Question: ‘Shylock is a Jew in a preponderantly Christian society merely as Othello is…living in a preponderantly white society. But unlike Othello. Shylock rejects the Christian community every bit steadfastly as it rejects him. ’ ( W. H. Auden. ‘The Dyer’s Hand’ . 1963. Quoted in ‘Shakespeare’s Comedies’ . edited by Lerner. Penguin 1967. ) In visible radiation of the above citation. comparison and contrast Shakespeare’s presentation of bias. sing how audiences of different periods might respond to it.
( 2000 words ) Shylock’s presentation of bias has been received in immeasurably different ways by audiences of different coevalss. and the portraiture of the attitudes of Shylock and Othello towards their intolerant societies are 1s that still arguably offer a valuable position towards bias in our contemporary societies. ‘Shylock is a Jew’ . Four words from the above citation which arguably encapsulate the chief running subject throughout the whole of The Merchant of Venice.
From a Venetian point of view. Shylock is a Jew ; hence he is different ; therefore we will except him. Shakspere shows this through many different illustrations. from the racialist positions expressed by ‘good Antonio’ . to the looks used by the high tribunals of Venice ; the Christian community showing a certain divide and bias towards Shylock and the Judaic minority. This ‘rejection’ of the Jews is notably explored in the positions expressed by Antonio early on in the drama. when the loan of ‘three thousand ducats’ is negotiated.
Bassanio efforts to convert Shylock through sort words and offers of dinner- the ‘Christian’ manner of kindness ; perchance the lone case of kindness offered to Shylock throughout the full drama. However. every bit shortly as Antonio enters. the tone alterations ; Shylock goes from being referred to as ‘sir’ by Bassanio to ‘The devil’ by Antonio. Antonio would ‘spit on thee again’ . and this peculiar illustration high spots that. despite the fact Antonio is trying to have a loan from Shylock. bias is still built-in in his every word and action.
The Christian community ‘rejects’ Shylock. no affair what he may make of benefit to them ; and. as a consequence. is rejected in similar. The rough intervention Shylock receives ( such as curfew and a bombardment of cuss-words ) is reflected in the manner that he ‘rejects the Christian community every bit steadfastly as it rejects him’ ; for illustration. when offered dinner. Shylock launches into an expletive. hate-fuelled address about Christianity. claiming that porc is ‘the habitation which your prophesier the Nazarite conjured the Satan into’ . and steadfastly saying that he ‘will non eat with you. imbibe with you. nor pray with you’ .
Shylock is rejecting the Christian community with every moral fiber in his organic structure. and seems to merely take the bond of Antonio to keep some sort of purchase above him. viz. the term of ‘the forfeit/ Be nominated for an equal pound/ Of your just flesh’ ; a foolishly in agreement term that is taken full advantage of. Shylock is treated harshly. and as a consequence takes full advantage of the fact that lawfully he can kill Antonio ; therefore rejecting the Christian community.
Othello. nevertheless. is the polar antonym of Shylock’s ‘stand-alone’ attitude ; though being the foreigner ‘in a preponderantly white society’ . he attempts to suit in. and be loved by the blue Venetians. Shakespeare presents the bias inherent in Venetian society in a somewhat different manner ; though Shylock and Othello both are used by the ‘majorities’ . and thrown out when non needed. Shakespeare presents a drama that explores the bias through a different angle.
Othello is the war-hardy soldier needed by the whole of Venetian society to contend the Turkish attackers. who angers Venetian society by taking a white adult female ; Shylock is a Jew whose ownerships are needed by Antonio entirely. who angers Venetian society by make bolding to claim what is truly his. In Othello the audience receives an feeling that. though Iago is maneuvering everybody towards his ain purposes. Othello is clearly in the incorrect when slaying his married woman ; therefore he is rejected by the ‘society’ . and this is morally ‘right’ .
In The Merchant of Venice the audience feels that. really. Shylock is morally wronged by the Christians ; and this rejection by society leaves a acrimonious gustatory sensation. An audience in Elizabethan times would hold been left with ( in both dramas ) a feeling of discontentedness in the intervention of the two cardinal characters ; despite the obvious built-in bias in society at this clip towards ‘moors’ and Jews. Shakespeare’s uses of stereotypes in his plants ( e. g. the ‘kind’ . Christian Antonio is an oppressive character who about gets his deserts ) were aimed to change ( or at least do the audience inquiry ) their positions on minorities.
