Literary Essay
Task: How is Shylock presented in Act 4 Scene 1? Use textual evidence in your answer.


In Act 4 Scene 1, Shylock is portrayed as a dislikeable and stubborn character, a merciless and evil man. This is because of the way he speaks and what he says, and this is also how the other characters perceive him. However, his attitude changes when Portia enters the room disguised as a lawyer, therefore proving that his character is more complex than it first appears.


At the start of the scene, we learn what the other characters think of Shylock. The Duke expresses his sympathy towards Antonio because he has to try to defend himself against such a monster. ‘I am sorry for thee. Thou art come to answer A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch’. He describes Shylock as ‘stony’, which shows that he is unmoving, like a rock, and he is unlikely to change his mind. ‘Inhuman’ suggests that he is not like other people, and he does not experience the same emotion as a normal human being. He also says that Shylock is ‘uncapable of pity, void and empty From any dram of mercy’. ‘Uncapable’ is a strong word which means that he couldn’t be merciful or kind even if he tried to. ‘Void’ means there is nothing there at all, again referring to Shylock’s incapability to display any sign of caring for anyone but himself and his money. Antonio does not think that Shylock will change his mind, and he says he will go quietly. ‘Since he stands obdurate And that no lawful means can carry Out of his envy’s reach’. Antonio says that Shylock is ‘obdurate’, which means that he is unmovable and stubborn, and will not change his mind. Antonio thinks that he cannot escape from his ‘envy’s reach’. The word ’envy’ is used to show the very extent and power of Shylock’s malice and greed.