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Coriat, I.H. (1921). Anal-Erotic Character Traits in Shylock. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 2:354-360.

(1921). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 2:354-360

Anal-Erotic Character Traits in Shylock

Isador H. Coriat

Shakespeare's character of Shylock, the central figure of 'The Merchant of Venice', has been one of the male characters in the marvellous gamut of the Shakespearean drama whose essential traits have evoked varying interpretations, thus placing it in the same category with Hamlet, Lear, and Macbeth. Whether or not he was a blood-thirsty villain or a man more sinned against than sinning, or whether he showed character traits which were to be expected in one of his race and tradition, are subjects over which the controversy of Shakespearean criticism has raged. It has been the fashion to compare the character of Shylock with that of Barrabas in Marlowe's 'Jew of Malta'. This parallel however, is incorrect in its general essentials, for Barrabas carried his long suppressed hate to the point of sadistic lust murders, a trait which is entirely absent in Shylock; for Shylock's wishes at no time during their development had any of the horrors of the revenge of Barrabas.

The sources of the plot of 'The Merchant of Venice' and of the character of Shylock have been traced to old ballads, such as the song of Gernutus, Italian romances (Il Pecorone), Persian and Indian legends, the 'Jew of Malta' and finally an old German comedy. Thus there were many analogies in European and Oriental literature to the two intertwined stories which may be termed the pound of flesh theme and three caskets theme, which constitute the main plot of the 'Merchant of Venice'. It appears that Shylock was made a Jew to appeal to the popular prejudice of the time. As Elze states 'His (Shakespeare's) public wished above all things to see Shylock crushed' and it may be added that Shakespeare completely fulfilled the wishes of that public.

Most of the critical interpretations of Shylock's character have insisted on the essential Jewish traits.

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