BIBLICAL, LITURGICAL, AND CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS
IN THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
REV. MARK F. COSGROVE, O. S. B.
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
3 1262 08552 8700
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
I SHYLOCK'S USE OF THE BIBLE AND THE MOTIF OF BONDAGE . 13
The Problem of Usury in England . . . . . .. 13
The Biblical "good man" and the Usurer. . . . ... 16
Sufficiency and Prodigality . . . . . .. .. 21
Friendship with Gentiles. . . . . . . . ... 26
Our Sacred Nation and the Fawning Publican. . . .. 36
"The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose". ... .43
"Abram" . . . . . . . . . . . .. 54
II RESOLUTION AND LITURGY. . . . . . . . ... 57
Troilus, Cressid, and the Problem of Trusting People. . 57
The Liturgy in Sixteenth-Century England. . . . . 70
The "Exultet": Sacrificial Love Leads to Life . . .. 80
Jessica as "Tesbe Babilonie, Martiris" . . . .. 98
Dido or Ariadne? Error or Adaptation?. . . . ... 106
Dido, Ariadne, and the Willow . .......... . 128
Medea: Rejuvenation and Moonlight Magic. . . . ... 134
Jessica's Unthrift Love and the Pattern of Quarreling . 147
BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . .... . . . . 156
APPENDICES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. . . . . . . . . . . .. 209
This dissertation studies the function of Biblical and liturgical
allusions in The Merchant of Venice. It also studies the function of
classical allusions to the extent that they are integral parts of the
Lihl. 1 1 lJ !iL.'- pattern being studied. When necessary, it exam-
L-,:-: ,. ':- ; '- ,:. -'' occasionally attempts to solve some of the prob-
i,.- :i rL. L;..;: .:'..'irship. Usually, it differs from this previous
i.bh.L::' .... i, V.... :;" on the whole of The Merchant and by examining
chc '~.~ i. :. sii 'L .. al allusions as structurally integral elemei'ts
,' ; :.. : ,. .
Ac. L'.i- I.- i. brief survey of related approaches will help to
...ii .. :- :.. .-. i' .-s, rrmehocs, and goals of my sLudy. It will also
- ,:h -; . :;. o ':., .o The Merchant through Biblical and liturgical
ill..: i-. *. :r":' Siiilar to aed dependent on previous scholarship but
.:;l ... :j -,; .-:i :..-; i.a to a full understanding of The Merchant.
i-r.:.J r i': li.:.. approaches have not always studied the function
orf S',- ;:...:. .-' .Li.cal allusions in their dramatic context. In the
ir. -. :-. .' ...: icl-ccially, critics tended to see Biblical allusions
1.I l.. i ~ : .- o'r-,-.ata, or as evidence that Shakespeare was a "sincere
t.-:li .; i.- or "in the doctrines taught therein," or as e-i-
i-,ce ..: :'.. ~ -;'. was either a Catholic, a conformist, or a Puritan.
i-: 1 _." .-s, The Bible in Shakespeagre (Winona Lake, Indiana,
0 .3. F f- .-,,.lar points of view see also Charles Wordsworth,
S,. .': : -: and Use of che Bible (London, 1864) and John Henry
S" Cr... are" s a-nd "T'he Od -fth" (New York, 1946).
Thomas Carter, for example, correctly observed that some of Shakespeare's
Biblical allusions can be traced to the Geneva version of the Bible, but
from this fact he also concluded that both John Shakespeare and William
Shakespeare were Puritan recusants.
Recent Biblical approaches, however, do examine Biblical allusions
as integral parts of the play in which they occur. Some of these approaches
are similar to mine, and I am indebted to them, for frequently I continue
where they have left off. Richmond Noble's Shakespeare's Biblical Knowl-
edge and Use of the Book of Common Prayer contains the most exhaustive
survey of Biblical and liturgical allusions in the plays of Shakespeare.3
And although he does not analyze the allusions nor show how they fit into
the context of the plays, his list does suggest that they are part of a
coherent pattern. Another work which focuses on coherent patterns, al-
though it does not deal specifically with The Merchant, is that of John
Hankins who traces "Shakespeare's habit of recalling the same image from
several sources," one of the most frequent of which is "the Bible, par-
ticularly Psalms, Proverbs, and the Book of Job."4 Again, my approach to
The Merchant is similar to that of J. A. Bryant who shows from twelve plays
how Shakespeare's kncwiedge cf the Bible "worked in his art." He concludes
that consciouslyy or unconsciously, Shakespeare was a genuine typologist
2Thomas Carter, C'-.' : P. r i -, ,. :..;F; .r: L'..:.-J..i l:'
and Sha.kesgeare and Hol -c. :.., ;* .r - v : ,. U : d (L:. :r, l?'. '
3Richmond Noble, snakesonar' s Biblic' ;, 1.... .1i
Book of Co_ on Pravper (London, 1935).
4j oh3n E skin Hii61 : ._ .' : -,
Kansas, 1933), pp. 16-17.
in his use of Scriptural allusions and analogy," one who regarded Scrip-
tural stories, persons, and images as "incorporating meaning rather than
pointing to it," and who used Biblical allusions because "They extend the
depth of the play itself; they do not merely point to the depths outside
the play."5 Although Hankins and Bryant analyze the function of Biblical
1 ii,, .-.-. ,- .. i .: i.: -h. :. d .' -r p i L.:a The Merchant.
; ~.L i .' :' r is ": I. L 0 c,:,i i rCS method of
jd l:n E L :; .: .. : -L, c -:. :f ':, [ : L i -es Sims's
r -i i': ..-- ', 1 ] .r -- ,L .. : J -, A gain ,
,-,, .. t r. ,' J) ' ; r i. .. r -.-s does not
d.-.l Ei h I.-: ; -i :! tuL. ':;L! "- i ii l c f .J r: :.. : jIses" from the
e. I ariL r Jr -,r. L I :i' L 1 .t t. .l. -.' 'r rom two or
ci-ii.. : .:.ir. L f:L.. L ,. .:- h -i i.-:, i : agedies of
S: I.: -,.r 1 cui ,. r,:- : i i',: .. a: chat of Sins.
S -- .r : f L ci .-.,:- r i anc a:n es,
I i, :r, I C 1 r (r: iV ic .'. r i : from Eliza-
C.C_ ef' .1 c1r 1t I -t on,
: .:' : : i : :hL minds
: lt.' J -. : c i :':'
,;'~~1--1. [ l i,:., ,. ; ,: ... ,, T .' -_-, -..' -: then, is
-' . '.i j H-. .. L . . aspectss of
-- : - ; '- 1 ': : . r : -i yzes "the
1-- [" "' -' '. i .ow ad
similar to recent studies, but I focus on a single play and attempt a cc..
prehensive analysis of Biblical and liturgical allusions.
My approach differs fundamentally from many of the allegorical,
mythic, and ritualistic approaches to The Merchant that became popular in
the twenties. These approaches make use of Biblical and liturgical ele-
ments in their analyses, but they often claim to see more of a coherent
pattern than their evidence and the play will support. Moreover, allegor:
often tends to oversimplify The Merchant by making abstractions of the
characters, picturing the conflict as simple good versus absolute evil,
and presenting the denoueamnt as a perfectly harmonious resolution.
In his allegorical approach, for example, John D. Rea finds that
many features of the trial scene in The M.erchant (Shylock's villainous
prosecution, his being associated with the devil, his scales, and his ab-
ject departure at the end of che play) are "merely a re-dramatization of
the Medieval Processus Belial,with Shylock substituted for the devil,
Portia for the Virgin Mary, and the passive Antonio playing the role of
mankind." Similarly, Nevill Coghill sees the trial scene of The Merch?:
as directly influenced by the medieval allegory, the "Parliament of HeavE.
in which justice and mercy (two of the four daughters of Gcd) argue over
the fate of mankind after his fall.8 Again, Sir Israel Gollancz sees TI'
Merchant as an extension of the allegorical tradition which dramatizes
Scriptural stories. Such an approach to The Merchant, however, tends :
John D. Rea, "Shylock and the Processus Belial," 'Ic 1~_-. .
Ouarterly, VIIi (1929), 311.
8Nevill Coghill, "The Basis of Shakespearean Comedy _i.- "i
Studies, III (London, 1950), 1-23. See also Hope Travers, "i : CIL
Daughters of God," PVrlA, XL (1923), 44-82.
point to deeper meaning outside the play rather than within the play it-
self. Gollancz claims that "The starting point of the legend of Shylock"
is "some early monkish" homily which blended the two texts: "Greater love
hath no man than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friend"
and "Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it."9
My approach to the Biblical and liturgical elements in The Merchant
is at variance with these approaches since I do not consider The Merchant
an allegory nor the Biblical and liturgical allusions as functioning parts
of an allegory. Admittedly, however, the allegorical approach does have
a great diversity of methods, directions, interests, and critics; and at
times I have found these allegorical interpretations both interesting and
In my study of the Biblical and liturgical allusions in The Merchant
I rA'.". :ri.J c.-. ii-L i.n examination of Scriptural and liturgical allusions
to. c'IL:r [C.L' i .r' .:- -,:. the liturgy anl the Bible. This means that I have
Lcr-: -::.i -:i. ....- 1 I. J m".,y impcirtant secondary sources for Biblical and
1LC.L1,: 1 iui i. .hakespeare's audience, for example, was familiar
u.h :.:'.. ..~,.. -i. s, names, phrases, themes, and images of the Bible
n.:,- ,i 1, dci :'L, f ,,LI cheir private reading and public church services
ir ir.1 il G.:I! ncz, Ailegorv and Mysticism in Shakespeare (London,
Lull), V.t 9, 1?.
AL. t.ic-c :,.rJ 0-- rough investigation of allegory in The Merchant
i ~c tha f L lb A .. Le3walski, "Biblical Allusion and Allegory in The
'e-C .,L C f.._ .: ._ skespeare Quarterly, XIII (1962), 327-343. Her
a ~l.1.: ,:f :,': : .nr, i- between Shylock and Antonio, their use of Bibli-
,:1 ~11l. i.. :,-. -3. ry, their representation of the Jewish and Chris-
ciLn :i-..u._-,.L -.: rl ilnylock's "forced conversion" are all enlightening.
E.. i >: r.Lt f.~.1 c...-L he demonstrates the existence of "consistent and
ur.-.i: c .1 :'. 1. :.' ;.. -: L meanings" in Th, Merchant.
but also indirectly from cycle plays, moralities, and mysteries .which es-
tablished a tradition for the use of Biblical allusions in drama. I
have also excluded other important secondary sources for Shakespeare's
Biblical allusions such as the plays of Shakespeare's contemporaries and
the didactic and poetic literature of the period.
For the most pare, these secondary sources have received much crit-
ical attention; but a relatively unacknowledged secondary source, which
merits further study, is the English proverb. Morris Tilley's A Diction-
ary of Proverbs adequately demonstrates that English proverbs were a rich
secondary source for Biblical allusions in Shakespearean drama. The fol-
lowing are some convincing examples which "especially attracted Shakes-
peare and other Elizabethans." 2 Tn The Merchant Antonio comments: "The
Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose."13 This is an allusion to the
Then the devils . sayeth unto him, If thou be the sonne
of God, cast thy selfe done: for it is written, that he
shall give his angels charge over thee, and with their handes
they shall lift thee up least at any time thou dash thy foote
against a stone.14
11Recently, Bernard Spivack has shoin how: the "hybrid" plays be-
tween 1520 and 1535 influenced Shakespeare's villains. These plays com-
bined allegorical elements from the moralities, narrative elements from
the Bible, and tbe r.atic interpretations from the homiletic tradition. ll
of which Spivack sees reflected in Shakespeare's villains. See :,
and the Allegory of Evil (New York, 1958), especially pp. 255-269.
12aMorris Tilley, A Dictionary of Proverbs (Ann Arbor. 1950). "Fore-
word," p. vii. Tilley adds that "The Bible natural: i. .- ei a -Cr.:
influence on English [proverbs] than any other forei.r.. ...' 1- i, i;r.e.
we can call a book foreign that was read in every hci. _h.: 1."
13The Arden Edition of the Works nf William R -.-. ,:., _"' Thl --
chant of Venice, ed. John Russell Brown (London, 1955), i.L_.'. .'.
subsecuenrt references to The 1 chantt are from thtE r '.i:-, ri I 'ci.'
14The 3isoos' ..ible (London, 15S5), Matthewr :.i,- ,. fu.l1
Another English proverb based on a Biblical allusion is "The Devil can
transform himself into an angel of light" which comes from:
For such false apostles are deceitful workers, transformed
into the Apostles of Christ. And no mervaile: for Satan
bimo-lfe ic trnnsfo-ed into an angell of light.
(II Cor. 11:13-14)
'lii: i ,,:l.i :.r i i .'.: .Lc. ch Shakespeare:
[: 'i:' *:'1 ::' -i.'c : .3: she is worse, she is the devil's
,i1 ii .. he .-..c:h c :- "God damn me," that's as much
A: c. =- "'',..:' -ii:, light wench." It is written,
Lei., ij'- r E" ,- i i i ;. ;:,- gels of light.
(Comedy of Errors IV.iii.51-4)
EItL ,': 'c'.'il. ::.:.r.. :. c pcpt, resembling spirits of light.
(Love's Labours Lost IV.iii.254)
1.,..!TL: 'TI. spirit that I have seen
1. [.b rF-.. J.: il *r,-' devil hath power
(Har iet II.ii.227-9 )
1-... DU: inity of hell!
it..r. dJ ..'- .ii ;.ie r t.ackest sins put on
Th:1k d-:-ic,''.r r c f t :c with heavenly shows
A- I d.. ,:.
