Shylock’s character in the merchant of venice

In order to ensure that we understand Shylock as a threat
to the happiness of Venice’s citizens and lovers,
Shakespeare uses a number of dramatic devices to amplify
Shylock’s villainy. In doing so, however, he creates a
character so compelling that many feel Shylock comes to
dominate the play, thereby making him “too large.”
Certainly, Shylock is a masterful creation. At his cruelest,
he is terrifying, even more so because all of his schemes
exist within the framework of the law. Seen in this light,
Shylock becomes a kind of bogeyman, turning Venetian
society’s own institutions on themselves. On the other
hand, Shylock is also pitiable, even sympathetic, at times.
He has been harshly handled by Venetian society and has
seen his daughter elope with one of the same men who
despise him. His passionate monologue in Act III, scene i
reveals that he feels the same emotions as his opponents,
and we cannot help but see him as a man. In fact,
Shylock’s character is so well-rounded and intricate that
many see him as the only interesting figure in a play that is
not, in theory, supposed to center about him. Shylock’s
scenes are gripping and fascinating, and many critics
believe the play deflates every time he makes an exit. In looking at the relationship between Jessica and Shylock,
we are again forced to walk a fine line between
sympathizing with and despising Shylock. For all intents
and purposes, the play should label Shylock’s mistreatment
by his own daughter as richly deserved. After all, he is
spiteful, petty, and mean, and in his more cartoonish or evil
moments, it is hard to imagine why Jessica should stay. At
other times, however, Jessica’s escape seems like another
cruel circumstance inflicted on Shylock, and her behavior
offstage borders on heartless. Shylock is never more
sympathetic than when he bemoans the fact that Jessica
has taken a ring given to him in his bachelor days by his
wife and has traded it for a monkey, the most…

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