In Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice the antagonist of the
play is Shylock. Shylock is a wealthy Jewish moneylender.
Shylock is probably the most memorable character in the play
because of Shakespeare's excellent characterization of him.
Shylock is the antagonist in the play because he stands in
the way of love, but this does not necessarily make him the
villain of the play. Shylock can be seen as both the
villain of the play and as a man who is very human.
The villain that we see in Shylock is the greedy
moneylender. Shylock charges high interest rates and when
he is not repaid he insists on revenge. In the play Shylock
loans Antonio money, and out of jest he suggests that should
the loan not be repaid in time Shylock may cut off one pound
of flesh from Antonio's body. Soon after Shylock's daughter
runs away from home with Lorenzo, a Christian, and takes her
father's ducats with her. When Antonio's ships do not come
in and he is not able to repay the loan Shylock is no longer
interested in getting his money back. Shylock want revenge
for the loss of his daughter through the fulfillment of the
bond. In court Shylock is defeated because of his
Shakespeare also shows the human qualities of Shylock
throughout the play. Shakespeare brings out these human
qualities by causing us to feel sympathy for him. After the
loss of his daughter Shylock ran through the streets crying
"My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter!" as children
followed him, mocking him. This causes us to feel sympathy
for Shylock, even though we may feel him to be a villain.
Besides the loss of his daughter and his ducats, after the
trial Shylock also looses his property and his religion.
The loss of his property was certainly a blow to Shylock but
it can hardly compare to his loss of his religion. His
forced conversion to Christianity brings out more sympathy
Shakespeare's manipulation of our feelings for Shylock
show Shakespeare's gift as a writer. He gave Shylock the
ability to make us hate him at times, and sympathize with
him at others. This makes Shylock one of the most vivid
characters of the play.