“Motley” arises in As You Like It precisely eight times, half of which appear within twenty-two lines of each other, and the majority of which are spoken in the same act, the same scene, and by the same character. To no surprise, this character so seemingly infatuated with “motley” is none other than Jacques.
It is difficult to know whether it was Shakespeare’s intent to make his character Shylock in The Merchant of Venice a sympathetic character or a Jewish villain to satisfy an anti-Semitic audience. Clues to this debate can be gathered if we carefully consider Shakespeare’s treatment of Shylock in the courtroom. A conflict of mercy vs. vengeance and between the spirit and letter of the law become apparent in the courtroom scene of Act IV. Mercy is a central theme to both Christianity and Judaism and is used by Shakespeare to make larger claims about such religions. Continue reading →