In this essay I will aim to explore how Shakespeare has expressed the feud between Shylock and Antonio in the Merchant of Venice. From the character list we can identify factors that will affect how the feud between Shylock and Antonio is portrayed as we learn that Antonio is of the Christian faith and Shylock is a Jew and at the time that the play is set in, religious prejudice against Jews was becoming increasingly common and therefore creates the opportunity for Shakespeare to portray him as a nasty, villainous character.
In Act 1, Scene 3 we are introduced to Shylock in a conversation with Bassanio, where he is trying to borrow money from Shylock on Antonio's behalf. At first glance the conversation seems to be very business like, as Shylock seems to appear very commanding and Bassanio addresses him as Sir, for example "Ay, sir, for three months." When asked by Bassanio whether he is willing to lend him the money under the terms agreed between the two men, Shylock's reply is "Antonio is a good man"
upon hearing this we presume at this point that Shylock has no strong feelings towards Antonio and this could be seen as a very ambiguous statement, as it could be referring to his personal feelings towards Antonio or the state of his financial affairs. Shylock's feelings towards Antonio become somewhat mixed later on in the act as when asked by Bassanio whether he has any doubts of Antonio's assets providing financial backing for the loan taken out by Bassanio on his behalf Shylock replies:
"But ships are boards, sailors but men; there be land rats, and water rats, water thieves and land thieves I mean pirates and then there is the peril of waters, winds and rocks. The man is not withstanding sufficient."
These feelings towards Antonio and his Christian friends are made more hostile when Shylock is invited by Bassanio to come and dine with them as Shylock replies