Wolf in sheep’s clothing

Shylock, the Jew, is the man that is introduced as the character who will be playing the role of the villain. All he is concerned about is money, what Antonio is worth (apparently 3,000 ducats is worth that much ~ though I am not quite sure how much that would amount to in currency that I am familiar with), what his own money is worth to him, what Bassanio is worth and so on. He is depicted as this cruel character that has no heart and could not possibly understand that Bassanio is just trying to obtain the love of his life and his best friend is attempting to help him in such dire straits. The wolf is revealed in such a way, but our hearts are opened for just a moment when Shylock is concerned about taking the offer. Again, we are aware that Shylock is of the Jewish faith and there doesn’t seem to be a great depiction of such people. Antonio even admits that he has spit on him, he has called him a dog/cut-throat/misbeliever and he goes so far to say that he would do this again when given the chance. Shylock at this point has done nothing but attempt to help this man out. As a reader I began to question the depiction of this villain, mostly can we consider Shylock to be one? There are readers who believe that this man has been given the role of the villain because of what he worships, not perhaps who he is as a person. This is where I myself am torn.

Offers of kindness are given out to Shylock. Bassanio offers “If it please you to dine with us” (27, 1.3), Shylock outright refuses to partake in any courteous adventures with these two men. Now is he being the cruel, evil self or someone who has been tortured for his entire life because he must eat certain foods and there are those who cannot seem to understand his faith. Not moments later there is an aside of Shylock who explains his hatred for Antonio because he is a Christian who gives money away without interest. Is the main source of hatred his religion or perhaps is it the business plan Antonio has is, to say with all cliché intended, sinking. This constant unsure nature of the character Shylock is unearthed in, what seemed to me is, the most unexpected twist in a business plan.

If Antonio goes back on his word with this loan, the price is a slab of his own skin. Now we are starting to see the true evil nature of this one man. A slab of the skin is the price to pay if Antonio does not pay back the debt to Shylock, not taking the threat seriously Antonio is sure that his boats will return soon enough and he will pay. He goes so far to think that “the Hebrew will turn Christian; he grows kind” (174, 1.3), and Shylock is doing this out of the good of his heart. I fear the worse for Antonio due to the fact that this poor Jewish man who we grow some compassion for is about to write out a blood bond for him. Stories of abuse and torture cannot derail the reader from seeing the true evil nature that is lurking under the surface. I can only assume that this deal is foreshadowing something terrible for Antonio and perhaps Bassanio as well.


4 thoughts on “Wolf in sheep’s clothing

  1. Malissa

    I agree with you that Shylock could be playing the role of the villain. But also consider Antonio, he could be a villain as well because of the mean things he did to Shylock. Or Bassanio could be a villain for being deceitful to Portia about the reason why he is marrying her. I also think since everyone is that "community" is Christian, no one knows what Shylock has to go through. So he has been tortured and taking a pound of Antonio's flesh could be payback for all the times he's been tortured and can be the innocent one.

  2. Nicole Wissler

    I believe that although Shylock is seen as the villain in the play, Antonio can also been seen as a villain. At the end of the scene Shylock talks about how Antonio has emotionally abused him by calling him names, and has physically assaulted him by spitting at him. Antonio could easily be considered a villain. While reading the ending scenes in act one, you feel bad for the abuse that Shylock has been through and almost want Antonio to fail in his mission to repay him, or at least I do.

  3. Steph Cryan

    I agree with your questioning of Shylock, and how though he is supposed to be the villain, there are moments where you question whether he is truly a villain, as we had in class and as other comments state. But I also agree that he certainly does have the ideals of a villain. When he does say that he wants a pound of flesh in return, it does make him lean more towards villain. I have to agree with the questioning, it is hard to get a read on him. But he does certainly have villianous aspects that are hard to ignore.

  4. Kristin Barker

    I definitely agree with you on the portrayal of Shylock as the villain. I do also feel that he has been pushed to become the villain because of things that Antonio does like spitting on him and calling him a dog. Also admitting to the things he does to Shylock and saying that he would do them again is a factor contributing to Shylocks villain characteristics.


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