In The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, revenge is in some ways justified but in other cases is not. The difference between right and wrong when it comes to revenge is similar to the difference between Christians and Jews. This difference is what makes Shylock’s desire for revenge justified.
The act of revenge due to abuse is justified when it comes to Shylocks life but not the Christians’ lives. Shylock wanted revenge for how Antonio treated him. “You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, / And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine, / And all for use of that which is mine own” (Act 1, Scene 3, ll. 106-108). Words are harmful but they can be ignored, but when Antonio continuously bad-mouthed Shylock to the point where Shylock’s religion was being treated like trash is what resulted in Shylock revolting. What pushed Shylock over the edge was him losing his daughter and his money to a Christian. His actions towards revenge at first seemed unjust but in the end, when Shylock’s religion was thrown away we felt empathy for him… Now the Jews were in the right while the Christians were in the wrong, but Shylock being by himself against many Christians the chances of him succeeding in his revenge was almost impossible.
Revenge cannot be justified as right when there is a chance that someone will suffer. Shylocks revenge was fueled by rage and hatred towards Antonio. He decided that making a loan and acting kindly towards Antonio will aid him later on with his true desire…
“O father Abram, what these Christians are, / Whose own hard dealings teaches them suspect / The thoughts of others! Pray you tell me this: / If he should break his day what should I gain / By the exaction of the forfeiture? / A pound of man’s flesh, taken from a man, / Is not so estimable, profitable neither, / As flesh of muttons, beefs, or goats. I say / To buy his favour, I extend this friendship. / If he will take it, so; if not adieu, / And for my love, I pray you wrong me not” (Act 1, Scene 3, ll. 156-166).
He wanted to kill Antonio by using a loan they both signed. His desire to kill Antonio because of hatred was unjust because although Antonio might have harmed Shylock mentally he did not physically harm Shylock. Antonio deserved to apologize at least to Shylock but this was never going to be enough because with his daughter gone, Shylock had barely any money and no one on his side, all he had was himself and his religion.
The difference between what is right and what is wrong is like the difference between Christians and Jews, they can never accept each other. “Certainly the Jew is the very devil incarnation, / and, in my conscience, my conscience is but a kind of / hard conscience to offer to counsel me to stay with the / Jew” (Act 2, Scene 1, ll. 24-27). Neither religion is right or wrong in a sense. They act based on how they have been raised. If calling the other a devil lives up to the normal standard of life then they do not deserve to be called people. While Christians prominently overrule Jews both want mercy for different reasons… Jews meaning Shylock alone wants mercy for his religion, he wants to be respected for who he is, he is tired of being shunned by the Christians. The Christians want Shylock to show mercy to Antonio, they want mercy but we can see that when they made Shylock beg for his life they did not show him any mercy whatsoever. It seems as if their actions are lies for the truth, wanting mercy vs actually showing mercy, the Christians truly are terrible people towards Jews. Christians and Jews within this story seem as if they will never respect one another, if Antonio was to have never provoked Shylock maybe Shylock would have been able to save his identity. Without his identity, without any sign of mercy from anyone around him Shylock was no longer a Jew, he was no longer himself.
The effect that inflicting revenge can have on a person or group of people will never result in anything good. Revenge is fueled by hatred, by a change in your life that you can’t accept and this is exactly what we saw in Shylock’s case. He lost everything in the end because of revenge. What good did it bring him to try and force change upon the Christians? Nothing good came out of his actions… All that came was more pain and more loss for his already broken character.