(Othello II. iii .341-4)
CI-- 1 c- r. ict-h ? ..:i- I-l not looked into English proverbs, the
c: l:e l. r:i '-'h. *-.:-:,.' contemporaries for their use of Scriptural
iand liur..: 1 L. r,i, secondary sources constitute a solid tra-
d ti.:, r..:.c ,.~ I .iii i c:. ?LY Shakespeare and his audience. And, of
cOL:,r El ch-: *..r -..:'i. 1 *.h Elizabethans encountered an allusion, the
d.i :,cu.:i- . -i,-V . -': '.-i:ir of the Bible, see Richmond Noble,
-' .''- -__'_ L :. -. : 9-12, and Chapter V, "Which
r -[c L.." ; gas 58-69. Noble's conclusion is that
i,,ir.: i. L, c:,- r. : :' L:i umulative effect" (p. 64) suggests that
Sha'.: i :. :-' i e.: Li -.:. Llble for The Merchant. Thus, all Bibli-
c:;! q:.:.-iac c'-,1 .:'i ci r; ion will be taken from the Bishops'
*r.;hl -i~~: cii~ru ci:r.
more certain its meaning became and the more effective the allusion be-
came in the context of the play.
The effectiveness of any allusion depends on the familiarity of
the audience with the allusion. And since most of the Biblical allusions
in The Merchant can be found in both the Bible and the liturgy, it is nmy
practice to acknowledge both sources. For it was especially by partici-
pating in the liturgy of the Church of England, that is, in the official,
public worship conducted daily in parish churches and cathedrals through-
out England, that Elizabethans became familiar with a wide range of Bib-
lical narratives, names, themes, and traditional interpretations. Eliza-
bethans were required by law to attend the liturgy on all Sdndays and
major feast days throughout the year. Moreover, since this liturgy was
made up primarily from, Scriptural passages, and since the Anglican liturgy
was continuously being revised, the scope of Old and New Testament pas-
sages with which the average Elizabethan was familiar was continuously
expanding. Thus, the more frequently a name, image, story, or theme was
encountered by an Elizabethan, the more certain and emphatic the allusion
in the play became.
As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I have found it necessary
to dedicate a section of this dissertation to an analysis of classical
allusions because they were woven inseparably into the Biblical and
liturgical pattern. Although these classical allusions have been dis-
cussed at great length during the last four hundred ye.,r .- no'.
enough for me merely to report what classical scholars h:". ~ .~ C:r-.
For example, in the fifth act Lorenzo's allusion to DiJ.:. i; j=.-i:. ,::--
sidered an erroneous allusion to Ariadne:
In such a night
Stood Dido with a willow in her hand
Upon the wild sea banks, and waft her love
To come again to Carthage.
But the liturgical context sheds a new light on this classical problem.
In the context of the liturgical motif of deliverance from bondage and
in the context of the ensuing lovers' quarrel, this "error" can be seen
as a functional and integral part of the play.
This dissertation, then, attempts to explain the functional role
of allusions in The Merchant. That is, it attempts to see various themes
:.',id m.*rif r-f c- .h- rl-.' .-.- ch appear in the allusions. It attempts to
;i th:'.: i' J i. .. L :':;.i parts of the play itself and not as simple
OLitr.;.-:[.i .. .'.ri., ..i; ;1 v it finds tnat these Biblical and liturgi-
;-1i "L..'.- .- .::.r.- i-,. .-i1' '- of the play by illustrating and suggesting
v.le- ; i)r :i..l. L [I.,' I-L.,' :. L tLe audience regarding various themes and
&SOcif: f .. : !ii.,,.: fr- iJship, love, marriage, filial obedience,
tr,:' I.: = ,: ~r. ; r.[ i*: thrift, usury, justice, mercy, death, re-
di.,rc' ir i L a-s.' re--Lrrection.
; a:.*; t.- i aLt:u I r- ri:.i.if of bondage and its resolution in The
:1 l-.A t -.L .:u -,r-..r L.. ;i s have tried to find a governing idea or
in;. 1- i: ...ul ,- :.., understanding The Mrchant,15 I do not feel
c :;ir- 1. ,h : .ir ,l: ia or image. There arc many ideas, motifs,
.Ar.J. i.--;: ..- i' 11.. h. :0.: of which is the bond image or the motif
'of !.- '-I F, -.r ,.':ing or a casual reading of The Merchant
'.:. -, ,L i r:i. -.,- s of Sbylock's sadistically "merry" bond
;;!-.n i' :.. I;F! .jicusses this approach to Thc Merchant in
i. ; i.' .c" C : -' Edition, pp. xlix-lviii.
and the cruel financial bondage he ties to impose on his creditors, for
Shylock's bond is central to The Merchant. Added to this, however, are
many other patterns of bondage, of being willingly or unwillingly bound
and obligated to another. For example, there is the bond of marriage
which unites Portia and Bassanio as well as Lorenzo and Jessica. There
are the bonds of filial love, obedience, and respect which supposedly
unite Portia to her dead father, Jessica to Shylock, and Launcelot to his
father. There are the bonds of civil law which Shylock righteously de-
mands and the obligations of mercy which Portia solicits. There is the
open rejection of any bond of friendship or trust between the Christians
of Venice and the Jewish Shylock and the open witness to the bond of love
and trust: between the Christian Lorenzo and the Jewish Jessica. In
general, there is a form of willing bondage which demands thac a friend
or lover run a risk, make a sacrifice, and even endure death, and there
is a form of cruel bondage that demands an unwilling death.
In act one Shylock introduces this pattern of bondage and its re-
lated forms, clothing it in Scriptural and liturgical allusions. For
him these allusions become a tool for justifying his practice of usury
and his cash system cf values. He uses the Bible to discredit the "good"
Antonio, to justify taking advantage of the "prodigal" Christians, to
claim God's approval of his thrift, and to proclaim himself a chosen
descendent of Abram and a rbr-r :f r : r tir. --L:E 1.. 1 .
16"From the point .:'- .."- ..j* i..ir ':. i .,.c : i..- : :.: -cr..:
Richmond Noble, The Merc i .: "rh.: I .-T: .. -c .:.f i .,- ; i. ..
for in it Shakespeare a .'.: -'-. r . : -. I ,_,- i .. i ; : r E :.1-
closely in his delinent : r. 1: A. Tr, :- I t W -,. L '.rn a,'.
Jacob he Eiay be said to '-*'.. *.- th- L. :'-. : t, ,u -' 1: r: *J O
North in other plays" (f .i :.-' r '. ..1: '.'..,:'S:.:. p i' -)
presenting himself favorably and the Christians unfavorably, Shylock
selects, distorts, and disputes, using names, passages, images, and
themes coming mostly from the Old Testament.17
In chapter one of this dissertation, then, we will examine the
patterns of bondage which Shylock introduces and defends through Scrip-
ti.-.,i allusions. In chapter two we will examine the patterns of libera-
tion, redemption, and resolution. We will see how Lorenzo and Jessica,
Jewess and Christian, use Biblical and liturgical allusions much as Shy-
lock and the antagonistic Christians do in act one. We will see how, in
a moonlit garden at Belmont, merrily engaging in a lovers' quarrel, they
recall the earlier cruel and unwilling bondage of Venice and Shylock,
celebrate liberation fiom bondage, and contract new bonds of love and
In the pursuit of my studies and in the writing of this disserta-
tion, I have become personally and professionally indebted to many people.
Among the teachers -who have taken a personal interest in me and my educa-
tion are especially Professor T. Walter Herbert and Professor Thomas R.
Preston. Among the members of my supervisory committee, I acknowledge
my debt of gratitude to Professor Ants Oras and Professor Richard Hiers.
17enry Morley sees the central conflict of The Merchant in An-
tonio's standing between "the two principles cf justice and mercy, of the
Old Testa,.:ert and the Now, as Shakespeare read them" (En1glish Writers
[London, 1G93], Vol. X, "Shakespeare and His Time: Under Elizabeth," pp.
243-4). Barbara Lewalski sees in The Merchant a Biblical "confrontation"
between the Old Testament Law which "leads only to death and destruction"
and a New Testament faith, love, and mercy which not only discredits the
Law b.:t. constitutes "the fulfillment of the Law and covers all defects"
("'r I lical Allusions and Allegory in The Mercchant of Venice," Shakespeare
I.-.rbs v- XIII , 341, 343).
I am forever grateful for the financial assistance, continuous encuur
ment, personal sacrifices, and generous prayers of my confreres, the
monks of Saint Leo Abbey, Florida, my dear parents, Frank and Margaret
Cosgrove, and the many friends and relatives who have "prayed and en-
couraged me through." In particular, it is a pleasure to acknowledge
the personal interest, the beneficial criticism, and the persistent ec--
couragemcnt of Professor T. Walter Herbert who guided my dissertation
from start to finish.
iSMY'1 :.'[ Lli6 OF THE BIBLE AND THE MOTIF OF BONDAGE
The. Problem of Usury in England
Ini tI: Llr-c act of The Merchant, Scriptural allusions abound,
m,:.cl: i- Lhi, lO:Ll defense of usury. But Shylock is not the only one
vlw. uI.:s c~; ..c.i co defend his own position. The Christians of Venice
u', S : r ipcur. .iirst Shylock--much as the sixteenth-century Elizabethans
diJ ir thrLr t;u-...Ints for and against usury. Just as Shylock defends
hiF pri iccc:: .f r -y, and later the "justice" of his bond, on Old Tes-
tameirc vr-.rid, d .. -:he Christians of Venice reject usury and defend mercy
.:. ~.\''; iL' -a.c ,.ounds. And although this Scriptural dialectic is
Ia dt i riE. . of a formal Renaissance debate, it is a manner of
ar.rz q41: ;r r- x i. ar co Elizabethans who associated it with what they
.::, 1 .i:-: ,: C.;. -i ry moral problems of the day.
Ui.':Q', f:.t che Elizabethan audience, was not a remote problem of
Vc.~LIL -1: JC',ilh usurers but an immediate problem of Englishmen and
Cgi.:'; u,:, r:. ..;s E. C. Pettet notes, from 1580 to 1600, some of the
mi.z)L r @i.! :.::l._ of England were heavily indebted to merciless credi-
tcrz i-:.d :...t d. becoming more so:
i ''. 1.. i idMney owed L6,000, the Earl of Essex 122,000,
c'. _. i..i :lof Norfolk E6,000 L7,000, the Earl of Huntingdon
S2 :',i'4.0: Lihe Earl of Leicester L59,000, lord Sandys 13,100,
SF. iili .ighby L21,000, and Sir Percival Willoughby
i-, ''.". C'O..ers who were heavily in debt included the Earl
of i.::: Lord Thomas Howard, the Earl of Rutland, Lord Vaux
.: c !'-:...'-n. Lord Scrope, and Shakespeare's own patron, the
Ln-r of ..JLhanrpton, who at one time had surrendered his
estates to creditors, and 'scarce knows what course to
take to live.'l
Moreover, the usurers who advanced these large sums of money were not
Jews but thriving English tradesmen, merchants, and scriveners (like
Milton's father), who frequently obtained land and estates as security.
As Jacob Cardozo demonstrates in his comprehensive study of the contem-
porary Jew in Elizabethan drama, those few Jews who did live in London
were Baptized, conforming Christians.2
The use of Scripcure in pamphlets and sermons defending and con-
demning usury also familiarized Elizabethans with both the practice of
usury in Englann and the Scriptural defense of it. In 1572, for example,
Thorias Wilson complains not about Jewish usurers or Venetians but about
the immediate and crying problem, the iniquity of English usurers and the
interest they charged:
I do not know anyeplace in christendome, so much subject
to thys foule synne of usurie, as the whole real. of Eng-
lande ys at thys present, and hathe bene of late years.
For men of wealth are nowe wholy geeven every where all
together to idlenes, to gett their gai[a with ease, and to
lyve by lending. .... But these men do not live in any
vocation, but being the divers kno.wne apprentices in earth,
and bound to doe, as hee would have them: seeks when they
are dead to servo hym in hell, as I take it. For god say-
eth by hys prophete David, that be shall never dwell in hys
tabernacle, that hathe put out hys oeny for usury.3
E. C. Pettet, 'The Merchant of Venice and the Problem of Usury,"
Essa.sanad Stud.!les, XXXI (1945), 20.
2Jacob Lopes Cardozo, T7k- r.: r .- L -.:I._* Di .:
(Amrsterdam, 1925). Cardozo concludes that "Jews were not present in
Elizabechan and early Stewart England" (p. 330).
3Thomas Wilson, Discourbs Ujppon Usurcry 1572 (University p.L:t:.-
film, Ann Arbor, 1949), reel 403, Intrcductory Epistle, p. iiii.
The sixteenth century witnessed a continuous flow of treatises and ser-
mons which cited Old and New Testament -eachings about usury: N. Sanders's
Brief Treatise of Usurie (1558), Sir Thomas Wilson's A Discourse Uppon
Usuirip (1572), Phillippus Caesar's A General Discourse Against the Dann-
ab].: ._.:c of .l':..:r- (1578), Henry Smith's Examination of Usury (1591),
The Death of Usury,or the Distrace of Usurers (1594), M. Mosse's The
A.i.rt i.irr,..nt ,.i :, c.ci:. of Usurie (1595), and T. Bell's Speculation
,.K Li ,,* ( *''. .')
Al. ch,: i n Fl r Ltchan, then, might never encounter a Jew, much
I-: J ..iil *:iur.:, h. as well prepared to associate Shylock with an
Old T-tei,. '. aidr-.. .f siury. And when Shylock uses the Biblical story
Ji.e,;,:5. d Ljb:i L to J-f nJ usury (I.iii.66-91), when he invokes "heaven'
L[. i,: .i.-, A : iI'..i :-,', and when he calls for law and justice in the
frl i i -, ur:.: ..:I cural passages and arguments familiar to an
Eliz--.L. .L.i: n ...d..l o .'.:-hn Draper suggests that in his defense of usury
sh, l':1 i .. rc.. i> ll .'i:; r:ho kind of spacious argument which "To the
Eli;: : .r ir n ii di-t .-;auistry,"4
In "IE-. -.r..:, cl,,;i. and against this background, Shylock the
J bC, :-,-ut. L ..] .-.~.-,'.1 i: ch young aristocrat in need of a loan are
,i.: ~:.::. ,: e ;J F;L- ,li-cans. And the Scriptural allusions which they
:I.ll, c.:. c ,.L .1-r- ;- ar similar to those found in the many treatises
ar.! zcr,..-i daii- 'ith c[he controversy over usury.
j.:- U;. .rjp-.. ",iEury in The Merchant of Venice," Modern
1 '1-:.L.: '.'.' Ti 'itb-.' 44 .
