Though the audience is supposed to view Shylock as the villain through out the play, i believe that an argument could be made that he is more of a victim then any of the other characters. It is his heritage that makes him an outcast from the beginning of the play, this is what makes his beliefs different and his clothing seem odd. I feel that by forcing him to convert to Christianity at the end of the play they are not only defeating him, but completely removing all characteristics that make him an individual.
Shylock’s motivation throughout the play is to get revenge on Antonio who mocks him publicly for his business and his heritage. I for one believe that this is enough reasoning to seek revenge, especially since Antonio shows no regret for his acts and goes so far as to say that he would do it again. Shylock is pushed to his breaking point when his daughter, his own flesh and blood, runs away from him and takes everything he owns that is worth something. Then to add insult to injury the whole town mocks his misfortune, and many even helped his daughter escape. This on top of all the abuse Shylock has suffered is enough to drive any man down a dark path.
After everything that Shylock has been through he finally gets the chance to get revenge upon a man that stands for everything that has gone wrong in his life, but he lets his anger screw him over in the end. Shylock refuses to show sympathy to Antonio, who has done nothing to earn this other then being a popular man within the town and the court. He says, “I cannot find it. ‘Tis not in the bond” (line257 act. 4 scene 1). His poor choice of words gives Portia the ability to find the loophole where blood is not mentioned in the bond either, so if he draws any amount of Christian blood then his lands and goods are forfeit to the state. Since he refused the money in open court to seek his revenge instead, this means that he can no longer take the money that was owed to him. On top of this he must render half of his money to Antonio and the other half he can keep as long as he leaves everything to his traitor daughter Jessica and her husband Lorenzo. Shylock must also convert to Christianity, so he basically loses everything the case, half his money, and his heritage.
After the court has taken everything from Shylock they go ever farther by rubbing his defeat in his face by saying, “Art thou content, Jew? (act. 4 scene 1 line 388). What can a man say who has lost everything that has made him an individual and forced to accept a daughter who turned her back on him and took everything she could with her. Shylock’s line, “I am content,” (act.4 scene.1 line 389) is the only reasonable response. He can no longer fight back against the Christan majority which abused and mocked him for his ways, so he must accept defeat.
In the end the think the Christians go too far in humbling Shylock. They take away his manhood and everything that makes him an individual. I understand that they could not let him enact his revenge which would have killed Antonio, but at least let him keep his heritage.