Merchant of Venice

Christianity and Judaism in The Merchant of Venice: Imperfect Faith

Though William Shakespeare accurately portrays both Christianity and Judaism in his play The Merchant of Venice, the characters in the play do not represent their religions well. A reader unfamiliar with these religions could easily misinterpret flaws in a character's nature as the teachings of his religion. After a preliminary glance at the play, one would assume that Shakespeare wrote unjustly of the two religions depicted therein. However, Shakespeare had to write the play to please his audience, so he added a twist. By making characters not wholly perfect in their faith, in compliance with reality, Shakespeare was able to add the insults and bigotry and anti-Semitic feelings that would please the crowd, were true to society, and yet did not change the teachings of the religions themselves.

Shakespeare does not change the principles of the two religions in this play. Even the characters in his play who do not always follow the teachings of their religions speak of these beliefs. In the courtroom scene, the Duke says to Shylock, "We all expect a gentle answer, Jew." (IV, i, 35). He means he expects Shylock to show the mercy of a gentile, more specifically a Christian, who would show mercy to Antonio and waive the...

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