The Biblical "good man" and the Usurer
A detailed analysis, now, of Act I will demonstrate how Christian
and Jew marshal Biblical allusions in their arguments over usury, theft,
justice, mercy, thrift, ownership, and God's providential blessings and
approval. In the first appearance of Shylock, Bassanio asks Shylcck for
a loan of three thousand ducats. Shylock's initial replies are clipped
and business-like. But when Bassanio tells him that "Antonio shall be
bound" for the three thousand ducats (I.iii.4), Shylock answers ambigu-
ously that "Antonio is a good man" (I.iii.ll), meaning that he is finan-
cially sound and therefore a good risk for a loan. Apparently, however,
the word eood also suggests an evaluation that is unrelated to the busi-
ness at hand, for Bassanio is irmr.diately indignant and he challenges
Shylock: "Have you heard any imputation to the contrary?" Shylock
answers with a subtle combination of Biblical and business-like language:
No, no, no, no, no: my meaning in saying he is a good man,
is to have you understand me that he is sufficient,--yet
his means are in supposition: he hath an argosy bound to Tri-
polls, another to the Indies, I understand moreover upon the
Rialto, he hath a third at Mexico, a fourth for England, and
other ventures he hath squand'red abroad,--but ships are but
boards, sailors but men, there be land-rats, and water-rats,
water-thieves, and land-thieves, (I mean pirates), and then
there is the peril of waters, winds, and rocks: the man is
notwithstanding sufficient,--three thousand ducats,--I think
I may take his bond.
Although Shylock admits here that Antonio is a "good i.-r, i
quickly shifting thoughts and images suggest more than a mer. t..n-i-n
like evaluation. His key words--good, sufficient, -: ',ir i.i. .L,-'.
abroad, and perils of waters winds and rocks--all evoke B:.i i
passages and themes which suggest that his values stand in cr ,:.l ir .r.
to those of Bassanio and Antonio. By means of these Shylock suggests
that the "good" Antonio is merely a wealthy, prodigal merchant whose
mean are providentially in jeopardy. Thus, Shylock's word good is open
to several interpretations.
;.y Il'.:!: 1 L..L' !. uin~.illing to accept the common estimation of
Antorn: "lr :-:..- ..'.r.AtAr.. the honest Antonio"5 who, in contrast with
hi[ : .:.;r, .:.-l Ci'ajL1J -i ut. LC uncalculating, self-sacrificing, and willing
to f-P hiri-..:- f ;.ir,-:.lt Al aL the disposal of his friend:
11 rut.- i-. m:r 'r. r,,y extremist means
Lit all il.:c!.'d L:. 'our occasions.
To_. a I:.-."; :-'. iz 51. :.:.'. :ees it, Antonio's generosity and willing-
. L. l- rd [.'cre c i. .:._ :n need has been a personal affront to him,
0a tl1-..:.., raica. .:. : -:,ial barrier, a financially damaging inter-
f.rn- .:, anj th.: .i L: c;ju.'- of his hatred. In his first aside, Shylock
refLr:r c thLe hrtr .. :.; "ti ancient grudge I bear him" (I.iii.42). And
later, h.rn i n, n.:o ei's-7 to be ambiguous, Shylock shouts:
Gj'-.l 1:. .:. l-.: ir ,--:ell not me of mercy--
Trii; -- .- f :-.! [1 li C lent out money gratis.
. j ..:[ 1.:;l1. Ar [r:..: deiLS that the conflict is irremediable:
H. .-,.:. CE 111 i I. reason well I know;
I oft .: l '.-r :' L -'r: ".is forfeitures
:'.r,, Li-jL I az c.i-cS made moan to me,
Ant-:. i.: i ] n:t a ''-:.-" :in tn Shylock's eyes, because Shylock has a
Sili L. :i-r.; .,:. Laudatory: "that the good Antonio, the
h-:-n.: ct .'.-. ,:i;-.-0 l.' : i; I I-~ a ticie good :-* ..' t.- :.e... nis name com-
pa-.','" (ii. ;.. 1'-1i. L-. -., also refers -: ..::-.' a "'r, good friend"
<:J 3 1 .i 1)
different system of values. As E. C. Pettet demonstrates, Shylock is
trying to replace the old-world, aristocratic, self-sacrificing "ideal-
ized relationships of friendship and mutual service" with a "cash-nexus"
system of evaluating what is "good."6
The Biblical overtones of Shylock's first speech constitute a
rather subtle argument urged against a fairly stable background of six-
teenth-century Scriptural teachings on usury. For example, the second
alphabetical table of Biblical themes appended to the Geneva Bible, 1583,
lists eighteen Biblical citations "Against Usury." Repeatedly in these
citations, the good man is the man who does not exact interest on loans
but rather lends freely to his brother in need. Psalm 15, which was read
on the fourth day of each montl by those Elizabethan.3s who attended morn-
ing prayers, asks nho will be worthy to enter the Lord's sanctuary
6E. C. Pettet, "''The Mlerchant of Venice and the Problem of Usury,"
Essays and Studies, XXXI, ]945, 29. Pettct notes that:
For a long time pamphl-ts and books denouncing moneylending
flowed on from the press, the r.ost important being Wilson's
Discourse upon iury, first published in 1572. Another attack,
worthy of note since it came out in 1595, only a year before
the probable date of The Merchant of Venice, was Miles Nosse's
Arraign!ent_ and Conviction of Use'ry, which, so the Stationers'
Company Register declared, contained 'p'toof that it [usury] is
manifestly forblidden by the Word of Cod, and 7undry' re=5-c~
alle -.: c i : ju ... .-. : i. 1h c.: .. .-J . D
cause. u. 11. Id I.-L r- r ir:L ** .:- C r h ri. i -
peci -ll ;..: .. :' 1 L .- ., : .. _h i c .:,: J r i:E L.. i: r. j
that : j. : ..,- ,' r L 'i" ', i l
According to In -. r -. : r .'" '.r.' : tr
hath now gorr.- : :r f, [ i ic
down nobili '' ,- ..r. : l-- .- p. ': ". .r .c i. :
is the hero .., . '. -: : : : l.r .I :_1
he fights f':.L ,_: ...: .: .:. : c,-' L,_ : -' :.' i- A. L. 'I C'L.
S Lo it'.'- - ... .- -. : . .i
Set Forth i-.'. r ,.., -
(verse one), and then answers:
Hee that giveth not his money upon usurie: nor taketh
reward against the innocent.
Another Biblical aspect of the "good" man is that God will repay
him for lending without interest. Thus, Psalm 112, which was read on
the twenty-third day of each month at morning prayers and also at evening
prayers on Easter Sunday, pictures the good man being blessed by God
with "Riches and plenteousnes" not because he is self-sufficient but be-
cause he is merciful and lends to the needy:
Riches and plenteousnes shal be in his house: and his
righteousness endureth for ever. . he is mercifully,
and loving, and righteous. A good man is merciful and
The Geneva Bible glosses lender with the note: "Hee sheweth what is
fruit of mercy: to land freely and not for gained, and so to measure his
doings, that he may be able to helpe where necde requireth." Thus, good,
sufficient, and usury are all words which are associated--either positive-
1: or ingatively--with the providence of God.
TI-a "good" man according to Scripture also lends what is "suffi-
c~r.-'' f..- :h; n,: ds of his brethren. Deuteronomy, chapter fifteen,
fI'iii i iatinge Clay (Cambridge, 1347), p. 311. Subsequently I will
Ltf.. cr. this edition as the Praver Book (1559). Psalm fifteen is one
of ch- first Scriptural passages used by Elizabethans in their arguments
ia.inirc -.c "i ...L : of usurie." Thomas Wilson writes in his intro-
duc.r .... L4 l: cF.i ,od sayeth by hys prophet David, that he shall
nvc-r .. i. :,- r r,.l-cirnacle that hathe put out hys mony for usury,"
r~_.--...:..- i.-....1 -.L 1572, p. iiii. And Thomas Bell quotes verses
S.r-.i 2 :'- ~~l.i-page inscription for his Soeculation of Usury,
15%'" i-, .;i -r .i r..f : ms, Ann Arbor, 1951), reel 451.
QC" --.... :al. -, !iriu. ," Praver_ Book (1559), pp. 311, 316.
assigned for evening prayers each year on February 28,10 is explicit:
If one of thy brethren among you be poore, within any of
thy gates, in the lande which the Lorde thy God giveth
thee: thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut to thine
hande from thy poor brother: But thou shalt open thine
hand unto him, and lend him sufficient for his needed which
he hath. Beware that there be not a wicked thought in thine
heart that . it grieveth thee to looke on thy poote
brother, and gives him nought, and he then crime unto the
Lorde against thee, and it be sinne unto thee. Thou shalt
give him, and let it net grieve thine heart to give unto him.
Here, the antithesis of the "good" man is the hard-hearted man who lacks
compassion and exacts interest from the needy. The Biblical image be-
longs to a recurrent pattern in the Pentateuch which describes Pharoah
as the cruel master who held the Israelites in bondage (Exodus 1:32,
7:13, 7:14, 7:22, 8:15, 8:19). At the beginning of the trial scene,
Antonio uses this san image to describe Shylock's lack of compassion:
You may as well do any thing most hard
As seek to soften that--than which what's harder?--
His Jewish heart'.
The Bible, then,pictures the good man as the man who is not hard hearted,
but lends freely what is sufficient for his brother's need. If he does
this the good man will be favored with "riches and plenteousness."
Scripture also insists that the "good" man should not seek the
reward for being good although the Lord promises a reward. ITis Scrip-
tural passage, listed under "Usury" in the concordance appended to the
Geneva Bible. 1533, and used on the fourth Sunday after Trinity as the
"The N1;c, Calendar, 1561," appended to the second e_ _:-.,
Prayer Book (1559), p. 445.
11The Prayer Book (1559), p. 112.
-.'c Ic .* '... ':.-::: doe good and lend, hoping
f : i I ..:.. ,'i. : .l b :ri.. '/our reward shal be much, and
.. '. i "- :..:; ,.: the Highest, because him self
S:- L:-.. j. i *' .... :h-~ iikinde and the evil. Be ye
Lh'. r f. -, :.: ..I1 -:i; 1i your father is merciful.
.i,: n.: 1n ., .. :';l''i ,..o be judged. eondemne not, &
.:.. :: t-. -.r,.. forgive, and you shal be forgiven.
.'.. ,! [I.il-: I..; tL. L iven to you.
I', i 'i"; 3. 1.4 Prodigality
.' ", c,: .-' .'r r....i,.. . i c.. type of man who is willing to "ooe g
.i:., i.:.. t. :..j:i, : [: ,'..ci,..l ct'.:eby," Shylock is unwilling to look upon
I.-,, i :,: ...! -.. L i..[tLi:. sense. For Shylock has replaced the
Pil-l- 1. L, -. :.:.-. F.1 j*...'-; :. g usury with an economical value system: .
H. i L _., .. r,.. i i rC .,*-.c.;1 lio is "gocd" in the vey restricted
*.:-. i:. .f L: :,- :',- ,: "- ,'fici:nt" (I.iii.15), for Antonio has aS.-
A ',,-" [. i .: .- Indies . Mexico . [and] Englar.' .
.t i: .. I -.. .'L i-' :. C rbat his Christian competitor is mor.a Ly
g: :. r ....c h I-,. r: C- from Gcd.
.A.*..,"- -i .:..-,:- '::cording to Shylock, is perilous and "j
--. :; -r L., .,., - ~ilors but men, there be land-
.. *-i[ -.. :rer-chieves, and land-thieves,
i( -..i. .'.C -"', :-r. c,-n there is the peril of waters,
. i- *.:: L;. -..- is not withstanding sufficient.
rl .1 :'-r.: ]-.:. .. L,. :;u.ficiency and to the perils of mnerch.-nt
c.' LL. .i'.: c '. St. Paul's Se'cond Letter tu the Corin-
r'-i : C -.-. ... .J ac evening prayers on February eight and
i..- ,:: h: -'. 1'. fr : n. L-. fth Sunday after Trinity," expli s :
S '-- i: . r, 1: .-.," PrZye Book (1559), p. 445 and "Th-
.Y i .: :..-, ." _. 1: ) p 149.
Not that we are sufficient of our selves, to think any
thing, as of our selves: but our sufficiencie is of God.13
Chapter eleven, which Elizabethans listened to every Sexagesima Sunday,14
In journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of rob-
bers, in perils of mine own nation, in perils among the
heathen, in perils in the citie, in perils in the wilder-
nesse, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren.
(II Cor. 11:26)
Thus, only after Shylock has revaluated this "good" Antonio, judged his
sufficiency against a background of Biblical allusions, and concluded
that his present sufficiency does not come from God but is "in supposi-
tion" and therefore subject to the perilous circumstances and likely mis-
haps swayedd and fashioned by the hand of heaven,"'5 is he willing to ven-
ture: "I think I may take his bond" (I.iii.24). If Antonio's sufficiency
is supposed to come from Cod, reasons Shylock, then God will provide for
It is Shylock's belief, however, that heaven will favor him with
Antonio's forfeiture, for this Christian is not his brother in need but
the prodigal brother, "the fool that lent out money gratis.",.6 As
3Bishops' Bible, 2 Cor. 3:15. The Prayer Bnok (1559) gives the
following translation for the twelfth Sunday after Tririt ".-i tl a.
we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing, as :.. ;.r~il'..; buL
if we be able unto anything, the sama cometh of God," p. 1 9.
