Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice is a difficult play in many ways, but probably one of the biggest sources of contention among critics is the role of the antagonist, Shylock. In terms of the play's plot, Shylock seems to be set up as a villain; there are, however, certain elements of the play itself that indicate that perhaps Shakespeare does not intend him to be understood only in the role of a villain. What do you think? Does Shakespeare intend us to read Shylock only as a bad guy, or is there more going on here? If you find yourself being sympathetic to Shylock, how much of your sympathy is due, do you think, to our different attitude nowadays toward religious difference?
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