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"A Plea For Tolerance"
A Plea For Tolerance
Author:
John Mayes
The Merchant of Venice is a romantic play, written around 1597 AD, by William Shakespeare. It is mainly about the beautiful things in life, like love and friendship. However, the play also has a darker side. Firstly, the Venetians in the play are very antisemitical, they hate the Jewish ethnic group. Moreover, they do not only hate the Jews, they hate everybody that is considered different than themselves. Finally, when reading the play it becomes apparent that the Venetians are very hypocritical. What they accuse others of, they very often do themselves. By inserting these three elements in the play, namely antisemitism, xenophobia and hypocrisy, it becomes obvious that Shakespeare is making a plea for tolerance.


The Venetians, the main characters of The Merchant of Venice, are an antisemitical group of people. This is exemplified by the passage in the play in which the Jew Shylock is talking to the Salarino about his daughter Jessica, who has run away with the Christian Lorenzo. When Shylock refers to Jessica as his own flesh and blood, Salarino replies as follows: "There is more difference between thy flesh and hers than between jet and ivory; more between your bloods than there is between red wine and Rhenish" (3.1.31-33). The fact that Salarino compares Jessica, a former Jew converted to Christianity, to red wine, and Shylock, a Jew, to Rhenish shows that the hatred is not towards Shylock as a person, but towards Judaism as a religion. This can only be defined as antisemitism.


The hatred towards the Jewish religion does not stand alone in the play, on the contrary. The antisemitical part of The Merchant of Venice is a small part of a bigger whole. It becomes apparent that the Venetians have a fear of, or hatred for, everyone that is different from themselves. This...

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11/14/2011
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11/22/2010
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