14"The Epistle" for Sexagesina Sunday, Prayer .i.:i '-, i.p.
15Sixty lires later Antonio rejects Shylock's j..-. : Li :. .:
usury on the grounds chat it is not a godly venturee" "i. 'd -d f --- d
by the hand of heaven" (I.iii.86-90).
T16ihe i rJi- III.iii.2. When Shylock calls r..:-.r :. '.., h:
would very likely stir up in an Elizabethan audience ''-. .--.- .:,-: t crE'.
following New Testansr.cn words of Jesus:
YT '- -.. hoard that it was said unto them of :.1d ['-
Ir.:-j '- il not b-il. whosoever kiileth shall be -.n _-':ct
FicI,.,,:.,d i I b ..[- .. '- pa 1 .- :. .,: p-r '- i :al : who received
hi irnj i L r. : r.r :b'o' J, : r.' s u n t J i- i. 1 C c us'IS living "is
the ,,r.:.r ,I: ..' 0I ... c ,:. -, F l of rI i C.:. : i. the plays.'17
ih.c :l ..i.i i 1. (1 ..: ; r: .:..J ch I p : .' "iri- rcodigall sonn'."
a f.: l .:
a l c. r'1 i rh- L, ,..' l: F.rtL ..r. of the
itb. ai.c: c l-. c :. in. b l.n ;I -[, J I, d I .id.- unto
LIch, I, li.i j .,d n:i c -a-., u.' :. .:. r, the
yr'..' i:.r...- lh d -:_ t.id 1 Ll f. h- 1 h LV, n e.r, he
,.:...t A ,:.jL .' irr f rr : rL e r ... :1,:2 wasted
r. i i c'r. f. cr r .in' o.. ,. i F:..
S l .. 1 3 1 )
TIi F:- 'V ]- C ..I [.C .-'JL .1 L;- .-. L i:. :u- ii i.':e background c
7I .- I .:.- ai c- I. i -. i., i A l -' tc i 'the first t n,.
h. !1: .- i... .. [ _r ,,'. :
I :..'r d .:. I. I c : ; J ,
T .- : r .. :--L..r ,. l'.- l. l',. uli T o .'
I ,',t It ,"n f.:.l i. -, ,- fr i Ls c L -._,
[.*r 1 c n .- f j[.:n
It- : J I 11 *. C :. J--; .C,-. -.' g. rl .
I..:. r ; ,. : -, ,.
( 1 . . _- i .. .
of jul :'.: .. 2..: I -.: :" : : h .:.. =..-: is
.0r. '.-. '. : '. .... ., danger
of ju -, .:nr : .i u .' .,; : c,
.: l-, i [ in L :f :. .- L. : ..:. o ever
I- L hn hi.., : -1, '1 t-: ir J.n..-1 I 1l L .
(I, c. : 1- 2 ,
I t.hL F -' .: J Z' Cl-.. : I r : : : '. n .' i tcer Trjinity
( L .:_'I. 1 i .* . 1 . -,: ..i r .' ._* ', the diff rerap -
b .i :. : .; ', : J :' i r ti r .i F . u' -" .'L Lur' g be-ween 3b
setr cI f LA: I-. ., Q .:. . ., .ve beard" th-
chla ,. ': ,.. L r '.i..'.l : .' .' 1" I say" th it f':
Chri;[ : : t, c: .. :r .- 1 forbiderM .
I i r .Vi i- Shylock a '.,..
I ..,..,. l ,::. ,: _' .1 a .: ., p 277 .
Here Shylock's tone of reprobation is unmistakable as he contrasts his
own thrifty concern for his keys and for his house with the riotous liv-
ing of the "prodigal Christians.," who, as he sees it, flatter him by in-
viting him to supper in hopes of getting good terms for their loan. Shy-
lock adds that he does not want even the sound of the riotous, feasting,
prodigal "Christian fools" to violate his "sober house" by entering
through his "house's ears":
What are there masques? Hear you me, Jessica,
Lock up my doors, and when you hear the drum
And the vile squealing of the wry-neck's fife
Clamber not you up to the casenr;cts then
Nor thrust your head into the public street
To gaze on Christian fools with varnish'd faces:
But stop my house's ears, I mean mny casements,
Let not the sound of shal1cw fopp'ry enter
My sober house.
For Shylock lending money gratis is equivalent to prodigality.
When Salcrio asks, "tell us, do you hear whether Antonio have had any
loss at sea or no?". Shylock answers by alluding to the parable of the
There I have another bad match, a bankrupt, a prodigal,
who dare scarce show his head on the Rialto, a beggar
that was us'd to come so smug upon the mart: let him
look to his bond. he was wont to call me usurer,
let him look to his bond! he was wont to lend money
for a Christian cur'sy, let him look to his bond!
Clearly, here, Shylock's implication is that Antonio is a "prodigal" and
a "bankrupt" because he lends for "Christian cur'sy" (courtesy, g.r..::-
ity, friendship, and charity), and that he the usurer is thrifty.
Bassanio is a self-acknowledged example of a prodigal. For ir
coming to Antonio he is willing to shot another arrow over the h:.-i L':
find the one ha has already lost even while acknowledging:
'Tis not unknown to you Antonio
How much I have disabled mine estate,
Wherein my time (something too prodigal)
Hath left me gag'd.
Antonio also is intentionally prodigal with his love, for he is willing
to "be rack'd even to the uttermost" (I.ii.181) for his prodigal "kins-
man" (I.i.57). And again, the revelers find themselves without their
masque simply because they are too careless to make adequate prepara-
Lor. Nay, we will slink away in supper-time
Disguise us at my lodging, and return
All in an hour.
Gra. We have not made good preparation.
Sal. We have not spoke us yet of torch-bearers,--
Sol. 'Tis vile unless it may be quaintly ordered:
And better in my mind not undertook.
Even in his first description of Antonio's mercantile resources,
Shylock alludes to Antonio's prodigality: "other ventures he hath
squand'red abroad." Here the words squand'red abroad have been rightly
but inadequately &lossed as "scattered" and "dispersed."8 For Shake-
speare's only other use of squander is in opposition to wisdom and thrift.
In As You Like Tt Jaques, envious of the wise fool's freedom and impunity
"1.: tl)w on whom I please," tells Duke Senior:
Invest me in my motley; give me leave
To speak my mind, and I will through and through
Cleanse the foul body of the infected world.
18See A New Varioriru Edition of Shakespeare: The Merchant of
_. c:^, ed. Horace Howard Furness (Philadelphia, 1888), p. 35n. In the
icLIr I will refer to this edition as the Furness Variorum.
According to Jacques,
The wise man's folly is anatomized
Even by the squandering glances of the fool.
Thus, claims Jacques, if those claiming to be wise do not gather up the
valuable corrections of the wise fool, their lack of thrift is worse than
that of the fool who then squanders his glances anatomizing the folly of
the seeming wise man. In view of this usage and Shylock's two specific
allusions to the parable of the prodigal, then, squ.nd'red abroad is a
disparaging description of Antonio's hazardous sufficiency.
Thus, in Shylock's view, Bassanio, Antonio, and the Christians of
Venice are prodigals and not brothers-in-need to whom the Old Testament
obliges him to lend freely. And, as he sees it, the sufficiency of
these prodigals is perilous not only because "there be . water-thieves,
and land thieves" but because they are satisfied with uncalculating cour-
tesy, spend-thrift rioting, and haphazard planning. Shylock fully ex-
pects heaven to bless him with the forfeited bond of these prodigals.
Friendship with Gentiles
Critics have long recognized love and friendship as important
motifs in The Merchant. 1 Antonio comes to the assistance .:.f his d.l.A
friend Bassanio, insisting that even his life is not too m.-:h : .:cr i-
fice for a friend (I.i.138 and II.ii.314-320). And when P.:a:. ;-:i
Bassanio if it is his "dear friend that is thus in trouble"' (III i ?'i
See the "Introduction" to the irls',.._ .:".-. pp. :.1!.-:-L.'
ilh. i-..a r..:c frie-r?. c; .: Eh: .ir 1 st man,
lh'i h,- L--: i-' It rJ ui. .r* Il spirit
in T..: n : rc j '. i, ii .:'m
T h ia n i -t '. r r' '[. .: .: : r s
Thir, r ar I.I L J. L j i il. i ii i L l .
E,.-,:n P.:C-cia, L,.i[*r t *'l' I :'L : E; Chi- marriage bed, shows deference
to c ,. r,.:,l i. t .:n l : : r f r. l ', 1
[. fi:. r i I i, 1 -. d 1 -:ri .: r
SEhall W1.- : i 1ir chrol- -i is ar i-:.'s fault
Firi., :. g -. c' o E.:- i.urch,. ar.j ,:all me wife,
A;,,,, 1.1...i, :' : '-, .- c :- .:..,r fr ien d :
:r -r r r !! :, 1: b" Por r '. side
U ih i .... ..
Or,- i.:t :-L il- r in.. l ,. i:.t however, is the conflict between
I-rJinn : r.:'.:" -r:L. : : l ..i .' : Ir.j ..' .irg money for interest to strangers.
E .:. r. ..- 1. t.r. r. I r .r : -. n ryman, Tubal:
Of .11 I -r ..' :" r..i c : 1. .. of that?
Ti.k .. :. ....- i Lh :. ;L r iEr '..
Villa Fu C.-. -'- n'-.
.' L 1I,[..-': i.L ir : r, li i: c I i Jng freely tc the Cthiisti.ns of
V r :, if.:- 1- .; 0 :L ,a :-': r' -- :1'. .nds. Indignantly he recognizes
h ,: L L a. cr ,ir.:', : l r, iA J 1 : -ish usurer amid hostile credi-
,'- r ,: cc ur -,' .: cni : .deo-Christian confIict over
uiur ..J. '.' .: ; Ni :; 'r c c -r :conflict between Jew and Chris-
-.An i chl-i. ,Fc..'-I. L- -.. 1- J I 1ii :.rical causes wnich were eco-
ro;' : 1 t -.f .: L 1 r r.. '.h r.t l owsky writes:
TI L- i'. i ';i-.:. i '- .i_ ,- usury reflects the simple
.*,::. :... i -. r i :i.ul .r :. .: 1Ly where loans were needed
C: r....'-i L'..: r. li f ~i ments of distress (e.g.
Ii lo, :ir,: *:. c: : -. -lopmu ent of a roney economy,
I::-..-: cr- ri- L.r.,',, '. .I : :..L rohibitions became eco-
r.0--i:L :' -t :. L. i, -i ...:rt.' morally irre .1 "r.c. Unable
c:. i.S' aL L j .a.: 1. 1 ii i..hibition, Jewish practice
Signior Antonio, many a time and oft
In the Rialto you have rated me
About my moneys and my usances:
Well then, it now appears you need my help! .
'Shylock, we would have moneys,' you say so:
You that did void your rheum upon my beard,
And foot me as you spurn a stranger cur
Over your threshold.
Nor do Antonio and Bassanio look upon Shylock as a friend but as a stranger
and an enemy who exacts interest without mercy. Bassanio admits to Portia:
"I have engaged myself to a dear friend, Engaged my friend to his mere
enemy" (III.ii.260-61). And Antonio demands that Shylock lend the three
thousand ducats "to thine enemy," "for when did friendship take A breed
fcr barren metal of his friend?" (I.iii.128-30)
Again, this distinction in The Marchgnt between leading to friends
and lending to strangers has a Biblical basis. For both Jewish law21 and
the Old Testament make such a distinction between lending to aliens and
lending to countrymen. The lesson from Deuteronomy thich was assigned for
morning prayers on March 23,22 reads:
evolved--against long resistance--the legal fiction known as
better iska by which a loan is contracted in the form of a
partnership. Although this procedure is considered legitimate
for business transactions and investments, loans to a fellow
man in need should be free of interest (Gemilut Hesed). The
Catholic Church in the Middle Ages enforced a similar prohibi-
tion between Christians, and hence the Jews, being outside
Christian society and its laws, when debarred from other oc-
cupations, were often forced into the role of moneylenders
The Encyclopcdia of the Jewish Relglion, ed. R, J. Zwi Werblowsky (New
York, 1965), p. 394.
21Herbert Loewe notes that according to .-r.. r, 2. '-'-
usury or neshek "is prohibited between Jew i'.' 7-.. L c ril': '-.! : '- '1 :i
by a Jew to a foreigner." But according tc L .-3c .o:..:.h -r.r
and interest (tarbi. and rmarbit) "are forbiL ..:-, .:. '.: u:i .1: 1.0 .".
A Rabbinic Anthology (New York, 1960), p. 45U.
22Index & Calendarium," Prayer Book (155' 3 ?.
Thou shalt not hurt thy brother by usurie of money, nor
by usurie of corne, nor by usurie of any thing that he
may be hurt withall. Unto a stranger thou nayest lend
upon usurie, but not unto thy brother: that the Lord
thy God may blesse thee in all that thou settest thine
hand to, in the land whither thou goest to possesse it.
The Bishops' Bible observes that this double standard existed for Jews in
the Old Testament because they had not yet become kind-hearted and open
to disinterested generosity: "Because they were a hard hearted people,
therefore was this libertie given them for a time."23
In his conversation with Bassanio in The Merchant, Shylock has
1; t. - . -'::'lr *:. i-;,l which indicate that the "good Antonio"
i: n:L I',iL tr.n: u a :fci:t who is ruining him and his business, a
pr.:.I .:1 : ... I.:. : .: nlt..r- . squand'red abroad," and a gentile
h. ~. "'.fI i:i .r. .J:.. n .L i: L". as God's providential reward but is in
[ r 1 --_ ':-.,: .: :__c .." r :in I:., however, seems to be impressed with
orl i l :,. f:.- r. .,f -h ,I.: ". . the man is notwithstanding
: ffL "-.; t- c.rt - -.' ., 1 .i. :c: ,c--I think I may take his bond" (I. iii.
