Shylock is a fictional character in William Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice (c. 1600). A Venetian Jewish moneylender, Shylock is the play's principal antagonist. His defeat and conversion to Christianity form the climax of the story.
In Shakespeare's time, no Jews had been legally present in England for several hundred years, so presumably Shakespeare would have had little personal experience. However, there were various common stereotypes of Jews, such as regarding usury.
The character's name has been used a synonym for loan shark, and as a verb to shylock has meant to lend money at exorbitant rates. In addition, the phrase "pound of flesh" has also entered the lexicon as a phrase for a particularly onerous or unpleasant obligation. The play has been argued to influence later depictions of Jews.
There are various interpretations of the story and what Shakespeare's intentions actually were, some sympathetic and some unsympathic regarding Shylock and more generally regarding Jews and/or Judaism.