Esprit Rock

The passage from Act 4

The passage from Act 4, scene 1 focuses on Shylock’s defence that he is owed one pound of Antonio’s flesh during the trial scene. The trial scene represents how the Venetian law is being manipulated by Shylock to indulge in his own revenge.
The Duke holds the power in the court beginning the passage questioning why Shylock refuses to show mercy upon Antonio: “How shalt thou hope for mercy rendering none?”, the use of the words hope and mercy connote a sense of compassion and sincerity. The Duke’s questioning emphasises Shylock’s hypocrisy, arguing that if he is unable to show mercy upon Antonio how will he ever deserve the same mercy in return. The words also have religious connotations attached to them, suggesting that the law circles around the idea of justice and virtue. The Duke’s suspicion of Shylock’s ethics and morals indicate a possible form of Elizabethan anti-Semitism.
In response, Shylock demands that the flesh he is owed is within his rights, comparing his rights to the slave trade orchestrated by the Christians. He belittles the Duke’s authority, “What judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong?”. Shylock’s use of the word ‘judgement’ invokes a sense of religious ideals, similar to the last day. Even though the word is associated with ideals of piety, nobility, and morality, Shylock mocks the term lowering the Duke’s status by indicating that he is a hypocrite himself. The mocking of the term, since he has nothing to ‘dread’ may indicate that Shylock views himself as higher than this power, higher than Christian morality itself, due to his power and status as a character at this point in the play. He extends his argument directly criticising the Duke for his “purchased slave” (s), this concept cites the corruption of morality as everything revolves around wealth and trade rather than the divine quality of mercy and justice. It also reveals Shylock’s truth in his character, as he does not care of the mistreatment of slaves but rather cares to ensure his motives are achieved.

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