Q 1. Sketch the character of Shylock. Lord Lyttelton finds Shakespeare a dramatic genius par excellence. “He (Shakespeare) painted all chara cters, from kings down to peasants with equal truth and equal force”. “The Merchant Of Venice” shows that he is an astonishing artist and his deep insight into the human heart is par excellence. “The Merchant Of Venice” is famous, not only for the beauty of the language but also for the beauty of characterization. Shylock, the Jew is one of the inconceivable masterpieces of Shakespeare’s characterization.
The critics hold two different views regarding the character of Shylock: (a) that Shylock is a master of wickedness – an absolute villain. (b) that he is a person “more sinned against than sinning”, i. e. a great and noble character and almost a martyr. The truth, however, lies somewhere between these two extremes. Shylock, as depicted in the play is a man with sharp intellect. Nobody in the play can match Shylock in intellect. Even Portia could not have outwitted him, had she not consulted Dr. Bellario.
We get an example of Shylock’s intellect right from the time Bassanio approaches him for 3000 ducats, Shylock becomes sure of Bassanio’s necessity through repeated questions: “Three thousand ducats – well. For three months – well. ” He conceives a foolproof trap and ensnares his sole enemy easily. Even during the trial he shows his understanding of law. His arguments are convincing. He is defeated only when he becomes unfuarded due to his fits of joy and confidence of victory. Shylock has always been viewed as a devil or villain. But he is a man with some moral sense. He never tells a lie. He doesn’t abuse Antonio or anybody.
He does not rob or swindle anybody’s money. He is not addicted to wine, gambling, women or anyother vice. His only immorality as viewed by the Christian is lending money on high interest. But this was his profession and an act of charity for the Christian state if seen in pure economic terms. Shylock is true Jew. He wears Jewish clothes. He is a devout follower of his own religion. His language and culture are Jewish. He always swears by Jacob’s Staff by the holy Sabbath, etc. He defends usury by quoting the example of Jacob and his mother: “… mark what Jacob did When Laban and himself were compromised”
Shylock has a strong lust for money. His enmity against Antonio is based on his commercial rivalry. Antonio’s act of gratis has been ruining Shylock’s business of money lending. He wants Antonio to be removed from this world for an unchallenged business interest. Shylock is revengeful but there is nothing unnatural about it. A person, who has been abused constantly for his bein a Jew has to react in this manner only. He is also accused of hypocrisy and monstrously inhuman and extremely suspicious. If we probe Shylock’s treated as a dog throughout his life. On the whole, the presence of Shylock can be felt throughout the play.
His personality is so overpowering that we are tempted to treat him as hero of the play. Word Meaning (As Per Oxford) Vice: immoral conduct Gratis: without charge Swindle: cheat of money Astonishing: surprising, amazing. Usury: lending money on Interest. Devout: earnestly religious or sincere. Ensnare: a device used to catch small birds or animals. Outwit: to gain an advantage over sb by doing sth clever Martyr: a person who is killed because of what he/she believes. Inconceivable: impossible or very difficult to believe or imagine Intellect: a) faculty of reasoning , knowing and thinking b) understanding Par: (In golf) the standard no. f times a player shoud hit the ball in order to complete a particular hole or series of holes. IDM below par: (informal) not as good or as well as usual. On a par with sb/sth: of an equal level, standard, etc. to sb/sth else. Q2. Sketch the character of Antonio. Lord Lyttelton finds Shakespeare a dramatic genius par excellence. “He (Shakespeare) painted all characters from kings down to peasants with equal truth and equal force”. “The Merchant of Venice” shows that he ia an astonishing artist and his deep insight into the human heart is par excellence.
Antonio is the protagonist of the play. He is a Christian by religion and a reputed merchant of Venice. He is introduced to us in a very beginning of the play. He is sad without any reason: “In sooth, I know not why I am so sad: It wearies me…. “ Antonio is philosophic, moody, gloomy, indifferent, passive and sad. He is a non-assertive sort of character havin no personality, no backbone, and no independence of any kind in thought, feeling and action. Antonio, the noblest character of the play is accused of intolerance and communal bias.
We find him passive everywhere except when he vents his views against the trade of usury and personal hatred for Shylock. Antonio hates Shyock. Antonio hates Shylock not because he is a Jew but because Shylock lives on usury. We find him abusing Shylock even when he was seeking a loan from him for his friend Bassanio. He says: “The devil can cite scripture for his purpose. An evil soul producing holy withness, Is like a villain with a smiling cheek;” Antonio is a passive character. This passivity is evident throughout the play. Instead of seeking loan himself, he allows Bassanio to use his name.
Again he does nothing to remove the life threatening clause imposed by Shylock for lending the money. We also find him surrendering meekly in the Trial Scene. Again, he finds himself helpless when he becomes the cause of quarrel between Portia and Bassanio. Antonio, however, has got some virtues too. He is frank in his hatred for Shylock and about his trade of usury. He abuses Shylock even on his face: “ I am as like to call thee (a dog) so again, To spit on thee again, to spurn thee too” Antonio is sincere and honest friend. He accepts even the life threatening clause imposed by Shylock, to help his friend.
Even when he knows that he will loose his case against shylock, he does not want to disturb the honeymoon of his friend. When he finds Portia and Nerissa quarrelling with Bassanio and Gratiano, he wants them reunited sincerely. Antonio is wrongly accused of being melancholic and passive. Had Antonio been active and of cheerful disposition, the play would have collapsed. Apart from these, hatred against the Jew was the order of the day. Yes, he had an exaggerated sense of self-confidence regarding his trade skills and sense of security against the bond. But all the heroes of shakespear have this misplaced sense of self confidence.
On the whole, we find Antonio to be a memorable character who had been designed deliberately into this particular format by the dramatist. Word Meaning Virtue: behaviour which shows high moral standards Meek: quiet and doing what other people say without asking questions. Spurn: to refuse sth that sb has offered to you. Protagonist: chief person in a drama, story, play, film etc. Exaggerate: make seem larger or greater etc. than it really is. Melancholy: a feeling of sadness which lasts for a long time. Exaggerate: to make sth seem larger, better, worse etc. than it really is. Deliberately: on purpose.