s time. (“Shylock”) However, if this was Shakespeare’s sole intention, he could have easily made the character of Shylock both single-dimensional and an excessive caricature of a Jew. Instead, Shylock is a fascinating and multi-layered character. In Act III, he gives a powerful speech about acceptance that is difficult to ignore: “Hath not a...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 899 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 7129 literature essays, 1997 sample college application essays, 296 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in

One thought on “Merchant Of Venice Anti Semitic Essay Topics

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *