Essay about The Merchant of Venice Should be Studied in High Schools

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Since middle school, I have believed that all of Shakespeare’s works, similar to A Mid Summer Night’s Dream, were plays that one would read to hear a happy, entertaining story; but, it was not until this year, after reading The Merchant of Venice, that I recognized the darker, more sinister, side of Shakespeare’s plays. The Merchant of Venice supports the Jewish, anti-Semitic stereotype as the wicked character of Shylock is developed. Many individuals fear that it is improper to teach and discuss The Merchant of Venice in high school classrooms because of the negative way it presents Jews; however, I believe that it is important to read this controversial play in high schools because it enables students to learn anti-Semitic history …show more content…
Many times in the play, such as when Lancelot asks Bassanio for work and states, “To be brief, the very truth is that the Jew having done me wrong…”, Shylock is referred to as a Jew and he and other characters have lines that reflect the Jewish stereotype that originated in the late 13th century when Jews were expelled from England and the first crusade was launched (Lancelot II.ii.121). The Merchant of Venice can be a great experience for high school students if they recognize that “the Jew clearly did live on the edge of society and that in the role of the mysterious outsider, he was a perfect and ready-made scapegoat for anyone who wished to exploit him as such” (Clark 49). The following quote reflects the wickedness in Shylock: “If you repay me not on such a day, / In such a place, such sum or sums are/ Expressed in the condition, let the forfeit/ Be nominated for an equal pound/ or your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken/ In what part of your body pleaseth me” (Shylock in Merchant I.iii.148-153). Similar to Dickens’ with his character, Fagin, Shakespeare could have made Shylock a Christian but deliberately chose not to so he could “make use of the stereotypic Jewish attributes that can be readily traced back to medieval literature” and create amusement throughout the audience when Shylock is humiliated toward the conclusion of the

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