3--). : E..'-:.i ;-- p .i c:r.:, feeling gracious--invites Shylock to
mil's r,.: f1 .1 :r .: .r-. c r fi.r l.ie loan tonight, "If it please you to
dine ici j-" i. i..;, i Il. -c however, answers with a tirade of Bib-
1 it K ,:. .: or . ,;:,. :
o, ::, -r..ll :-.r r.: -t of the habitation which your
[ '-' ch r !. r- .c :u-ared the devil into: I will buy
*I .:-, :.-: i tr- ': talk with you, walk with you,
arj o f'! -.I i will not eat with you, drink with
..-: c- n, i ,_:.. .,' ":. : .
'1. 1._ ''-.. F. i:l !., this may be an aside, for as Dover
i! L ,:.n r:L.:. i .'I.. ':.- !:: the Jew to reveal his hate openly at
/Here, Shylock's Biblical diction is again indicative of his religious,
racial, and social contempt for Bassanio, Antonio, and the Christians
of Venice. Even his non-Biblical diction is indicative of his scorn,
for pork is represented not as a roasted pig or as food but as a thing,
a "habitation" suitable for the devil to live in.
According to the Mosaic law and Talmudic tradition, the Lord
directed Israelites to dissociate themselves from gentiles socially so
that they would not be influenced by the idolatrous and unclean prac-
tices of foreigners. Chapter twenty of Leviticus, read at evening
prayers on February 11,25 commands the Israelites:
Ye shall not wake in the maners of this nation,
Which I cast out before you: for they committed
all these things, and therefore I abhore them . .
And therefore shall ye put difference between
cleane beasts and uncleane. . Therefore shall
ye be holy unto me: for I the Lorde am holy, and have
severed you from other nations, that ye should be mine.
Shylock's reference to pork is based on an explicit dietary prohibition
in Deuteronomy, read at evening prayers on March fourth:2
Thou shalt eate no manner of abomination . .
And also the swine, though he divideth the hoofe,
yet he cheweth not cud, therefore is ha uncleane
unto you: ye shall not eate of che flesh of such.
this stage," The Works of Shakcseare, ed. Arthur Ouiller-Couch and
John Dover Wilson (Cambridge, England, 1953). Subsequently, I refer
to this adirion as the N.C.S. Shylock, however, has already given
Bassanio many subtle indications of his contempt, and later in. cl;
same scene his hatred is undisguised when he talks to Anto-,i. i
25"The New Christian Calendar, 1561," Prayer Look (155l'i.p..-3.
26rayeri Booc (1559), p. 48.
Thus, Shylock recognizes the invitation to dine with Antonio as an in-
plicit invitation to disregard the traditional Jewish law regarding
pork. The Elizabethan audience would also recognize the Biblical over-
tones of Shylock's contempt and would be familiar with this prohibition
of pork because of their readings from the Old Testament and the litur-
gy of the Prayer Book.
Besides his indignation about the dietary law, Shylock also shows
contempt in his reference to the pork which Jesus "conjured the devil
into." The Biblical passage that Shylock here alludes to is recorded
in all three synoptic Gospels: Matthew, 8:28-34; Mark, 5:1-17; and
Luke, 8:26-37. Elizabethans would be familiar with the Matthean ac-
.:.r.c -ir:.c ,' ::.. r--; puLli-.! to them on the fourth Sunday after the
Epi n in -ra...r L **:.1 ; in of this Gospel reads:
j ..lr. l,: .:i: : -.r-,. t.- Lie other side into the country of
Lh-: '.r- .. ..re i[. with hir .ii. possessed of devils,
ir.ili ~ .- *:'L :.' t .. ;i.-ves, and were out of measure fierce,
:. Lha .: r :.. i._ri. : :. y that way. And behold, they cried
i.: ,,U ..: 0 j j1j, Ecr.... Son of God, what have we to do with
Lt:..: re cE-:' :.:--: hicler to torment us before the time?
L. .. Lh-te i .:a.. '.. off from them a herd of swine,
fL: ii-. I.. d.: .J ': sought him, saying: If thou cast
,: ,"' '. a,.' ."-, r 1.1 :. ;-': into the herd of swine. And he said
ur.'::. L'-- '. '. iu .s'j: nThen went they out, and departed
i.L.: L 1.,j ,.f . And behold, the whole herd of swine
*. ,:.tt rr I h.~d!'- E C:-:. the sea, and perished in the
r.p -:nLl'.', 1; :.:r.;i. : i'is casting of the devil into the swine
j t'- a;r-:L Pr,:-phL : -.:i acknowledgment of the traditional pro-
hinici-LrI r.. L pcorL. ';r i te is contemptuous because Christians
ear. Ll-.. C : ..:-i ..L -.. rCie r : c-n "prophet" despised when he "conjured
the devil into" it. As Shylock sees it, Bassanio and the Christians
acknowledge neither the Old Testament prohibition, a Jew's traditional
contempt for swine, the contempt Jesus had for pork, nor the fact that
their "prophet" was a Jew.
Although the word prophet is not generally a derogatory word when
used in reference to Jesus,28 Shylock seems to be suggesting that Jesus
is merely one of the many prophets who happened to be a conjurer of
devils. Moreover, for him, this prophet is not "my" or "our" prophet
but "your" prophet. He is neither a major prophet like Isaiah, Jeremiah,
or Ezekiel, nor a minor prophet like Amos, iecah, Habakkuk, or Malachi,
but an unnamed "Nazarite." The distinction between Nazarite and Naza-
rene29 would not indicate Shylock's contempt since Jesus is erlled a
"Nazarite" in all of the English translations before the King James ver-
sion in 1611.30 But Shylock's contemptuous use of the word is accurate,
28Thus, Jesus refers to himself as a prophet: "And when he came
into his owne country, he taught them in their Synagogue. . And they
were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A Prophet is not without
honour, save in his owne country" (Matthew 13:57).
29Furness notes that "The use of this word instead of Nazarene is
at first sight puzzling. . Samson was a Nazarite, and is always cor-
rectly so called by Milton in his Samson Agonistes. And John the Baptist
was a Nazarite. Shylock must have known perfectly well that the Prophet
who conjured the devil into the swine was not a Nazarite, but a Nazaraee"
(Furness Variorum, 36n). By Nazarite Shylock means a person from Naza-
reth. But the primary meaning of Nazarite in the Old Testament (Amos
2:11; Judges 13:3, 7; 16:17; Numbers 6:1-27; 1 Maccabees 3:49-53) is that
of one consecrated to God by spec 'il .:-: r.. *drLr.l -.- i.-:. ':* i .- -c -
hair uncut, to avoid contact with rte .j.:.d, ..: r. ,:. .:iL [ ..i. r.i.:.: -:.
See Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Jan.n: H .,in- s. r:. '- b., -.e i:L. C
Grant and H. H. Rowley (aNw York, 196I?) p. r9.i
30The phrase, "He shall be c-ll- 1; ': i.. ( 2 2 3 :, -
pears in Tyndale's version (1534), ; i: i .:.-li.j i '! :' ., .-. ,i.- '
(1537), Tavernar's (1539), Cranmer'i i-53 '. ti- -__ 1 :' ,.-..:
the Geneva Bible (1587),and the I ..i 1.- __. : : ::i. i *:, .
Furness Varicrum, 36n.
for simply being an inhabitant of the insignificant town of Nazareth
carries Biblical overtones of contempt. The clearest example of this is
in the Gospel according to St. John:
Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, ;We have
found him of home Moses in the lawe and the Prophets
did write, Jesus of Nazareth the sonne of Joseph. And
Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come
out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
th.2 Ir L. ; ch : ",J.':-' i '' t -.:- ",c.:.-. ::.-.- Crc-. C I ..- i: --1..- ," ',il!
"I n .rdb. l: t side l .. chL-.ir .: 'l t .. t. .i b .
h r,,_ hI .: L -n i r .: r .,, i h l ." '
i,,i r, 1 .- '. I,.-i. -a,- "I ,ill r L .: E "E : hC l i. ir k h ,C.u, r*.
p , ..LCI .L," (I tl i .3'., hi .. ",- .1.1 t. t ;' : C,:. rL [E i ', i_-cIr c : --
tr-~c ~t r .d_ l. tur dal c :. 'li : 1 ?.::- Ic I:. -ht.: h- ;' . . ..'
c.-, c -.: -=c t L n 5t I-. .:.. '- 2 Ec-J l.. 1 3 "i l ,;.- i -,. "I'l
it -. fr'.c.r, c -.. Jrd ,-..l <1 i ..1-. -'.'1, *'.I: hr ;'c '1. Ch, f t C -:. h.- [i-. I-
t ..i. c.r.r, .-. S h:. I..,-r i.i : .I.. .~_ L n .-' i"
S C.- :I i- :- '.-:_2 1i,. t', .- h : 1..i i--,L I- : ti i 3, .i -i
.1 r- r -. ._r r l r -.. C-.* I'.E cr L c, - I r ,
' -, ,L. .: i :.'. .-.- r' [, L r:.r -, ,7 :-- ) L. ,'.-- : If [ ".'t i-:'
pr. L. i .- : -h'L " -_r 1F, :- ..r r C \L: ,, - 7.-L -
p ',-i >- .: r -,di -. .'i."-1 .r- rC.r : ,., i. :tl - r E '- .
r a ^_ ..; >_,_ *5
again at evening prayers on the seventeenth day of February,3 reads as
When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the lande
whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many
nations before thee . make no covenant with them, nor
have any compassion on them. Thou shalt make no marriages
with them. . Ye shall overthrow their altars, and
break done their pillars, and cut done their groves,
and burne their graven images with fire. For thou art an
holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lorde thy God hath
chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all
nations that are upon the earth.
Originally, this law of separation from gentiles (Hukkat Ha-Hoyin)33
extended to the seven Canaanite nations; but as the Jews dispersed to
other nations, Rabbinic interpretations extended the ban to include all
non-Jewish peoples and their morally "unclean" practices.
The Talmudic interpretation of the Old Testament is filled with
prohibitions against unclepn foods, and in some cases the law was so
stringent that eating with gentiles was forbidden even when it did not
infringe on the dietary laws. For example, the Mishna, Abodah Zarah ex-
plains simply "That the cooked foods of heathens are prohibited" by Deu-
32"The New Calendar, 1561," Prayer Book (1559), pp. 437, 445.
33"Statute of the Gentile." See "Gentiles" in The Encyclopedia
of the Jewish Religion, ed. R. J. Zwi Werblowsky, p. 155; and "Assimila-
tion," p. 46. The Talmudic tract Avodah Zarah (on idol worship) in the
Mishnah order of Nezikin specifically regulates the religious, social,
and commercial intercourse between Jews and heathens. But as Werblowsky
notes: "many authorities classified Christianity as idolatry (because
of its doctrines of the incarnation and the eucharist, and its use of
images)," (p. 198). Even the Hebrew word for nation, which designated
any nation in the Bible including Israel, eventually "came to mean the
non-Jewish nations in general and finally a member of any such nation,
i.e., the non-Jew" (p. 162).
R. Hiyya b. Abba said in the name of R. Johanan: Scripture
states, Thou shalt sell me food for money that I may eat
and give me water for money that I may drink. A comparison
is to be drawn with water--as only water which has undergone
no change [is permitted to Jews] so also must the food have
undergone no change [at the hand of heathens] . .
R. Assi said in the name of Rab: Small fish when salted
[by heathens] do not come within [the law of what is prohibited].
. If, however, a heathen made them into a pie of fish-hash
it is prohibited. This is obvious' . .
1.. L-r.:i.. iiJ 11 l: -. -c .:.f i I : If a heathen set fire
c.:* ui-. i .. .r..-:. r : ...J, .11! Cli f[r. .:i..c- 1 1...custs found in the
ur: L Tar-.J r .i : :h i .- ji :c. i- this to be understood?
S L [Lh. EcruL r. n i" ci .rLji l. b.Eause he could not dis-
tin ',,i h btc. .-:r Ch ;i c ,- ;iij ur i ..r :[.ecies, and the incident
:CLLL211. h .-i-l n-d iil li h .L,-,i 1 -
Drinl i-. i ir.: I't r.rL i. r- cr' forbidden because wine
j-.,i c.loi:.c i- .. :.L.L..! i i[ ci i.l..l -cr. r i .il3s of heathens. The
j 3 i. ,_.j r.; i.J. :
C-:,-' rj. L.. ,. :.' ,~j,.cc [cl..- i,:. L- tion of] wine?--
f':4-.-: L- .tLL.-. -. ...' FI1:-. c -, :: r _.Lur 1 verse which says,
i;h.:. ,'.J it ch.- fjr :, hiLt i j.-L t ; ,L andr drank the wine
:f cr.lr ir -:.-i .. r i 1 .L'-,' 3 .:... .-s [heathens' sacri-
f i i f.rL.'i '-r .-E :e it L i .- c. fit, so also their wine
i- .:.r L.dJ- ~_ c -" o
Vb'>: r L.bl 1 LIi; I flJ Z rJi.J ,:,.-
'.: ri-; i.~e : L,: i .i.r L0-C ,. E'-.- .c i'[ine] and idolatrous
i LI-l. 3 Lr r -i.:.it i C : L.. I j b.t ., r.forced against par-
L. l .ik if :.i.: .pr-: ,: .1 1., Cf r,- l ( ,=ein nesekh); when the
ori ; i;:. r.. :.:-.- [.ii c.iL .:..:.:le~. cI l- "'- ibition w-as maintained
-.T .i -. r:i. c.rd.it c.:. pt' r- :., -. iality--leading to
Lrt ii .crr ti ---L c... .. .= Ir. 1 r.c' ,_n 36
li~ .i LI. r..J L .:.i" Kh 1 ..!.' tn j ',r ..t r i .._ ng a Christian and Shy-
lo l'.'. .:: r f -.J i i.. h.r. i r L ",i': d-i. hteri 0 my ducats'"
3 'T F I 1... .- :.u. .. '. L i' i. Epstein (London, 1935),
A'L-!.:. .- 'b -' -.. I .'-.. 11: ..-,. ees in brackets are those
,: rf -, 'F - 1 d ',r :. r .
