He is an entire tribe by himself and in being so, institutionalized to represent the ethos of a community that has lived through years of turmoil and abandonment. In the present times, Germany’s treatment of the Jews in the World War and the Holocaust are known to one and all. However, the seeds of this hatred and marginalization were sown in Europe way back in the thirteenth century, during the reign of King Edward 1. Since Jews were shunned, exiled and executed for reasons unpalatable to Catholic beliefs; a spurious image was cast over the entire community that was believed to worship the Devil. Ironically, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, even though the Protestants were equally disdained by the Catholic Church, it was the Jews who bore the wrath of both the segments of the Church. The hatred was thus, much reciprocated by the Jewish community in ways that were best described by the playwrights of the times-William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe.
The representations of the Jewish thought process in The Merchant of Venice and The Jew of Malta were very close to reality, with the characters etched out as greedy, cunning, and vengeful. At first glance, in The Merchant of Venice, Shylock comes across as the evil money-lender who grabs the first opportunity to play wicked. His business bond of ‘one pound of flesh’ with Antonio, not only reflects the deep-seated desire to settle certain scores in business but also avenge the atrocities wreaked by the Christians upon the Jews in England, over the centuries.
It is by no means an exaggeration; rather, a cliché; to call Shylock a villain in The Merchant of Venice. His words, thoughts and demeanor, all lean towards an emotionally agonized and a mentally antagonized individuality. His statement “For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.” (-Act 1, scene 3) clearly towers above everything else he says and does and thus, casts its shadow on his