Essay Title: 

Merchant of Venice

March 24, 2016 | Author: | Posted in literature and language, shakespeare

br The Merchant of Venice Antisemitism in the Merchant of Venice

The antisemitism in Shakespeare ‘s The Merchant of Venice is well-known and documented by literary critics and historians . Shylock , one pf the play ’92s main characters , is a wealthy Jew whose selfish and avaricious nature is exploited throughout the play to create one of Shakespeare ’92s notorious villains . This accomplishment to a large extent rests on Shakespeare ’92s ability to convert the racial stereotypes and prejudices of his Elizabethan audience to an immediately recognizable dramatic idiom . As an ethnic minority in [banner_entry_middle]

Elizabethan England , Jews found themselves in a typical minority position : that of being a ’93bogeyman ’94 for the projected fears and stereotypes of the racial majority

’93Jews were expelled from England in 1290 and not readmitted until 1656 , although we now know there was a community of 80 to 100 Marranos – ’96 crypto-Jews living as Christians–in London during Elizabeth ‘s reign . Shakespeare and the Jews gives us a feel for the culture they found themselves trying to pass in . Shapiro draws heavily on diaries pamphlets , legal documents , and other nonliterary sources to illustrate his thesis : the “projection of English fantasies onto Jews – or the simulacra of Jews ” as a reviewer of his book in the New Republic put it (Meyers

Because racial stereotyping exerts a profound influence over social (and personal ) perception , it is not necessary that stereotypes based on race have any grounding in one ’92s experience or in the world of fact whatsoever : ’93Certain cultural constructs take on the force of myth and become indestructible they are proof against reality . There are no vampires in America , and yet everyone in the country knows what vampires look like , knows they drink human blood , wear capes , sleep in coffins ’94 and indoctrination into racial stereotyping begins at the earliest ages of perception , ’93Children are introduced to vampire lore as soon as they are exposed to the Count on Sesame Street ’94 (Meyers The Merchant of Venice Page -2-

Similarly , Shakespeare (or any Elizabethan ) would have likely fallen into the trap of regarding Jews as a pastiche of projections and stereotypes , having had little or no occasion to know Jews or Jewish culture . The ’93simulacrum ’94 thus becomes a reality for both Shakespeare and his audience . During the course of The Merchant of Venice , a plenitude of racial stereotypes are revealed , which indicate the depths to which psychological projection and ignorance had possessed the Elizabethan in regard to the identity of Jews

The portrayal of Jews via Shylock as the antithesis of everything good and decent in Elizabethan culture is complete up to and including such trivialities of manners and courtliness “Shylock , naturally enough represents the antithesis of this Renaissance courtesy

and this intimation that such dignities are out of Shylock ’92s reach do double-duty , by degrading the Jewish character and elevating the nobility of Elizabethan manners ’93like the Duke does when he talks of “tender courtesy ” in relation to “rough hearts of… [banner_entry_footer]

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