Merchant of Venice

To what extent is shylock defined by his jewishness? To what extent is he defined by his profession?


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There is a precarious duality that Shakespeare balances through the character of Shylock. He is a Jew and a moneylender. The two are linked together and have negative associations to them. The Elizabethan audience uses Shylock's religion and occupation as a point of reference as an antagonist or villain. Jews were heretics and moneylending was their trade. It is however the subtleties that make Shylock a sympathetic villain as well. Does he really deserve the betrayal of his daughter, forfeit of his fortune and forced conversion to Christianity? Must he join the people that mock him? I think Shylock is defined by both his profession and his religion as well as many other factors.