Merchant of Venice – Discussion Notes

  • Shylock is constantly undermined in his business by the Christians.
  • He is the victim of religiously-motivated prejudice.

“He hath mocked me and hindered me half a million”

  • In any modern court this would at least mitigate/ lessen the sentence he receives.
  • The Geneva convention states that everyone is free to practice their faith.
  • The Christians – not Shylock – should be on trial for contravening (going against) this.


  • Lending money for profit is forbidden in the Bible/ Torah.
  • “If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him.” Exodus 22/ Shemot 24
  • The Christians were punishing Shylock for a crime according to their faith.
  • This was also a crime by Jewish religious law.
  • The Bible states “an eye for an eye” (as does the Torah).
  • Thus the punishment of Shylock should be equal to the crimes he has committed on the Christians – and vice versa.
  • “Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions…”
  • Shylock is as bad as a pay-day lender.
  • He charges interest to people who are desperate.
  • He is a vampire, preying on their need.
  • An Elizabethan Wonga.
  • We nowadays accept that this kind of moneylending is morally dubious.
  • Many victims of modern pay-day loans lose more than they gain from the bargain; this is why it is profitable to lend money in this way.



European Convention on Human Rights

The Court has ruled that states have three main duties under Article 2:

  1. a duty to refrain from unlawful killing,
  2. a duty to investigate suspicious deaths, and
  3. in certain circumstances, a positive duty to prevent foreseeable loss of life.


Article 3 prohibits torture and “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

Article 6 provides a detailed right to a fair trial, including the right to a public hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal within reasonable time, the presumption of innocence

Article 9 provides a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Article 12 provides a right for women and men of marriageable age to marry and establish a family.

Article 14 contains a prohibition of discrimination.

Article 16 allows states to restrict the political activity of foreigners.