The Merchant of Venice is a classic amongst famous plays written in past centuries, and it is one of Shakespeare’s finest works. The play takes place in a time of common prejudice in Europe, involving the maltreatment of Jews by Christians. Judaism was regarded as a lowly religion and anyone who practiced it would be subjected to harsh treatment by Christians. Shakespeare adopts the realism of the current world and imbues it into his play, without making a side look better than the other (Christians or Jews). He stripped the characters of their societal stereotypes (e.g., Jews are bad), and reduced them to ordinary people under different circumstances, and his ability to do so created a worthy variety of characters for the world to be entertained by for centuries to come.
A big figure in the play that stands out is Shylock, and he remains the best character in the play, not because I liked him the most but because of his realism. His actions and words were often interpreted by me as unjustified but as the plot progressed, I began to see and understand his side of things and understand how a big action can affect a character and the future actons taken by that character (the domino effect). His famous speech to the associates of Antonio sticks to me and I consider it the realest thing in this play.
He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million,
Laughed at my losses, mocked my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains,
And what is his reason, I am a Jew.
Hath not a Jew hands. Hath not a Jew eyes, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?
Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapon, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is.
If you prick us, do we not bleed?
If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?
If we are like you in the rest, then we will resemble you in that.
If a Jew wrong a Christian what is his humility, revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example, why revenge.
The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard, but I will better the instruction.
This remains the best dialogue from any character in the play. The utter honesty and rage from Shylock reveal to us the true state of mind Shylock is in. It expresses the humility dealt upon him by Christians and his heavy desire for revenge.