Many people are villainous in the way they act, and their villainous
acts may be rooted in the desire to destroy others, or in the hopes of elevating
themselves. Many people may only act “villainous” in reaction to the way they
have been treated in the past. Shylock the Jew is the villain or antagonist in
the play The Merchant of Venice. Shylock mistreats Antonio the Christian,
his daughter, Jessica and Launcelot.
The first person Shylock mistreats, is Launcelot. He mistreats this servant by
complaining behind Launcelot’s back of his laziness. Shylock says,
“The patch is kind enough, but a huge feeder,
Snail-slow in profit, and he sleeps by day
More than the wildcat. Drones hive not with me..
..His borrowed purse.” 1
Shylock also acts villainous towards Launcelot by acting belligerent towards
“Who bids thee call? I do not bid thee call.” 2
Shylock mistreats this man because of his poverty, and because Launcelot is
socially beneath him. You also start to wonder about how fair Shylock is, when
Launcelot is deciding whether or not to leave him.
Shylock also mistreats his own daughter, Jessica. He mistreats her by
keeping her as a captive in her own house, not letting her out, and not letting
her hear the Christian music around her. He orders her to:
“Lock up my doors; and when you hear the drum…
..But stop my house’s ears-I mean casements.
Let not the sound of shallow fopp’ry enter
My sober house.” 3
Jessica considers her home to be hell, and she calls Launcelot, a “merry little
devil”. She even states that her father is Satan. Shylock also mistreats his own
daughter, by not loving her enough, even to the point where he complains about
all of the money he’s spending in a search to find her.
“Why, there, there, there, there! A diamond gone
cost me two thousand ducats in Frankford! The curse..
..ill luck stirring but what lights o’ my shoulders; no
sighs but o’ my breathing; no tears but o’ my shedding.”4
Salerio makes the audience wonder about Shylock, when he raves about when
Shylock was calling out, “Oh my ducats, my daughter, my ducats, my daughter..”
This makes you wonder which he misses the most. This proves that he mistreats,
even his own daughter. He values his money more than his own blood.
Shylock mistreats Antonio. He does so by talking behind Antonio’s back,
and he reveals his hatred of Antonio, when he says,
“How like a fawning publican he looks!
I hate him for he is a Christian;
But more for that…Cursed be my tribe
If I forgive him!” 5
Shylock feels justified in exacting revenge for all the ills Antonio causes him.
He then draws up an unbelievable bond. He blames Antonio for all of his
problems, even his race’s problems are blamed on people like Antonio, and he
feels Christians have persecuted his race when he says,
“To bait fish withal. If it will feed nothing else, it
will feed my revenge…The villainy you teach me I will
execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the
He shows that he will copy the example of Christians. Shylock becomes the true
villain when he atkes Antonio to court. These actions prove that Antonio is
mistreated by Shylock, the villain.
Shylock is the villain of The Merchant of Venice. He mistreats too
many people, and then asks for mercy in a court. Shylock is mad for revenge
towards all Christians, especially Antonio. He is such a villain that even his
daughter and servant are eager to escape him. Villains are oftenly antagonists
in story plots and normally are a threat to the main character. Villains
normally have motives behind their evil doings.
1. Shakespeare, William. Merchant of Venice. (Washington Square Press,
New York, 1957) p. 30