Merchant of Venice Essay

Many people are villainous in the way they act, and their
villainous acts may be rooted in the desire to destroy others, or
in the hopes of elevating themselves. Many people may only act
"villainous" in reaction to the way they have been treated in the
past. Shylock the Jew is the villain or antagonist in the play
The Merchant of Venice. Shylock mistreats Antonio the Christian,
his daughter, Jessica and Launcelot.

The first person Shylock mistreats, is Launcelot. He mistreats
this servant by complaining behind Launcelot's back of his
laziness. Shylock says,

"The patch is kind enough, but a huge feeder,
Snail-slow in profit, and he sleeps by day
More than the wildcat. Drones hive not with me..
..His borrowed purse." 1

Shylock also acts villainous towards Launcelot by acting
belligerent towards him.

"Who bids thee call? I do not bid thee call." 2

Shylock mistreats this man because of his poverty, and because
Launcelot is socially beneath him. You also start to wonder about
how fair Shylock is, when Launcelot is deciding whether or not to
leave him.

Shylock also mistreats his own daughter, Jessica. He
mistreats her by keeping her as a captive in her own house, not
letting her out, and not letting her hear the Christian music
around her. He orders her to:

"Lock up my doors; and when you hear the drum...
..But stop my house's ears-I mean casements.
Let not the sound of shallow fopp'ry enter
My sober house." 3

Jessica considers her home to be hell, and she calls Launcelot, a
"merry little devil". She even states that her father is Satan.
Shylock also mistreats his own daughter, by not loving her
enough, even to the point where he complains about all of the
money he's spending in a search to find her.

"Why, there, there, there, there! A diamond gone
cost me two thousand ducats in Frankford! The
..ill luck stirring but what lights o' my shoulders;
no sighs but o' my breathing; no tears but o' my

Salerio makes the audience wonder about Shylock, when he raves
about when Shylock was calling out, "Oh my ducats, my daughter,
my ducats, my daughter.." This makes you wonder which he misses
the most. This proves that he mistreats, even his own daughter.
He values his money more than his own blood.

Shylock mistreats Antonio. He does so by talking behind
Antonio's back, and he reveals his hatred of Antonio, when he

"How like a fawning publican he looks!
I hate him for he is a Christian;
But more for that...Cursed be my tribe
If I forgive him!" 5

Shylock feels justified in exacting revenge for all the ills
Antonio causes him. He then draws up an unbelievable bond. He
blames Antonio for all of his problems, even his race's problems
are blamed on people like Antonio, and he feels Christians have
persecuted his race when he says,

"To bait fish withal. If it will feed nothing else,
it will feed my revenge...The villainy you teach me
will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better
the instruction." 6

He shows that he will copy the example of Christians. Shylock
becomes the true villain when he atkes Antonio to court. These
actions prove that Antonio is mistreated by Shylock, the villain.

Shylock is the villain of The Merchant of Venice. He
mistreats too many people, and then asks for mercy in a court.
Shylock is mad for revenge towards all Christians, especially
Antonio. He is such a villain that even his daughter and servant
are eager to escape him. Villains are oftenly antagonists
in story plots and normally are a threat to the main character.
Villains normally have motives behind their evil doings.


1. Shakespeare, William. Merchant of Venice. (Washington Square
Press, New York, 1957) p. 30

2. Ibid p. 29

3. Ibid p. 30

4. Ibid p. 46

5. Ibid p. 13

6. Ibid p. 44