After reading Merchant of Venice I found myself questioning whether Shylock deserved his punishment and if he should deserve the sympathy of the readers. Obviously, when this play would have been first performed in the 1600s no one would have had sympathy for Shylock because of the anti-Semitic culture that was normalized in that time period. However reading the play without this anti-Semitic culture changes the view of Shylock, from the reader’s perspective Shylock’s suffering is immeasurable, but Shylock was trying to cause suffering on another human. Once again there is another “but” because Shylock trying to cause harm to another human (Antonio) was the same person that has treated him like a “dog” and made Shylock have additional suffering as a Jew living in a Christian majority city. From my view, while reading the book I think Shylock’s suffering in the form of his punishment is too severe and that readers should be sympathetic for him.
It is arguable that Shylock should be punished the way he was because he wanted to take another man’s life which is never justifiable, but the reader has to try and imagine what Shylocks scenario would have been like, his daughter was stolen by a Christian man, he has been berated and abused by Christian peoples his whole life ( Especially by Antonio), he lost half his wealth being stolen by his daughter and then loses 3000 ducats from his bond that isn’t repaid. Shylock should still be punished because he was going to take a man’s life, but he should not be punished to the extent that his own existence is unbearable. Every human has a mental breaking point of the amount of suffering they can endure before their mental health crumbles, and I think Shylock became mentally unstable and was desperate to fill his sadness with a feeling of actually winning for once. It wasn’t Shylock’s fault he reached that mental breaking point either, he was pushed to that limit by the same people that are being punished for reaching that low point which isn’t fair to Shylock’s case. Throughout the whole play, Shylock does not experience a single scenario where he gets even close to what he wants, so in my eyes, I was sympathetic for him because that is not healthy for the human brain to not have any success in anything.
To conclude I think that Shylock’s punishment is not justified and deserves the sympathy of the reader in the Merchant of Venice. Shylock had suffered throughout this whole play, even though he was going to commit a heinous act of taking somebody’s life, perhaps instead the court could have taken only a fraction of his estate and not forced him to renounce the one thing that he still had, which was his Jewish religion. Shylock did not deserve to lose everything he had, he had already fought throughout the whole play to keep himself together and bear the abuse that Christians had cast upon him throughout the play, I think shylock should have gotten a less severe punishment because of all the wrongings he has already experienced by the Christian peoples.