The Lives of the Jews in Venice During the 16th Century
Uploaded by debdeb93 on Aug 10, 2007
In the 16th century, Jews were discriminated against especially in England and Venice. Christians believed that the Jewish race was inferior to them and that Jews should not be accepted into their society. The following paragraphs will explore the sufferance of and discrimination against the Jews through Shylock’s speech in act one, scene three, lines 102 to 124.
Firstly, the Jews are often ‘rated’ by Christians ‘in the Rialto, as seen from the first two lines of Shylock’s speech: “… many a time and oft/ In the Rialto you have rated me”. ‘Rated’, in this context, means to berate, or, in other words, to criticise. Shylock was probably reminded of this issue through the word ‘rate’ in his previous speech: “…… then let me see the rate”. Hence, we can see that the Jews are probably so constantly berated that this issue could create such an impact in Shylock’s mind.
Also, Jews of that time were probably accustomed to stoical endurance, wearing it like a ‘badge’, as seen in line 106: “For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.” They are called names such as “misbeliever” and “cut-throat dog”, spit upon (“spit upon my Jewish gabardine”), and kicked (“foot me as you spurn a stranger cur”) by Christians. This shows that they have been suffering because they collect interest for the money they lend out, as seen from line 109: “all for use of that which is mine own.” This shows that Jews in Venice during the 16th century are abused mentally and physically due to the fact that they collect interest for the money which they lend out.
Despite this abuse by the Christians, the Jews do not complain about their sufferings. They could only”borne it with a patient shrug”. This shows that they have no human rights and could not stand up to the Christians even though they were being abused. They were probably of lower classes or even outcasts in the Venetian society during the 16th century.
In addition, Jews are openly discriminated and they are aware of it. This can be seen in line 119 where Shylock asks if he should “bend low, and in a bondman’s key …” a bondman is probably something like a slave during that time. This shows that he most probably knows that the Jews are considered to be inferior in that society, just like a slave. This shows that Jews...