Shylock is the antagonist in William Shakespeare's play "The Merchant of Venice." He acts as the obstacle that stands between the play's two lovers, but is in fact the most compelling character in the play.
Shylock is in some ways based on the traditional character of the Jewish moneylender who appears time and again in medieval morality plays. While some people feel that the Shylock's caricatured nature makes an anti-Semitic statement, Shakespeare creates a much more subtle and powerful character that undercuts these claims. Shylock ends up losing everything he has, including his daughter, thus drawing out unexpected sympathy from the audience for a character seen only as selfish until the end.