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Collin FlintoftMrs. JardineShakespeare, Period 48 December 2017Pacino’s Confusing ShylockIn the movie, Merchant of Venice, the character Shylock, played by Al Pacino, delivers a thought-provoking monologue regarding Jewish standing within society. It reflects the times and how Jewish people were treated in the 1600’s. Pacino seems the perfect actor to be playing Shylock as he completely encapsulates what it must have been like to be a Jew in Venice at that time. It was usually a life filled with suffering and ill-treatment. He is able to make the audience feel true sympathy for him at times in the ways he appears as a soulless man who is lost in life. This is only early in the story though, before things cross the line with Antonio. A fire in Shylock consistently begins to burn brighter and brighter as the plot furthers. In Pacino’s portrayal of him, he creates a man who appears to be lost and dead inside from the get-go thanks to the ways him and his people were mistreated in 17th century Italy.The Jews were consistently treated as less than human due to the Christian people’s xenophobia, persecution, and forced conversion. Many Jews were uncomfortable publicly showing their religion and usually converted to Christianity. Society essentially forced them to practice their religion in secrecy. Pacino’s Shylock does not seem to care one bit though as he displays his Judaism from the very beginning even though it always led to receiving hate. Whether a private or public follower Judaism, the fact that anyone was a jew led to conflict and pressure between the Jews and Christian Europeans. Shakespeare quickly shows the tension through the local dispute between the ways of Shylock, a Jew, and Antonio, a Christian. One of the main points of difference comes from the polar perspectives given by the Christian and Jewish faiths on charging interest. Shylock directly states his distaste for Christian usury saying, “I hate him for he is a Christian, but more for that in low simplicity he lends out money gratis” (Shakespeare 1.3.34-36). This is one of the main reasons why Christians hate Jews because they view them as greedy people since they charge interest. There is never love lost between the two groups and critic David Edelstein takes note of this in Pacino’s eye capturing acting stating, “his eyes seem on the verge of shooting lasers,” (Kosher). Shylock wants nothing more than to make Christians miserable, especially after he gets spit on for no reason by Antonio before their lending agreement is ever even proposed. The divide between Christians and Jews in Venice in the 1600’s was unparalleled at the time. After being treated poorly by a Christian, another example of hatred is seen between the two groups in which Shylock makes his complaints loud and clear. He gives his famous monologue at a pivotal point for him as he looks for news of his missing daughter. She’s recently fled with a Christian named Lorenzo. They took his ducats and jewels. This obviously makes Shylock very angry and he makes that clear to Solanio and Salarino. It’s at that time when he says, “I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions…I will better the instruction,” (Shakespeare 3.1.50-65). Shylock, in this monologue, raises valid ideas stating how Jews are just like Christians in that they are all humans and are the same in many ways. He finds it very frustrating that Jews are always treated as if they are less than humans. Even though he raises solid points in the beginning part of his speech, he ends it on a very sour note in which he stoops down to a very low level. He felt horribly wronged by what his daughter and her Christian lover have done which leads him to vow getting revenge on all of them by behaving as villainously as they have. His complaints all make sense but he continues to worsen his reputation for Jews by retaliating and planning on harming the Christians in an even worse manner than they harmed him. It’s hard for audiences to generate opinions on Pacino’s Shylock as to whether he is someone who should be sympathized with or someone who should be viewed as evil in nature. One critic, Ben Brantley, has stated a very unique view saying that Shylock is, “neither merely the victim nor the villain of this piece; he is instead the very soul of the money-drunk society he serves and despises,” (Brantley). He is essentially a representation of the Venetian people and their values. It was a very money-driven place and Christians and Jews were both filled with greed, selfishness, and hypocrisy. One must consider how Shylock fit in with everyone else but still seemed to express himself in a worse manner than most. Society already views Jews as greedy, selfish, evil, devil-like people and Shylock does him and his people no good by living out all of those characteristics. As already noted, he hates Christians for the ways that they go about doing business without charging interest and plans to ¬†exact total revenge on the Christian men who have stolen from him. He puts the final nail in the coffin when Antonio cannot pay his debts. The original bond between Shylock and Antonio was to repay his loan while also paying interest and if he could not then he would have to give Shylock a pound of his flesh. Upon hearing that Antonio can no longer repay him he proclaims, “I’ll have my bond. Speak not against my bond. I have sworn an oath that I will have my bond,” (Shakespeare 3.3.4-5). He wants to actually follow through and get a pound of his flesh. Back then that would seriously ruin a man’s life and possibly even kill him. Medicine and technology were nowhere near as advanced as they are now. He wanted to ruin Antonio. This clearly makes him an evil person. But was it his fault? For how much he had been mistreated throughout his entire life, could one really fault him for turning into this monster? As stated by movie critic Ben Travers, Pacino plays a Shylock whose, “dark pools of his eyes show a path to a history of persecution that find a telling framework for Shylock’s actions,” (Travers). He is not necessarily claiming Shylock should be forgiven for all he has done, he is merely trying to take some fault away from him by adding context to his situation that is clearly shown in the movie. Nevertheless, Shylock continually hurts his own reputation time and time again despite opportunities to be the bigger man.There were multiple actions and statements made by Shylock that unfortunately reaffirm all the stereotypes that Christians had of Jews back then. He lived up to being a selfish, money hungry, evil man. He complained about how Jews were mistreated in a very intriguing monologue that had many valid points but, as usual, he said things that reaffirmed stereotypes that he himself hated. Despite all these negatives, Pacino’s distinguished portrayal of Shylock continually begs the question of how one should view him. Audiences continually try to figure out whether to feel compassion for his suffering or to feel hatred towards his swearing of evil. That is the magnitude in which Pacino is able to confuse audiences with such moving, emotional acting.Works CitedBrantley, B. (2010). Railing at a Money-Mad World. online New York Times. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/01/theater/reviews/01merchant.html Accessed 8 Dec. 2017.Edelstein, D. (2005). Kosher Ham. online Slate Magazine. Available at: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/movies/2005/01/kosher_ham.html Accessed 8 Dec. 2017.Shakespeare, William, and Jay L. Halio. The Merchant of Venice. Oxford, Oxford UniversityPress, 2011.Travers, P. (2005). The Merchant of Venice. online Rolling Stone. Available at: https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/the-merchant-of-venice-20050106 Accessed 8 Dec. 2017.

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