3 i. L :2. 1. -,. _i.-.-- .'_"L. r *'b, p. 147.
'-1. Er-.. Ci:c 1. J3l -:'. I_ l p. 403.
(II.viii.15), are more understandable, then, in the light of the Old
Testament and Talmudic prohibitions and safeguards against marrying
gentiles. Moreover, the Pentateuch, in the name of God, explicitly re-
inforces these prohibitions with material rewards and punishments. The
Book of Joshua, read at evening prayers on the first Sunday after Trin-
Behold, I have decided unto you by lot, these nations
that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes .
Be ye therefore of good courage, that ye keep & do all
that is written in the booke of the lawe of Moses, that
ye bowe not aside therefrom, to the right hand, nor to
the left. Neither companies with these nations, that is,
with them that are left with you, neither make mention of
the name of their goddes, nor cause to sweare by them,
neither serve them, nor howe your selves unto them ..
Els, if ye goe back. . and shal meke marriages with them,
and goe in unto them. and they to you: Be ye sure that the
Lorde your God will no more cast out all these nations from
before you: but they shal be snares and trapped unto you,
and scourges in your sides, and tr.oties in your eyes, until
(Joshua 23:4, 6-7, 12-13)
Shylock's apprehensions about pork, eating and drinking with gentiles,
praying with them, and marrying a gentile are, then, supported by Tal-
mudic tradition; but they are also thoughts that an audience of Chris-
tians would recognize and associate with a Jew because of their readings
from the Old Testament.
Our Sacred Nation and the Fawning Publican
Shylock's contempt for Christians is also based on his beli,
that God favors him as a chosen descendent of a sacred nation, wbhel -
Antonio resembles a fawning publican. 1hnen Shylock is about to I;.-c
3"Tihe New Calendar, 1561," Prayer Book (1559), p. 314.
Antonio on the stage for the first time, his true feelings about Antonio
are undisguised as he addresses the audience in an aside:
How like a fawning publican he looks'.
I hate him for he is a Christian:
But more, for that in low simplicity
He lends out money gratis, and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice.
If I can catch him once upon the hip,
I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.
He hates our sacred nation, and he rails
(Even there where merchants most do congregate)
On me, my bargains, and my well-won thrift,
Which he calls interest: cursed be my tribe
If I forgive him.
AS .',, c1.' !.:cl-' 1i,'ir reflects a highly emotional montage of scrip-
cirs! rli :,-*, L'.:L:|. .nd economic images and allusions. Economi-
*.. a1,I. cI' l: la rli-c Antonio has been destroying his market by
I-.-,~*ii. ri.:-r. "nc:t" L ,r'J bringing down the "rate of usarce." He has
AlL c..r, I l .. ., LI.: -rospective clients by berating his "bargains"
ar, .'-11-.:--..d "rIhit-fc" Li, the Rialto. The Scriptural, religious, and
ca.:'l :-pcc .f hL Li'-': aside are inade up of the following words and
'phLaiU -.v .' ':', I hate him ._ a Christian, low simg_1icitv,
:..._d f.t. -.r.:'_., ,,. our sacred nation, thrift, and cursed be my
r i t. .- ; f T f '- -
i're.- Sr ,'i i:- .-c. co "our sacred nation" he is alluding to his
:pci! : i..1r-i :. ,:... r:'. Ldential blessings and to the Old Testament
" :.*,..!tr," cr pr-:.-.i:, :'v.n to Abraham and his descendants. In the
Li'.l LII. I :1 i.L .: *:-Iled a holy people because God singled out
.It rh:.m a:- th :ch- : i .ny nations" (Genesis 17:4). 1eo promised to
u'_ l-hIi'. ,"' i .- ,.d ._ id .. numeiorcus and powerful:
I i .L-r I'..- r,-, seede as the starres of heaven,
ar., -". ib.: :-r,' -..'. i is upon the sea side, and rhy
seede shall possess the gates of his enemies.
And he will give them the land of the Canaanite nations for their in-
Behold, I have divided unto you by lot, these nations
that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes.
Although scripture promises only the land of Canaan, "Jee'ish theology
had explained this promise as containing an assurance of God that his
elect people would have world dominion in the Ilessianic end-time."38
Thus, in the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, Saint Paul
refers to "the promise" given to "our father Abraham" "that he should be
the heire of the world" (Romans 4:12-13).
Shylock, ho'evel, looks upon the promise as his claim to material
blessings to be received in this life, in Venice, and through his business
of usury. For when he thinks of his tribe and his sacred nation, he im-
mediately thinks of his rate of usance and the ancient grudge he bears
for one who rails on his bargains and well won thrift. Here Shylock is
making the kind of logical connection that is often done in Old Testament
descriptions of the traffic between Jew and Gentile. Much of his hope
for material blessings and financial success is epitomized by Deuteronomy,
read at evening prayers on February twenty-eighth:3
For the Lorde thy God hath blessed thee, as he hath
promised thee, and thou shalt lend unto many nations,
but thou thy selfe shalt not borowe: and thou shalt
reigne over many nations, and they shall not reigne o 'r
eA Theological Word Book of the Bible. ed. Alan RichC'i.l ii,: d
York, 1955), p. 177.
9"The New Calendar, 1561," PraverBook (1559), p. 445.
Shylock's references to "our sacred nation," "my tribe," "Father
Abram" (I.iii.156), and "this Jacob from our holy Abram" (I.iii.67),
then, imply his personal ambition and his tribal expectations of success
over Antonio and the Christians. Domination over Antonio is the fulfill-
-rnr of the promise given to "Father Abram" and "our sacred nation":
. thou shalt lend unto many nations . thou shalt reigne over
many nations, and they shall not reigne over thee." Shylock expects
material blessings from God through usury.
l,,! .:.,: . ..: L; .'.- .:.ri i "1.:.. :- r.. 1i ..:.ty" is the deceitful
rUI: .:.f "fe .0 ubl'i.:j," L.I.:. V: i c r; .:.rjl ;, trying to ruin him,
K -is bu- c-, ar-, -i. :-' L;. d r,. ;,:.- In "1.-'i, simplicity" Antonio
i.E- tl *.--.if ;:' :.r r!I C .cl.*r I; i r C ..L 11. :ind readily accept his
I.:5~c [- ; l tcl L h ...j r ,-.- J:- h, :.j .. -rd loves them. But ac-
cu.ll :I n c.ri, .' "i:... i --. -: c'- ." :i di. s'' i J hatred, claims Shylock,
f,:r "i.m Fat I :c -i J .-i; c:r." =- j ,.il. .i :.r-.. ,oratis in order to bring
,,., -i Ulr. r.,r. ,-i ,, ',- it -r i. :- ..
S r icri: '' -. i. Li.J ;, L. 1-.' "fawning publican" with
f., f.1r :..-i 1. F-u, -:_ ': :-r. . 17 27n and 38n; also,
I-' ," Ick. ,'.._. l: l l . : .: CC L E- ,
*ed Lu i'- "fi.- i:" -c I 'rers nicht den
!, ;' d .- .L i 'i .c L '. iet. Eine Demuthi-
4..,-i 7 .u-' c'.u .r. v: .;. l c. ,i, i .:rt der sich an
rr 7 .- l -i d .., .3 L tu e : Gott sei mir
~' '' H c n .' T i ._ ; E ~ r' c .. begreift Shylock--
.i j r . u c- rh. :-- LL . '. .n diesel Standpunkte
c, ; c r. r I .: c I .:.,: -,.. '. rs e bettelnde Zaol ner
(lir L ,1 1 '-l- c "fr'-.i'. F b! i.': r, hbumi'les himself be-
,:. r..:.c .. i. Ni-.c;.: 1.: .'. : .:.-n the Mosaic law
ic..:- I c .' u-: -.J .- 'c e d .: ,-trition before God.
i.:i. di i- .. i :-f i- c.. ;1 Ir.- -.i fawning on God and
b. '" ..r. r r. : ." i ..>r", r .-, .: t ,-, lock .]
'4 II' I it L
the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican because the publican humbled
And the Publicane standing a farre off, would not lift
up his eyes to heaven: but smote upon his breast, saying,
God be mercifully to me a sinner.
It is true that Elizabethans were familiar with this parable since it was
read as the Gospel for the eleventh Sunday after Trinity.41 But the
whole purpose of this parable is to show that the repentant publican is
justified, while the scribes and pharisees who "trusted in themselves
. and despised others" were not justified. Jesus concludes by prais-
ing the humbled publican:
I tel you, this man departed hore to his house justified
rather then the other: for every one that exalteth him
selfe shalbe brought lowe: and he that humbleth him selfe,
shalbe exalted. (Luke 18:14)
Since Shylock looks upon Antonio as a prodigal, he would be will-
ing to call him a sinner, but he would hardly be willing to associate
Antonio with the humbled mar who "shalbe exalted." On the contrary,
Shylock repeatedly demands his rights and expects himself to be exalted
not only before man but before Gcd:
What judgment shall I dread doing no wrong?
My deeds upon my head! (IV.i.202)
I'll have my bond, speak not against my bond . .
The duke shall grant me justice.
A Daniel come to judgment: yea a Daniel!
0 wise young judge how I do honour thee!
41Prayer Book (1559), p. 148.
Other critics 4 have explained publican in its primary sense as
a tax collector during the Roman occupation of Israel. According to
Biblical scholars, the Jewish contempt for a publican in the New Testa-
ment is "partly due to his being a servant of the hated Roman government"
and partly due to his representing a system which was "a direct incen-
tive to dishonesty," especially in a neglected and ill-governed
province." In this sense, then, Shylock would be calling Antonrio a
"publican" because, like the hated tax collectors who robbed the Jews of
their lawful gains during Roman occupation, Antonio also is a hated gen-
tile trying to rob him of his "well-won thrift."
hi i :..l.[l-ci -n .- p. '- Li,.: in is plausible because it reflects Shy-
!i :I..': f- t i.-ir,. cL-....d .ii .' his antagonism toward the gentiles. But
i[ .J..- i.-. --E:...-... : .:t chc f'a cr hat Shylock calls Antonio a "fawning"
piL ii.:, ri c:rE Lhili I.. :[- t.1 presentative of a foreign government.
Il:rl.. r, i :I- T, *i,.i <-1- 'Ait is s clear, for in the plays of Shakespeare
i : 1;- : : .riL. J Lich I. : cringing, smiling submission and usu-
all \I c-l a dJl -.e ,i Lr; i ircentions of deceit. Some examples from
r,: ;rl: cj r l-:.. LiCLriC- about the same time as The Merchant are:
"C1 i-.:- (ai ,:,L -,TT m .,li nIon of The Merchant, 1883) suggests that
Shil- c, o l- 1,. -" JL "I' .: P.blicani, or farmers of taxes, under the
r.ji, ,.'... l-,-ri:L C' cL. ,:,i : C ,- :the Roman tax collectors "were much more
I 1::1, o' .3j l. i J i- r, :. -lence than servility" (Furness Variorum,
p. ''r.,. I.. i .11 r ;.,, -.,E'cst. that this "primary sense of publican
:li ir f'.ir '.-.cL': i:,-l.l beg a favour as one unused to it"
D C'- ri- C T1., ed. James Hastings (London, 1902). p.
I?2. ihl rr.-.1 1 r :c''. ti _At "In one particular yea- the provic-
i; :- .i" .'.E-: 'j r, .. :.- .I: three times over" (A Dictionary of
[Ihe .:ii.- 1J .'.. : h. r. Ir ,; i- ised by Frederick C. Grant and H. H.
-'1 '. ._ ,.
0 Buckingham, take heed of yonder dog!
Look, when he fawns, he bites.
(Rjchard III I.iii.290-1)
Yet, spaniel-like the more she spurns my love,
The more it grows, and fawneth on her still.
('wwo Gentlemen IV.ii.14-5)
Go, base intruder' overweening slave!
Bestow thy fawning smiles on equal mates.
(Two Gentlemen III.i.157-8)
. and wilt thou, pupil-like,
Take thy correction mildly, kiss the rod,
And fawn on rage with base humility?
(Richard II V.i.31-3)
This fawning greyhound then did proffer me.
(I henryy TV I.iii.252)
I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius,
The more you beat me, I will fawn on you.
( _D II.i.204-5)
If thou dost bend and pray and fawn for him,
I spurn thee like a cur.
You showed your teeth like apes, and fawn'd like hounds.
In comparing Antonio to a "fawning publican," it would seem that
Shylock is alluding to a New Testament type and using words that have
specific connotations of contempt familiar to Elizabetha.-. '.-*.: r':: ch.
Bible and heard it in the liturgy daily. A publican in t.h,. i.. 1]:H :
ment is a man who was regarded with contempt by all the .cr L.: thbr.-
sees, and upright Jews. The Gospel for the third Sunda, -;'f. :ri.,.it
in the Prayer Book (1559) reads:
Then resorted unto him all the Publicans and sinr-. i, f.:
to hear him. And the Pharisees and Scribes murmtc.1. -
ing: He receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
Thro-:: .ur. '.:,. ...spels the word ub~l icrn is : ,.cl I c.- :.l Jd i .ch
heathen, sinner, and harlot--words of the deepest contempt:
. let him bee unto thee as an heathen man and a
publicane. (Matt. 18:17)
. behold, many publicares also and sinners came,
and sate down with Jesus and his disciples.
(Matt. 9:10; also Luke 5:30,
Behold a man gluttonous, and a wine bibber, and a
friend unto Publicanes and sinners.
(Matt. 11:19; also Luke 7:34)
Jesus said . the Publicanes and the harlots go into
the kingdom of God before you.
. the publicanes and harlots believed him.