Shakespeare’s portraiture of Shylock can easy be seen as a supplication for tolerance towards the Jewish community in England at the clip. For illustration. Shylock’s celebrated ‘If you prick us. make we non shed blood? ’ address is designed to throw a human position on the affair ; that the ‘Jews’- peoples that have been so discriminated against that any racism against Jews has its ain nametag – are human excessively.
Shylock’s most memorable address is a call for humanity and equality. which has resounded down the ages. As Alexander Granach ( a German histrion who portrayed Shylock in the 1920s ) in his autobiography ‘From the Shtetl to the Phase: The Odyssey of a Wandering Actor’ writes ; Shakespeare ‘gave Shylock human illustriousness and religious strength and a great loneliness–things that turn Antonio’s homosexual. vocalizing. sponging. money-borrowing. girl-stealing. marriage-contriving circle into junior-grade loafers and furtive stealers.
’ This will doubtless hold had a little consequence on the audience. demoing them that the supposed ‘villain’ of the piece is merely following a distorted. merciless version of the ‘Golden Rule’ . an ethic of reciprocality that is cited in Christianity ; ‘do unto others as you would hold them make unto you’ . In this drama. Shylock is so making ‘unto others’ how they do unto him.
Shylock’s actions. alternatively of being a stereotyped cruel. vindictive Jew who merely cares about his ‘diamond gone ( that ) be me two thousand ducats’ . are transformed by Shakespeare into an often-misinterpreted statement about the lip service inherent in both society and faith at this clip. Shakespeare’s charming prevarications in the fact that he managed to alter two persecuted minorities. who prior to being dramatically personified by Shakespeare had been held up in dramas as jeers of animals. to human existences with the emotional capacity to experience love and hatred.
Othello is no longer a ‘black ram’ held up by Iago as crudely ‘topping ( the ) white ewe’ . he has become a symbol of the foreigner used for other’s intents. In Othello’s making of ‘ta’en’ of Desdemona. he turns Venetian society against him. and is merely needed for the intents of get the better ofing the Ottomans.
300 old ages on. and this illustration is still relevant ; Paul Robinson. a black histrion who went on to portray Othello on Broadway in 1943. drew comparings between Othello’s state of affairs and the state of affairs of a colored adult male in America in the 1930s ; ‘while ( Othello ) could be valuable as a combatant he was tolerated. merely as a Black who could salvage New York from a catastrophe would go a great adult male overnight…however. every bit shortly as Othello wanted a white woman…everything was changed. merely as New York would be incensed if their colored adult male married a white woman’ .
In this manner. Shakespeare’s portraiture of minorities is relevant for all societies where cultural persecution takes topographic point. no affair what the clip period. However. Shakespeare’s underlying significance of equality has been twisted. David H. Lawrence famously quoted ‘Never trust the creative person. swear the tale’ ; and so. this ha what happened with Shakespeare’s purposes for Shylock and the inexorable world.
For illustration. the character of Shylock was used in anti-semetic propaganda by Hitler in Nazi Germany to advance the scapegoating of the Jews ; Shylock is held up by a local newspaper in Konigsberg. Germany in 1935 as ‘cowardly and malicious’ when ‘properly understood’ . a line that undermines both the intelligence and self-pride of local people upon reading ( in that they did non read plenty into the drama ) . and the true significance of The Merchant of Venice. Upon stating that the deeper significance is that Shylock is cowardly and malicious. they are misidentifying the shoal. surface significance for a deeper one.
As Harold Bloom commented in 1999. ‘It would hold been better for the Judaic people had Shakespeare ne’er written this play’ ; here. Bloom is evidently noticing on the fact that people merely took away the shallow significance. non the deeper. politically-charged ( for the times ) significance that Shakespeare is trying to convey. In a mode apparently parallel to that of Nazi Germany. Shakespeare’s messages are being sorely misunderstood even presents. Shakspere and his dramas ( in present-day. less inherently racist society ) are being taken off from younger coevalss. such as in British schools whose instruction is going impeded by the P. C nature of today’s ‘Big Society’ .
