While reading Act IV I found myself in the middle of an ethical quandary regarding the events surrounding Shylock's collection of his bond
In Act IV, Shylock is waiting for the go-ahead from the Duke to collect his bond of a pound of flesh from Antonio while many others stand audience pleading with Shylock to have mercy and instead accept monetary compensation.
Here is where things get blurred into a moral grey area and I am forced to question who is right and who is wrong here. In the beginning, the Duke suggests that Shylock take some small bit of on mercy on Antonio and reduce his debt. Shylock refuses, stating that if he were to change the terms of their agreement now, it would undermine the value of a written bond and the city's legal system as a whole. Antonio sees no point in reasoning with Shylock calling him hard-hearted. Shylock turns down Bassanio's offer of six thousand ducats and answers the Duke's question of how Shylock expects to receive any mercy when he himself shows none by asking, "What judgement shall I dread, doing no wrong?" (4.1.88) Shylock makes a valid point here: He is acting within the boundaries of the law in collecting on a contract whose terms both parties have agreed on. Sure, that's all fine, but one must consider the debt to be collected: human flesh. This makes things a little confusing. Is Shylock being reasonable here or does he develop a crazy blood-lust in refusing an arguably more reasonable and beneficial settlement? Which is worse, breeching the terms of a binding contract or killing someone even if they did agree to those terms? I am not really sure where I fall in this debate. Certainly Shylock's original instance upon a pound of flesh as payment is questionable behavior, I would call it insane and murderous. But then what does that make Antonio to agree to such terms? Confident, sure, but definitely around the same level of crazy/ suicidal.
I think that for Shylock, this is more personal than anything. It's about getting revenge on someone who has tormented him and made his life more difficult. That is understandable, but I think that Shylock kind of goes a little off the deep end here.
Now as the Act goes on, more developments occur in this case. Portia arrives disguised as a judge and brings a lot of legal savvy to the situation. Portia points out that the threatening of another's life is to be paid with one's own life. After this is confirmed, Antonio comes in and suggests some terms for settlement: that Skylock promises half of his goods to Lorenzo and, most upsettingly, that he convert to Christianity. This was an absolute shock to me. I can understand the surrender of his goods and money, but to change his religion is an extremely low-blow. After this happens, Shylock is clearly destroyed, his debt was lost and his life as he has known it is over, effectively killing who is.
This is a tough call as to who is right and who is wrong here. Shylock is attempting to collect his debt for Antonio's flesh, is interrupted, and in the end has to relinquish half of his goods and change his religion. Shylock may be wrong for wanting flesh and having a blood-lust but everyone else may be wrong for destroying his contract and making him change his religion. Personally, I think Shylock went too far in his original terms but also that Antonio was cruel towards him for no reason. If Antonio weren't so bigoted this whole thing might have been avoided.