Shylock’s Justification for Revenge is a well-known monologue by a Shakespearean villain. Shylock is a Jew. He is a merchant who has often been oppressed. This does not make him a victim, though, because Shylock also tricks and deceives others. One of his fellow merchants is Antonio, who owes him a great debt. Shylock demands a piece of Antonio’s flesh as payment. Shylock feels that his offer is justified because of the many times he has been cheated off his earnings because of his being a Jew.
The play is also memorable because of a subplot concerning a very smart woman, Portia, who disguises herself as a man and defends Antonio as his lawyer during the trial.
Act 3. Scene 1.
To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else,
it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, and
hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses,
mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my
bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine
enemies; and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath
not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will
resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian,
what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian
wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by
Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you
teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I
will better the instruction.
For those who want to read modernized texts side-by-side Shakespeare’s writings, you can look up the No Fear, Shakespeare Merchant of Venice and other versions with modernized texts for comparison.