Merchant of Venice Critical Essay

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Merchant of Venice Critical Essay

Merchant of Venice is of the most popular plays written by Shakespeare. Undoubtedly, every literature teacher includes this play into the syllabus. Below is a short sample Merchant of Venice critical essay written by our writer. This sample essay is a good example of professional writing. Our essay blog has numerous free sample essays on plays by Shakespeare. One of the main disadvantages of the free samples is lack of originality and unrestricted access. If you want to get an original critical essay on Merchant of Venice written from scratch specially for you, you have found the right site to get help - Custom-Paper-Writing.com writers will not let you down! We can handle all types of assignments and we are never late with paper delivery.

Merchant of Venice Critical Essay Sample

One of the most persistent and pernicious factors in confusing the interpretation of The Merchant of Venice is the common assumption that the play is built around a race theme. This assumption has thrust the racial problem into the foreground of the play. It has implied that the very introduction of Shylock inevitably necessitated a choice of sides in a lively and pressing social controversy. And from it has sprung the interminable discussion of Shakespeare's alleged sympathy or antipathy for the Jew.

That Shakespeare intended, or could have intended, a deliberate defense of the Jew has been effectively controverted in E. E. Stoll's exhaustive study of Shylock. Therein he has established beyond reasonable doubt the existence in England of a common tradition of antisemitic prejudice, and has adduced abundant evidence-of its persistence throughout the Renaissance. This prejudice clearly conceived of the Jew as an object of distrust, dislike, and contempt. To assume that Shakespeare departed radically from the common convictions of his time is to deny the known facts about the man. To assume that he ignored the sentiments of his audience to champion a disreputable cause is to impugn his intelligence as a practical playwright, to set at defiance all probability, to commit a critical anachronism, and, finally, to contradict the patent evidence of the play itself.

Unfortunately, in his laudable work of demolition Professor Stoll has gone to the opposite extreme of assuming the prevalence in Shakespeare's time of a rampant and energetic antisemitism. Unless I misinterpret him, he would have one believe that the average Elizabethan nursed an active grudge against the Jew which found congenial expression in the popular sport of Jew-baiting. Accordingly the contemporary dramatist could count upon the insulting of a Jew to prompt a round of spontaneous applause, and the protracted humiliation of a Jew to provide the Elizabethan equivalent of a Roman holiday. In consequence of this assumption Professor Stoll interprets Shylock as a comic figure and finds much of his conduct somewhat amazingly ludicrous. 

The hypothesis of the persecuted Jew has found favor with most of the Jewish writers upon Shakespeare. It has served as a text for miscellaneous lamentation over Elizabethan injustice and the particular damage to the race wrought by Shakespeare's play. Unfortunately no very conclusive evidence has come forth to support the hypothesis. Evidence there is that Jews were persecuted in England prior to their banishment in 1290; that the Middle Ages were hostile to Jews; that enmity toward the Jew persisted in European countries throughout the Renaissance; and that agitation arose in England during the decade preceding the readmission of the Jews in 1653.

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