In the play the Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, the character Shylocks portrayal changes a great deal. This mans image goes from that of a cruel and evil murder to a pitiful and helpless beggar of mercy. These circumstances raise the question of what kind of man Shylock truly is, and whether or not the reader should feel pity for him. There is no doubt that Shylock is a man with faults, but there is evidence to suggest that his intentions though cruel and heartless are the result of years of unjust provocation on the part of Antonio. Shylock reveals a very dark side of himself once he has Antonio at his mercy. Out of context, Shylocks actions would be perceived by most people to be savagely unmerciful. Shylock refuses twice the bond which is owed to him by Antonio, and upon seeing his determination to have Antonios life, the Duke asks him How shalt thou hope for mercy, rendering none? (IV,I, 88) Shylocks response to this is What judgment shall I fear, doing no wrong?. (IV, I, 89) In this he is clearly saying that he believes his actions to be completely justified. In order to make a reasonable argument on Shylocks behalf, a reader must see this exchange as more than the simple collection of a debt. There is a bitter past and a history of problems between Shylock and Antonio. Some of these problems become clear to the reader when Shylock states to the reader: How like a fawning publican he looks! 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.If I catch him once upon the hip, I will feed the fat that ancient grudge I bear him. He hates our sacred nation, and he rails, Even there where merchants most do congregate, on me, my bargains, and my well won-thrift. Which he calls interest. Cursed be my tribeIf I forgive him! (I,III,38-49) In other words he is accusing Antonio…
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