AS -, lock sees him, then, Antonio is "fawning" because, like the
cur r.-.L Ill "kiss, the rod and fawn on rage with base humility," Antonio
h:.. i.J-r- d" his money abroad and throughout Venice on prodigals like
hir-'ilf ni -.o:w cones bankrupt, begging money, and trying to ingratiate
hi,..; i-l' ; r- wealthy and powerful enemy. And Shylock calls Antonio a
"rL.ubtl i.:" tl:ause he sees him as one with the contemptible sinners and
b: rr!~ : o*f che New Testament who--now smiling and fawning before this
cl.:-r, d -;. .:r-ent of "our holy Abram"--would yet rob him and "our sacred
ntc..-n" ..-I clb.ir well-won thrift.
"Tt.i devil can cite Scripture for his purpose"
L :r irionio, usury is not thrift but theft; a man does not steal
tr?:m ;. ifLt*.d. Angrily Antonio tells Shylock:
If c i:u wilt lend this money, lend it not
A: c.. chy friends, for when did friendship take
.. b.:.-ij for barren metal of his friend?
Eii: ;1 d it rather to thine enemy,
Who if he break, thou may'st with better face
Exact the penalty.
From the first, Antonio makes his opposition clear by alluding to Aris-
totle's argument against usury:
Shylock, albeit I neither lend nor borrow
By taking nor giving of excess,
Yet to supply the ripe wants of my friend
I'll break that custom.44
Antonio's reference to taking and giving "excess" of money con-
stitutes one of the principal arguments against usury in the Renaissance,
comes ultimately from Aristotle, and can be found in nearly every Eliza-
bethan sermon and pamphlet against usury. For, next to the Bible and the
Church Fathers; the authority of Aristotle was so highly esteemed that
his proof from reason was one of the first to be quoted. In 1578, for
example, Phillippus Caesar writes that usury is "ill increase, because
Usurers make that to fructifie which is fruitles, which by the witness
of Ethnikes is contrarie to nature." The whole passage has overtones of
the exchange between Antonio and Shylock:
Now consider how great is the blindenesse, or rather the
madness of men in these dotyng daies of this woride, that
to a thyng fruitless, barren, without seede, without life,
will ascribe generation: and contrary too nature and common
sense, will make that to engender which being without
4The Merchant I.iii.56-9. Aristotle contends that "There are
two sorts of wealth getting. .. The most hated sort, and with the
greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself, and
not from the natural object of it. For money was intended ::. .,; Fd
in exchange, but not to increase at interest. And this ter., .wc.:ar,
which means the birth of money from money, is applied to thi trw:j- :r.
of money because the offspring resembles the parent. Wharef'ii' :.7 all
modes of getting health h this is the most unnatural" (Aristocle., r- r
Books of the Western World, "Politics," trans. by Benjamin j:I,Lr.r
[Chicago, 1952j, 1258b, 1-7).
by no waie can increase. And therefore Aristotle in Ethnike;
and without all knowledge of Christianity, for this cause
dooeth pronounce Usurie to bee a thing detestable, and to be
abhorred. His words are these: "By good reason hath Usurie
come into the hatred of man, because money is only reaped, and
is not referred to the exchange of thynges, for which cause
it was first invented. For contrarie to the course of nature,
Usurie doeth augment and increase money, from which it is so
Ac. 1.i .lr,. ,_ c. -: r .-iu n c, ci-r.. u :;ury is immoral because it takes "ex-
.Gei '01 In.:.l :i ,.- m n.. fL'.: r..m :.i.ey which is contrary to the law of
nr'c, tal a Ir'L.:-, c f,..Li,.:J .l, C.-id. Money cannot "breed" or "fructi-
snr. -.:I'., hI. i .:. iL ; '.11 c..:nfident about the righteousness of
hi- l ., i.3, jn. : C, .i: r.; Lp.:. ail.'ntage" (I.iii.65), anticipates suc-
c:. : iii .:..-i[i r.-.ii ... cih- ricj.:-w l Christians, and defends usury by
Sc iCUir ,L .,...- :'r I'.r Lu. y Ls not theft but thrift. When An-
trnir :.l- -' : LI ..',r. c c-1- argument against usury, "I neither
ien.l ni,.L ... :''r i .' e il.iiii .- : i Lng of excess," Shylock--first mus-
i-g i r. ;-li, : .i.in l i)i. cja.:ir schooling his errant pupil in the
ir.L j u ,.z i... :I- _. ... f: ca .L-. ft 1 Ii tzason--appeals to Scripture:
Sh,. I:C cl-,:jlir. : '.., ..L. iou neither lend nor borrow
LI;.cr, J' U .- .,3 : .
Ai. i Jdo never use it.
51-.. l. i- Jf;, . ,'J tzh uncle Laban's sheep,--
j..- Lil..' :r pl. i-' .' twitting Laban is a fitting climax
rc: .: f..f- c ;L ..u'.i.li r .- i views on usury, theft, deceit, owner-
shi;., ?cr.:-., C..l' bi h -,: .c- it, foreigners, and revenge. Jacob
"ti I ,I..f ,..: C. : C. --r-tl Discourse A.ainst the Damnable Sect
..- U.iur_ ... !:. i'.,i.LL. r l.r:.rfilms, Ann Arbor, 1950), reel. 13, pp.
is Shylock's exemplar, and Psalm 146, read at evening prayers on the
thirtieth day of each month,46 speaks accurately for his feelings at this
point: "Blessed is he unto whom the God of Jacob is an ayde."
In the Bible Jacob is not merely the descendent of Abraham and
Isaac, he is also the "supplanter,"47 or trickster, who robbed his first-
born twin brother of his birthright and thereby received the blessings
promised to Abraham and his seed. Shylock gleefully prefaces his story
by calling Antonio's attention to Jacob's theft of ilr` paternal bleasing:
When Jacob graz'd his uncle Laban's sheep,--
This Jacob from our holy Abram was
(As his wise mother wrought in his behalf)
The third possessor: Ay, he was the third.
Shylock is referring to Chapte-s twenty-five and twen'y-seven of the Book
Even Jacob's name is symbolic of his ambition to supplant the
prodigal Esau. According to Genesis, Chapter twenty-five, read at morn-
ing prayers each year on January fourteenth,48 Jacob's ambition is first
suggested by the fact that he was born with "his hand holding Essau by
the heele, and his name was called Jacob."49 Rebecca is told:
And the Lorde said unto her, There are two imaner of
people in thy womb, and two nations shalbe devided out
of thy bowels: and the one nation shalbe mightier than
the other: and the elder shalbe servant unto the :'u,-.:
46"Index & Calendarium," Praver Book ('..'.r Ai.
47"The First Table" appended to the '5- ...'i : t.- -.i 31 A .L -.1..
"Jaakob" means "a supplas.ter, or deceiver."
48,"Index & Calcndarium, P.rayer .ok (1."*) L7.
Genesis 25:26. Esau later exclaims, "7 -c. : h ;-i'.
Jacob? for he hath undermined me nowe two ti: .-" ;. .: i-:3.:J.
The same chapter gives another example of Jacob's ambition and his readi-
ness to take advantage of his brother when he swindles Esau into selling
his birthright for some "pottage":
. and Easau came from the field, and was faint. And
Esau said to Jacob, feede me, I pray thee, with that same
red pottage: for I am faint. . And Jacob sayd, Sell me
this day thy byrthright. Esau said, Loe, I am at the point
to die, and what profit shall this byrthright doe me? Jacob
answered, sweare to me then this day. And he sware to him,
.nJ -.-,1 Ii: b L;ir -l': unto Jacob.
h, Ic.:.h!.': ct, ,..: Ji'.:atb his Biblical exemplar is fitting, for he
5i 1 ; ; C:.p-,-, C ; |-,., L ,. .TI -
In cEi- .: i f 'ir.:-ri:, the next example of Jacob's ambition and
*.:un i.ir i cel'.- :. ch'L '- ,: .k notes with admiration. With the assis-
cjn;-: r, "'i- ,- ._ ,: ~.. r," Jicob deceives his blind father on his death-
b._d, ;,T- .o b-. F.i, .r:,ci.tLs Isaac:s blessing for the first born, and
crLu: b..:...i "T '.: cii.- F,::-.:-ssor : Ay, he was the third." Chapter twenty-
.:.-:r, .:f tC. :-i, r.: .. i~c m.'.raing prayers each year on the fifteenth of
-Jar :al', i cI flell.-- 1- riccount:
.nrJ I:'<.: i' I.J I-n .-.i t thou my sonne Esau? And he said,
it,: -.. Tile, .i .j he, Bring me, and let me eaten of my
':n[--: "-.-,i .i, C.L i._ soule may blessed thee. And hee brought
him. .r, ,-. ;r.- .r ie brought him wine also, and he dranke.
And '.i t:ch.: 1i s. said unto him, come neere, and kisse me,
,r, '-n,,i. .'. ". inc unto him, and kissed him: and he
-)l- : ,ir ..'.i. :.f his raiment, and blessed him, and said,
:.c, cr.l :-l f ri' -.on is as the smell of a field which the
L.:-. -.ac, t.-:. ',:j. C:od give thee of the dewe of heaven, and
of vl-, i.-cr-, ;- .f ch-- earth, and plentie of corn and wine.
P-::,;vlC t. h. s::* -ri'.:s, and nations bowe to thee: be Lorde
cvo:r c!.' b.. rchIr i..! thy mothers children stoupe with rever-
.-,: u-c, Ch, .-,r-:d be he that curseth thee, and blessed
be i-. cl.I, c t le ti-, r ee. .
" e'< .L *:-.,..ar.. ," Prayer Book (1559), p. 317.
In the Book of Genesis, Jacob's deceit and theft of the first
born's inheritance is always referred to as his obtaining the paternal
blessing: "I pray thee, sit and eate of my venison, that thy soule may
bless me" (Genesis 27:19; also see 27:10, 13, 27, 30, 32, 33, and 35).
But Shylock's emphatic substitution of the word possessor for the Bibli-
cal word blessing suggests his hierarchy of values, for he evaluates
blessings only by the material wealth that he can possess. As Shylock
sees and emulates him, then, Jacob is the Biblical type for the shrewd
and deceitful man who takes advantage of the ignorant and thrives on
gulls, prodigals, and impoverished aristocrats.
After his prefacing remark about Jacob's being a "possessor,"
Shylock develops the story of Jacob's outwitting his uncle Laban. This
story is particularly appropriate as a Biblical defense of Shylock's prac-
tice of usury and of his secret intentions toward Antonio. According to
Genesis Jacob had finally met an equal competitor in Laban. Laban de-
ceived him into marrying Lesh before Rachel, and he tricked him into
working fourteen years without wages. But Jacob takes his revenge by
bargaining to work an additional seven years, during which time he changed
the fleece of the lambs born of his uncle's "fulsome ewes." Genesis,
read at morning prayers each year on the seventeenth of January,1 gives
the following account of Jacob using his skill in breeding sheep to take
advantage of Laban:
And he said, what shall I then give thee? And Jacob
answered, Thou shalt give mee nothing at all: if thou
wilt doe this thing for mea, then will 1 turne again,
feede thy sheepe, and keep then.
5"Index & Calend-ari;m," Trayjer Boo!k (1559), p. 317.
I will go about all thy flockes this day, separate from
them all the cattel that are spotted and of divers colours:
and all the black among the sheepe, and the parties and the
spotted among the kiddes, the same shalbe my reward.
So shall my righteousnesse answer for me in time to come:
for it shall come for my reward before thy face. And every-
one that is not specked and party amongst the gates, and
black amongst the sheepe, let it be counted theft in me.
And Laban said, Goe to, would God it might be according to
Therefore he took out the same day the hee goates that were
ringstraked, and of diverse colours, and all the shee goates
that were spotted and coloured, and al that had white in them,
and all the black amongst the sheepe, and put them in the
ke-ping of his sonnes ..
Jacob took rods of greene popular, hasell, and chessenut
rrees, and pulled white strakes in them, and made the white
appeare in the roddes,
And put the roddes which he had pilled, before the sheepe,
in the gutters and watering troughes when the sheepe caue to
drinke, that they should conceive when they came to drink.
And the Sheepe conceived before the rods, and brought foorth
limbes ringstraked, spotted, and parties.
And Jacob did separate these lambs, and turned the faces of
tle sheepe, which were in the flocke of Laban, toward these
-ngstraked, and all manner of black: and so put his owne
fl.ockes by themselves, and puc them not with Laban's cattell.
And in every conceiving time of the stronger cattel, Jacob
layde the rods before the eyes of the cattell in the gutters,
lamely that they conceive before the rods.
But when the cattell were feeble he put them not in: and so
che feebler were Labans and the stronger Jacobs.
And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattell, and
c.ayde servants, and men servants, and camels and asses.
And he heard the words of Laban's sonnes, saying Jacob bath
taken away all that was our fathers, and of our fathers goods
hith hee gotten all his glorie.
And Jacob behelde the ccuntenance of Laban, and beholde, it
;iLs not towards him as it was wont to be.
And the Lorde sayde unto Jacob, turne again into the lande
of thy fathers, and to thy kindred and I will be with thee.
(Genesis 30:31-43, 31:1-3)
Alth:.I_-1 this passage is lengthy, it is important to see it in full.
Fror Sl. lock, like Jacob, intends to come to an agreement with Antonio
3r,.' i:. 'jmonstrate his righteousness; "I would be friends with you, and
h '. .'-.. love," says Shylock (i.iii.134). Moreover, Shylock sees this
Liblic.l story as the precedent and defense of usury.
Shyleck argues that Jacob was blessed by God because he used his
skill in sheep breeding to take advantage of Laban. First, there is the
agreement in which Jacob and Laban,
That all the eanlings which were streak'd and pied
Should fall as Jacob's hire.
Then "The Skilful shepherd" (I.iii.79) sets out, not to take interest--
"No, not take interest, not as you would say Directly interest" (I.iii.
