The Xenophobia Phenomenon Reflected in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice
The term xenophobia describes a social phenomenon rooted in fear and hatred of foreigners from different ethnic groups. This phenomenon is understandably reflected in five Shakespearean plays: The Merchant of Venice, Othello, The Tempest, Titus Andronicus, and Anthony and Cleopatra; among which, The Merchant of Venice has more importance in addressing foreign characters and groups (i.e. Shylock the Jew, Jessica and etc). In studies conducted on this subjected and printed in books, thesis, and articles in Iran and abroad, no direct reference has been made to the reflection of xenophobia in Shakespearean plays. The subjects most often dealt with in sources focused on prejudice, colonialism, racial discrimination, histories of immigration, and political-economic relations between different ethnic groups and race in Shakespeare’s era. Shakespeare in India and South Africa: Colonialist versus Colonized (Rafiei, 2001) and The Mutual Effect of Drama and History during the Elizabethan Period with Emphasis on the Historical Shakespearean Plays (Bonyadi, 2003) are two of these sources. So are Shakespeare and Politics (Moradi, 2007), and Islam and Politics in Dramatic Literature during Elizabethan Period (Asadi Amjad et al., 2001). This article intends to analyze the events that take place in The Merchant of Venice, and to merge them with the “ Integrated Threat Theory (ITT),” “In Groups,” and “Out Groups” in order to analyze the reflection of xenophobia in Shakespeare’s dramatic literature. The main purpose of the research was to identify and explain the concept of xenophobia in The Merchant of Venice and to clarify its social roots by use of sociological theories. The following questions were raised as the research questions in order to achieve the mentioned goal: A) What is the xenophobia phenomenon and how is it reflected in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice? B) How is the xenophobia in The Merchant of Venice different from that in other Shakespearean plays (Othello, the Tempest, Anthony and Cleopatra, and Titus Andronicus)? While addressing the theoretical framework this article uses historical and analytic-comparative methods and relies on library sources and pictures, to present the subject under two headings: A) Shakespeare and the xenophobia phenomenon; In this section, the roots leading to the formation of xenophobia in Shakespeare’s era, and the reflection of xenophobia in his plays, are identified and explained by using a sociological approach. B) The Merchant of Venice and xenophobia; under this heading, the play is reviewed first, and then the relationships of the characters, especially of Shylock with xenophobia are explained. Finally, the play is merged with the Integrated Threat Theory. Analysis of the dialogues and events of the play revealed the fact that economy and Judaism were the most pronounced elements of group conflict and created xenophobia among the characters in the play. Moreover, the research findings indicate that, compared to the other four plays, the characters in The Merchant of Venice can be easily classified using the definitions of “In Groups” and “Out Groups” and The Integrated Threat Theory. In reflecting the xenophobia phenomenon, Shakespeare intended to criticize racist and prejudicial behaviors. In fact, he advocates equality and justice in the Elizabethan society.
Honar-Ha-Ye-Ziba: Honar-Ha-Ye Mosighi Va Namayeshi, No. 53, 2016
15 - 24  
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