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The treatment of Jewish characters that appear throughout English literature runs the gamut from blatant antisemitism to great respect and admiration. Shylock in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, perhaps the most famous Jewish character in English literature, is commonly seen as an evil person, yet a closer examination reveals that there is more than meets the eye. In Dickens’s Oliver Twist, Fagin the Jew is a corrupter of youth, yet other Dickens Jewish characters are virtuous. Some English writers, like Hilaire Belloc are outright antisemitic, while T.S. Eliot may be considered a latent one. On the other hand, great English poets of the 19th century such as Wordsworth, Byron, and Browning admired and idealized Jews and their culture, and Sir Walter Scott presented the romantic figure of Rebecca in Ivanhoe. For the most part, Jews in English literature have been presented as extremes of either virtue or vice, rather than realistic flesh and blood people with a mixture of both.

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