You have among you many a purchased slave
Which, like your asses and your dogs and mules,
You use in abject and in slavish parts
Because you bought them. Shall I say to you
’Let them be free, marry them to your heirs.
Why sweat they under burdens?. . .
. . .
You will answer
’The slaves are ours.’ So do I answer you.
The pound of flesh which I demand of him
Is dearly bought. ‘Tis mine, and I will have it.
Again, in this passage, we find Shylock
cleverly using Venice’s own laws to support his vengeful quest and
enlisting society’s cruelties in defense of his own. Shylock begins
his speech on a humane note, yet this opening serves merely to justify
his indulgence in the same injustices he references. Shylock has
no interest in exposing the wrongfulness of owning or mistreating
slaves. Such property rights simply happen to be established by
Venetian laws, so Shylock uses them to appeal for equal protection.
If Antonio and company can purchase human flesh to “use in abject
and in slavish parts,” Shylock reasons, then he can purchase part
of the flesh of a Venetian citizen (IV.i.
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