The Concept of “Justice” Within the Merchant of Venice

Prejudice against the Jewish people has been a serious problem for a very long time. Many countries have banned Jews from entering as they are afraid the Jews will take over their economies. While Jews may be the ones that control a lot of the world’s finances; this does not justify the alienation of the Jewish people. Within Shakespeare’s play entitled the Merchant of Venice, the Jews are scorned by the characters within the play. For example, in response to the Venetian’s racist actions against the Jewish people Sherlock states “If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction. (III.i.55-61). Shylock places the Christians on an even playing field with the Jews with this quote. As we are all humans, Shylock uses this reasoning to justify that revenge is an appropriate response for his people to place upon the Christians. He sinks to the Christians level here, as to say whatever the Christians do to his people, he will do the same to their people. Shylocks vengeful nature has no mercy for Antonio. Antonio owes Shylock a pound a flesh, and Shylock has no intention of letting this slide by. Shylock interprets the law objectively, and does not stray from what is denoted. While Antonio begs for mercy, Shylock simply cannot grant him mercy, as the law he so carefully follows will not allow this.

Moving further into the play, Shylock becomes even more sinister. In response to Tubal’s message that Antonio has failed, Shylock states “I am very glad of it. I’ll plague him, I’ll torture him. I am glad of it.”. (III.i.105). While this may be the result of having Jessica’s betrayal fresh on his mind, Shylock takes the news that Antonio has failed very seriously. In a twisted way, Shylock seems excited to enact his revenge. This is a great illustration of the shallowness of the human mind. It is widely known that an eye for an eye makes the world blind, but people still tend to try to get even. Whether this is to save personal honor, or to create a sense of pride; this childish mindset causes a lot of evil within the world.


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