Shylock is clearly positioned as the play’s antagonist. At first, it may seem like he is helping Antonio and Bassanio achieve their goals by lending money. However, Shylock makes it clear that he intends to exploit Antonio’s need in hopes of hurting him: “If I can catch him once upon the hip, / I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him” (I.iii.38-39). Shylock wants to hurt Antonio because Shylock has been persecuted by the Christians of Venice. As he tells Antonio, “You spurned me such a day; another time / You called me ‘dog’” (I.iii.125-126). As a result of the way he and other Jews have been treated, Shylock hates all Christians and looks for opportunities to seek revenge. By insisting on a gruesome penalty if Antonio fails to pay back his loan, Shylock sets himself up to achieve revenge. He then actively works to thwart the protagonist, Antonio, by refusing any compromises or alternatives, even when Bassanio offers Shylock a great sum of money in exchange for Antonio’s life. Shylock’s hatred toward Christians is intensified when his daughter Jessica runs away to convert to Christianity and marry Lorenzo, and Shylock blames all Christians for persecuting his race and stealing his daughter.

Popular pages: The Merchant of Venice