The Merchant Of Venice: Exploration Of Human Experience

  • Words 1009
  • Pages 2
Download PDF


The concept of prejudice is strongly tied to the mob mentality; the idea that people can get influenced by their peers in a very emotional way, which may be the exact opposite way that they would act if they were thinking rationally. When this type of thinking becomes the norm, facts and logic are largely useless in breaking down prejudice. The text, The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare shows a clear example of prejudice against a religious minority. The text invites us to step into the shoes of ‘Shylock’ and view this prejudice from his point of view. Prejudice can create situations in which justice can be completely overridden by the personal view of those in power, this idea is especially evident in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This piece of writing allows us an insight into the corrupt world of 1930’s era America and the racial prejudices that it harboured.

The Desire for Revenge Can Transcend Human Morals

Shylock’s struggle for his own twisted version of justice in The Merchant of Venice is an excellent example of this. He is given the chance to grant Antonio mercy in addition to double the monetary worth of the bond, however he is stuck in his ways and is insistent on having his revenge. ‘if every ducat in six thousand ducats were in six parts, and every part a ducat, I would have my bond’.(IV-i) Shylock’s insistence that he wants his bond, forces the reader to realise how important revenge is to the him. Throughout the text Shylock is constantly scorned by the other characters, who look down on him because of his religious identity. The text explores Shylock’s life experiences and how he has been moulded into what society wants him to be. His ‘christian intercessors’ treat him like a dog, and because of this he has, metaphorically, become one, ‘but since I’m a dog, beware my fangs.’ (III-iii), this shows Shylock’s mental descent, from human into wild beast. Shylock is also always shown to speak in prose, contrasting the christian characters who all speak in iambic pentameter, this subtlety lets the reader know that he is seen as less civilised than the christian characters and therefore of a lower class in society. Shylock is portrayed as a stereotypical Jewish man of the time, wealthy, mean spirited and greedy, however, throughout the text gain an insight into why he harbours his prejudice against christianity. Shylock has been mistreated to such a point that all he wishes for is a modicum of control in his life ‘and spit upon my Jewish gaberdine’ (I-iii) the only way that he can see to gain this control, is to take revenge on his ‘Christian intercessors’.

Click to get a unique essay

Our writers can write you a new plagiarism-free essay on any topic

Prejudice Can Be Used to Show Something in a Much More Favourable Way Than What It Really Is

The Jewish stereotype is heavily used to highlight how evil Shylock is, this would have been great for an Elizabethan audience, however with modern context it begins to look a little more sinister. In the text Shylock and Antonio represent the devil and Jesus respectively, ‘the devil can cite scripture for his purpose'(I-iii), this alludes to Shylock as the devil. Antonio is portrayed as a kind, loving, generous christ like figure who is willing to suffer so others need not ‘The duke cannot deny the course of law… These griefs and losses have so bated me that I shall hardly spare a pound of flesh… Pray Bassanio come to see me pay his debt, then I care not’ (III-iv), this characterisation of generosity highlights the Christian ideals of the time and moves the audience to hate Shylock with even more passion. This portrayal of Shylock and Antonio let the audience easily identify how they should feel about these characters. This simple characterisation would have been extremely easy to use in elizabethan times, but with the added context of the modern world, it is not difficult to empathise with the character of Shylock. Because Shylock is so easy to identify with, (with modern context), his experiences within the text force the reader to realise the small ways that prejudice might affect someone, and thus reconsider their understanding of prejudice.

It Is Impossible to Win Against Collective Prejudice

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee forces the reader to realise this fact. The text follows the court case of Tom Robinson, an African American accused of raping a white woman in 1930’s era America.. The text brings us into a world where justice for an African American is virtually impossible; the prejudice of the masses protects the accuser and punishes the innocent. “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”(chap. 3) This quote from Atticus finch highlights the impossibility of empathising with someone that you view as less than human. The title of this text, To Kill a Mockingbird, symbolises the injustice of the story. ‘Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. …Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy.'(chap. 10), The mockingbird symbolises Tom Robinson, a kind, innocent man, who is wrongfully convicted and eventually killed. This total lapse of justice makes Robinson’s suffering much more impactful.

Prejudice Is Like a Disease That Blinds People to the Obvious Truth

Prejudice can spread from person to person like a disease until a whole nation is corrupted. This corruption is based on the idea of supremacy; the notion that one individual or group of individuals is better than another. This prejudice can blind people to a rational truth and lead to people not being able to empathise with their fellow human beings. Tom Robinson is a victim of this mentality. He is denied justice in the face of almost indisputable evidence, purely based on his skin tone. The text To Kill a Mockingbird demonstrates this mob mentality perfectly. “People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.”(chap. 17).


We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you board with our cookie policy.