Dueling Religious Ideologies Seen in Shakespeare’s "The Merchant of Venice"

2002 Words Jun 24th, 2018 9 Pages
The dueling religious ideologies seen in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice serve as the cornerstones not only of the character’s arguments during the trial at the end of the play, but of the definitions of the character’s own self-perceptions. Shylock, the play’s “villain” and the most prominent of the play’s three Jewish characters, employs his religious identity in defining his conception of masculinity, connecting his perception of what it means to be “male” with his profession, which he is allowed to practice due to the tenants of his Jewish faith. This economically defined perception of his own masculinity becomes Shylock’s undoing, as the play shows the slow decline of his economic fortune, which comes to represent a kind of …show more content…
Within his own home as well, Shylock’s masculinity and his position as the head of the household are again defined through his economic dominion over those in his service. His daughter, Jessica, is unmarried and therefore still the economic responsibility of her father, playing not only into Shylock’s economic, but also his blood dominion over his only daughter. Isolated from the greater Venetian society by her Jewish faith, Jessica is further isolated by her father’s drive to assert his masculinity through his control of her. In Act 2, Scene 5, Shylock demands that Jessica “lock up my doors” (2.5.30), and not “let the sound of shallow foppery enter/My sober house” (2.5.36-7). He treats he no better than he does Lancelot, ordering her as a master would his servants and in terms seemingly devoid of all fatherly affection. While Shylock bolsters his own masculinity through these act of “fatherly” domination of his daughter, he is unaware that Jessica is plotting a means by which she can emasculate her father and escape his influence once and for all. While the verdict of the trial serves as the final blow to Shylock’s masculinity, with Antonio’s request that he be forcibly converted to Christianity serving as the actual act of castration, the process begins much
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