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The Merchant of Venice Race Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Norton Shakespeare edition.

Quote #1

If I could bid the fifth welcome with so good
heart as I can bid the other four farewell, I should
be glad of his approach. If he have the condition of
a saint and the complexion of a devil, I had rather
he should shrive me than wive me. (1.2.127-131)

Characters like Portia are intolerant of anyone who doesn't share her religious, ethnic, and national background. Here she says she'd never want to marry the Prince of Morocco (even if the guy were a "saint") because he's got a dark complexion like "the devil." In Shakespeare's day, black men (like the characters Othello and Aaron the Moor) were often associated with the devil and evil in general.   

Quote #2

SHYLOCK [aside] 
How like a fawning publican he looks!
I hate him for he is a Christian,
But more for that in low simplicity
He lends out money gratis and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice.
If I can catch him once upon the hip,
I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.
He hates our sacred nation, and he rails,
Even there where merchants most do congregate,
On me, my bargains and my well-won thrift,
Which he calls "interest." Cursed be my tribe
If I forgive him! (1.3.41-52)

There's no love lost between Shylock and Antonio. Shylock insists that he hates Antonio because he's a "Christian" and because he undermines his money-lending business and talks smack about him at the Rialto (the merchant's exchange in Venice). We also learn that Antonio hates Shylock's "sacred nation," and we'll soon learn just how much of an anti-Semite Antonio is.

Quote #3

This kindness will I show.
Go with me to a notary, seal me there
Your single bond; and in a merry sport,
If you repay me not on such a day,
In such a place, such sum or sums as are
Express'd in the condition, let the forfeit
Be nominated for an equal pound
Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken
In what part of your body pleaseth me.
Content, in faith. I'll seal to such a bond,
And say there is much kindness in the Jew. (1.3.155-165)

Shylock's business proposition is associated with a racist stereotype. When he suggests that a pound of Antonio's "fair flesh" should serve as a bond for the loan, Shakespeare's 16th-century audience would have been reminded of the (completely false) stories about murderous Jews who supposedly sought Christian blood for use in religious rituals. 

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