Texts and plays key to British instruction ( such as ‘Of Mice and Men’ and ‘Othello’ ) are being considered to blatent in their linguistic communication ( eg. ‘whore’ . ‘moor’ ) to be studied at an age of 15/16 ; in an age when arguably the anti-racist messages of Shakespeare need to be implemented. In this manner. whilst old coevalss of audiences may hold held up Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ and ‘Merchant of Venice’ as illustrations of unfairness and lip service. today’s audiences are keeping them up as excessively blatent in their usage of ‘inappropriate language’ .
Shakespeare’s messages of equality are. one time once more. being misunderstood ; particularly if people do non understand the messages that ‘the Great Bard’ is trying to convey. For illustration. in 2008. nine pupils at the Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School ( a Judaic comprehensive school ) in Hackney in East London refused to sit an test on ‘The Tempest’ strictly because they felt that Shakespeare was anti-semetic owing to his severely-misunderstood portraiture of Shylock. Othello has besides frequently been held up and received down the centuries as strictly a negative stereotype ; even every bit late as 2008.
Robert Fisk writes in ‘The Guardian’ that ‘Othello was a Moor. a black Muslim. a materialistic ( in the service of Venice ) – and a married woman killer’ . One can presume that this is how he would hold been viewed in most predominantly-white states up until the autumn of racism and the addition of diverseness ; therefore losing the fact that Iago is both the accelerator and trouble-starter. The idiosyncrasy and attitudes of the characters provide a cardinal penetration into the biass built-in in society. through both the actions and thought-processes provided by Shakespeare.
For illustration. Othello about unconsciously uses racialist footings to depict himself. supplying a derogatory border to his words. This is shown best in the monologue given to Othello. particularly when he doubts the good nature of Desdemona ; he feels that his ‘name. that was every bit fresh As Dian’s countenance. is now begrimed and black. As mine ain face’ . i. e. that his antecedently good nature is now smeared. However. Othello associates his ain face as ‘begrimed and black’ . in that he sees his really self as something dirty- and that white ( i. e. ‘Dian’s visage’ . a marble-white Greek goddess ) as something good. clean. and pure.
Othello appears to hold internalised the racialist political orientations preached by Venetians such as Brabantio. and this particularly comes to mind in the slaying of Desdemona. Seeds planted by Iago act as a accelerator to the job put in the unfastened by Brabantio at the start of the drama ; that Desdemona would ne’er ‘Run from her guardage to the coal-black bosom Of such a thing as thou’ . This. finally. is something that the full drama relies on ; this remark. made in the heat of the minute by Brabantio. finally delivers decease unto his girl.
Othello begins to doubt Desdemona’s love and honor due to the fact that he has internalised such racist sentiments as ‘blacks and Whites should non mix’ . and is driven brainsick by this. As already mentioned. Robert Fisk radius of the ways in which Othello would hold been viewed ; non as person baronial. but as person ‘different’ . and ( though many in the Elizabethan audience may hold been able to sympathize with the whipping of Desdemona ) a ‘wife killer’ ; and so. this is a manner in which some still see him today.
Shakespeare. merely like Othello and Shylock. lived in a preponderantly white and Christian society. and recognised the biass built-in in English society ; so. his dramas reflected society. However. as Chung-hsuan Tung wrote. ‘Shakespeare recognizes the being of racial differences but he is non a racialist. Shakespeare is…an impartial. human-centered playwright prophesying interracial autonomy. equality. and fraternity. ’ Bibliography.
Alexander Granach – ‘From the Shtetl to the Phase: The Odyssey of a Wandering Actor’ Paul Robinson – ‘My Fight for Fame ; How Shakespeare Paved My Way to Stardom’ The Merchant of Venice. Edited by John Russell Brown. ‘the Arden Shakespeare’ . 2007 Othello. edited by E. A. J. Honigman. ‘the Arden Shakespeare’ . 1997 John Gross – ‘Shylock: A fable and its Legacy’ Robert Fisk – ‘Offended by Shakespeare? Let’s prohibition him. ’ Guardian. 8th March 2008. Harold Bloom – ‘It would hold been better for the Judaic people had Shakespeare ne’er written this play’ . 1999. Chung hsuan-Tung – ‘The Jew and the Moor: Shakespeare’s Racial Vision’ . 2008.