Merchant of Venice Response

The Merchant of Venice is a rather interesting play, to say the least. Being someone from the 21st century, and reading this play can be actually shocking because of the anti-Semitism throughout the play. Obviously, one of the first reactions while reading is whether or not this is actually promoting an anti-Semitic outlook and intentionally making fun of the Jewish community, or if this was a way for Shakespeare to somehow critique his fellow Christians in their hypocrisy towards the Jewish community. Also, Shylock himself repeatedly made offensive remarks that fed into the stereotype of Jews. At one point in the play, he had remarked that he dreamt of money bags. Now the fact that he ends up having dialogue in the play that fits the stereotypes leads one to wonder whether or not this was a way for Shakespeare to make a critique of Christians, but by disguising it with offensive humor that the audience would have enjoyed. Another argument that one could make that perhaps Shakespeare was being a supporter of the Jewish community, or that the Christian community should at least cease in being hypocrites was with one of Shylock’s most moving dialogues:
SHYLOCK. “…Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that…” (3.1.54-63)
Now, this piece of dialogue I found to be a powerful piece of dialogue that really showed how Jews and Christians are no different because they are both simply human beings, and that when you strip away the religion they are one in the same. With this particular dialogue, it did seem as though Shakespeare was trying to get a message across. That maybe he really wanted people to view each other as what they are which is human beings. Therefore, maybe the communities should both try to be a little kinder to one another and understand what it must be like to be in each other’s shoes.

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