71-2)--but to exact occult compensation, or "recompense of iniurie" as
the note in the Bishops' Bible calls it.52 Nor is this theft, argues
Shylock, for Jacob is "The skilful shepherd" who knew how and when to
put the "certain wands" before the conceiving ewes. And just as he, Shy-
lock, uses his skill with money "Upon advantage" (I.iii.65), so did Jacob,
to his own advantage, use his skill and superior knowledge of sheep breed-
ing to change the fleece of the lambs. Thus, neither his own skill at
taking interest nor the "venture" of this "skilful shepherd" should be
called theft. They are thrift, concludes Shylock:
This was a way to thrive, and he was blest:
And thrift is blessing if men steal it not.
At this point, however, Antonio objects. The generation of sheep
is a natural process and therefore lies in God's power. Admittedly, Jacob
is not a thief. But he is not a thief for the reasons that Shylock has
presented, for Shylock has not given the complete Biblical explanation.
As the gloss in the Bishops' Bible notes,
It is not lawfull by fraud to sceke recompense of
The Bishope' Bible, gloss to Genesis 30:37, "Jacob took r.' "
iniurie: therefore Moses sheweth afterward that God
thus instructed Jacob.53
Thas, Antonio contends that,
This was a venture sir that Jacob serv'd for,
L, li ri ,-L.c r. ;H' ,L ji. ..ci rc: bring to pass
ur. .. 'j inr,.j -i l-,,.i,,'d 5 the hand of heaven.
Th ,e FitLlcl -.L:: iL chal c r. c: is alluding to comes only a fev verses
iftet Sh,.:..:i:' : ,p *= In ch.t passage Jacob tells the angry sons of
Tlh, L:r-vi h,. L:,!-:r rch, f.chers cattel and given
t..-.- c: .. (Genesis 31:9).
Tlh'u. iru..: .a,r.c:n. i'.rJ c-he -losses to the Bishckgs' Bible repeatedly
p.C' _ic ..:icE),' r.h "..t-.c" Jacob was not his doing but was "sway'd
a. j,, fi h .-.. 'd I:', :hi- I. ri. .:f l- a "en."
3L. ) cjEn."
1Ikr-c -r. ,r : -c *i-~c.:, 'hylock's gold and silver do not increase
b [E n'cu-il r i--:iric :. rc;l.;-i ro animals, sc why has Shylock introduced
inCE L0. hr dJ.L :: i:r :.i clr;Ji, And borrowing "Upon advantage" a Bibli-
<:1 3Lcr., bL: u[ J c*.. inJ h o-rkings of Divine Providence?
iji; cihi .ri.~rc J r..,l.. interest good?
Or i( ',:ur .i lJ 3-. j i --r ewes and rams?
Sh. K i.:.;' -i- : 'I c r.nc-.c : ..: I make it breed as fast" (I.iii.91).
SLih.: LL-L T-_-1:i :1.-: to Genesis 30:37.
,i0,,* .-.' r j. 1...': i, s to his dying father and his theft of
C Ci]- p.L . a t :-.:. r t Lr.h- ,_ht, the Bishops' Bible says that "This
b_ ill JE. Il r l.;: 3 ii.- J'..:ob with Isaac considered by itself, is
bl.-.c:..:rc h -' b if ic c r,.i.rr. to the will of God and the setting
f rC' -c -i: a.cti -, : i .:.'n ir,.dable" (gloss to Genesis 27:19).
'' ecl .' : _l ir.-. c:-. elo.:. reads, "We must not so much behold the
r.-.u EirdJc :., -IL., a i t.' i- dence of God,who would by such weak-
ni -: : -- ,-ii .I. ::i;.- d.c lji .d" (Genesis 27:26).
Beneath this reply is Shylock's subtle rhetorical argument: who am I
to say that God blesses the ewes and rams of "The skilful shepherd" but
not "my moneys and my usances" (I.iii.103) when both show equal increase?
Here Shylock gives expression to one of the fundamental differences be-
tween him and Antonio. For Shylock, increase and thrift are the only
signs of God's blessing and God's approval.55 While for Antonio, who
ultimately thrives and increases, it is giving and receiving out of love
and friendship that are worthy of God's blessing and God's approval.
Antonio answers Shylock with a Biblical allusion adapted ad personal:
Mark you this Bassanic,
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose,--
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling check,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
0 what a goodly outside falsehood hath'
Like the devil who quoted Psalm 9i and tempted Jesus with Scrip-
tural arguments to cast himself from the pinnacle of the temple, Shylcck
is "an evil soul producing witness" in support of "falsehood.' In the
55This doctrine, among other things, has led some critics to a
consideration of Shylock as a Puritan or as one of the many aliens living
in London, "French and Dutch refugees, who, strong Huguenots, lived under
the influence of the Old Testament" (Andrew Tretiak, "The Merchant of
Venice and the 'Alien' Question," Review of English Studies, V ,
404). Paul Siegel speaks of these Puritans:
Like the Old Testament Jews, they thought of themselves as an
elect, a chosen people, and looked upon the Anglican Church as
idolatrous. They in turn were regarded as a minority of for-
eigners, who had imported their religion from Geneva and
adopted a strange attire and strange manners. Such similari-
ties made it possible for Shakespeare to suggest that Jewish
money-lenders and Puritan usurers were kindred spirits in their
villainy and in their comical grotesqueness.
(Paul N. Siegel, "Shylock the Puritan," Columbia University Forum, V
[Fall, 1962], 15). Thcmas Wilson calls these Puritans "dissembling gos-
pellers" because they often defended usury from Biblical texts: "and
touching this sin of usury none do more openly offend in this behalf than
do these counterfeit professors of this pure religion" (ADiscourse Upao
second temptation of Jesus inthe desert, read as the Gospel for the
liturgy of the first Sunday in Lent,56 Saint Matthew tells how,
Then the devil taketh him up into the holy citie,
and setteth him on a pinacle of the holy temple, And
sayeth unto him, If thou be the sonue of God, cast
thyself done: For it is written, that he shall give
his angels charge over thee, and with their hands they
shal lift thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foote
against a stone. Jesus sayde unto him, It is written
a l T,..:.u halrE -iiL E-mpt the Lord thy God.
E.:.:. L..: s j fai!:if'r .:.f Scripture, Shylock first defends him-
Lf b b.-r :'Lr .'.riC.:.io jr.J hen, feigning friendship, agrees to con-
tii:c "trrrt.' b...n"' (I.iii 1'.9). Nevertheless, Shylock has made it very
cl.:-: *.: c'.- a 'isj ;* L..L 'ju'L as Jacob tricked Laban out of his ewes
aJ !-.*i.: L- th L.: b.:1 wings, so will he, Shylock contends, get
tlhI :Lt._r :' .': c .:, .. .ich .: Lord's approval. And if Antonio objects
L.: l:.1.-.: : ."t. r [L- .'-; .'r.d li. "well-won thrift, which he calls interest"
(I.L.L.-:'). Ll-. i' :..1 'ill contractt a merry bond out of friendship--
lil. ja.;':[.t, .ichU c i : -- .., let the "hand of heaven" bless him with his
c,:..[ i t- 'ci r.n ,i : :.r u-.-" .c After all,
h. . h .i:irds, sailors but men, there be
la ij-r;c .., -.ac.:r-tacs, water-thieves, and land-thieves,
( i.i-, ;: r cA.::,i a~d Llhen there is the peril of waters,
F L1 1 :I I I I- 5 ) 98.
Characteristic of Shylock's twisting of Scripture to fit his be-
liefs is his use of the form Abram for Abraham. Although I have not
been able to locate any critical comments on Shylock's use of this form,
it would seem to be a significant indication of his convictions and in-
tentions. For in Shakespeare's other plays the form used is Abraham:
Sweet peace conduct his sweet soul to the boscm
Of good old Abrahami
(Rjchard II IV.i..03-A)
The sons of Edward sleep in Abroham's bosom.
(Richard I IV i.iii.38)
And in Henry V, Mrs. Quickly gives her version of Abraham's bosom:
Nay, sure, he's Ino in hell: he's in Arthur's
Bosom, if ever man went to Arthur's boscm.
In The Merchant, however, the form is always Abram:
This Jacob from our holy Abram was.
O father Abram, what these Christians are!
The distinction between these two forms of the same name is ex-
plained in Genesis:
It is I, behold, my convenanr is with thee, and thou
shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy
name anymore bee called Abram, but thy name shalbe called
Abraham: for a father of many nations have I made thee.
As the Bishops' Bible notes here, "The changing of his name is a _iail of
Gods promise."57 And as Saint Paul notes, the "promise" to be j u,,..r,:c
Sishops' Bible (1585), gloss re Genesis 17:5.
"as the starres of the heaven and as the sand which is upon the sea side"
was given to "Abrahai" because of his faith that God, not Abraham, would
bring all to pass.58 It is the Lord who says:
I will multiple thy seede as the stares of heaven,
and as the sand which is upon the sea side, and thy
seede shall possess the gates of his enemies.
7Th F.Li.b- L'. L. b., *..'~'.n:r. i on these lines, emphasizes the distinc-
Li.:- b.. C.n i.c :'3 P 'L. V:-thir:'i freely and man's merit: "God giveth his
fr.; bcer.ilt~ hr nir, :.'f r-. id, to provoke men to godliness: not for
Lh,- .T _rir r-.f Lh, .' .
ilhr .-;.t.:.u TI~.. '..r.ihr..-. then,when Shylock calls Abraham "Abram,"
h. i ifi),: L..l hi; uri 1 linri -ss to acknowledge that faith in Provi-
dJir.n: hiL:. ct-rh L lEs! chin ,-> of name symbolizes. He recognizes and
c..n,:I U. lf.:,.. 4- *:t i-, i Ljo..L:ed blessings, but he does not rely on God
foir -r -L !if!li;l .c r r f e his sufficiency. He relies on his cwn cal-
c i_.. I. : : i : i ii. 1',. il-i .-r, thrift ."
It, .: r 0,L :-f ~.- : :l.:nt, then, Shylock introduces the audience
[: LI." -.: icr. 1 c.:.i'.iit':: .. E l: f lay--a longstanding antagonism between
ir.-:lf _U-J .,nri~.c-. b c'.i-. -,; willing bonds of loving friendship and
the uin .1i ) 11; .!'- f 11 ,,:. i cus and vindictive usury. With Biblical
jliu; i.:. ,~ ,:r.fn 2 i-i' L ,i:ntv.:-usness, claiming to be especially chosen
b. c.:. -d .t Ci .- .-t.r to whom the promise was made. And he
clli; L'i. I.- : ih :ili L.- 'l l: .- ..l -nd rewarded like Jacob for his skill in
S .: ..r. ; .
breeding money. For since he does not offend against the law ("What
judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong?" IV.i.89), he will be blessed
with wealth, power, and success over the prodigal Christians of Venice.
RESOLUTION AND LITURGY
In the first twenty-two lines of the concluding act of The Mer-
chant, beneath the surface of a playful lovers' quarrel clothed in clas-
sical and liturgical allusions, with memories of love, deception, loss,
death, redemption, resurrection, and union, Lorenzo and Jessica offer a
beautiful but paradoxical resolution of The Merchant of Venice. In keep-
ing with the antogonistic movement initiated in Act One by Shylock and
Antonio, this resolution takes the form of a quarrel. But this time the
quarrel is a mock quarrel arising not from deceit, hate, and the bond of
usury but from the feeling of being freed from bondage and from the ac-
cipl..n-.: .:l' the bonds of love with its demands for sacrifice, suffering,
nr ..':: i. in this chapter 1 will trace the Biblical, liturgical, and
.: 1a '.i : .llusions of the opening lovers' quarrel and show how Lorenzo
ai-J J;.---.:a offerr this paradoxical resolution to the theme of bondage in
h-..- '.:.-h-ic by accepting the new bonds.
Ti r:'-s, Cressid, and the Problem of Trusting People
Th- fifth act of The Merchant of Venice sounds a note of joy, love,
an, .ii.;,ui'lV harmonious resolution quite different from the earlier op-
pr, :,l.'_,,: i .if Venice which its "want-wit sadness" (I.i.6), its frivolous
"uiAcl ,.id i- aghter" (I.i.80), its insidiously "merry bond" (1.iii.168),
and ic r,.icL!ess demand for justice voiced by Shylock: "I stand here
fi.' 1:." I .,.142). This final act presents Belmont as a refuge from
b':r'-i'. -.1 I land of plenty dropping "manna in the way / Of starved
people" (V.i.294-5). It pictures Lorenzo and Jessica sitting in the
idyllic garden at Belmont talking of love while the moon shines but "a
little paler" than the day (V.i.125). It opens with Lorenzo speaking:
The moon shines bright. In such a night as this,
When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees,
And they did make no noise, in such a night
Troilus methinks mounted the Trojan walls,
And sigh'd his soul toward the Giecian tents
Where Cressid lay that night.
In these lines Lorenzo sets the basic antiphonal pattern for the
lovers' quarrel between himself and Jessica, a quarrel which typifies the
allusive harmony and the paradoxical resolution of Act Five. Both lovers
follow a patterned response, answering each other antiphonally with the
phrase, "In such a night. . ." Both assume an attitude of playful cele-
bration for the releases from unwilling bondage and for the acceptance of
the bonds of love. Both seek classical allusion after classical allusion
with the moon for a setting. Both try to answer the charges of the other
with a counter attack. And both lovers hide the relevant issues behind
an allusion until the disguise becomes so thin that Lorenzo finally breaks
out with a gentle and playfully ironic direct attack:
In such a night
Did Jessica steal from the wealthy Jew,
And with an unthrift love did run from Venice
As far as Belaont.
Not only did Jessica "steal" away, puns Lorenzo, but she also "did
steal" two bags of ducats (II.viii,18), a diamond valued at "`no :rouJi jn
ducats (III.i.77), and a turquoise ring which Leah gave Shylocl [.
bachelor (III.i.111). Moreover, she demonstrates "an u-t! :rfc 1c. :" b:
discontinuing her life as the daughter of "the wealthy Jew," b: r-.rn:
her father's turquoise ring "for a monkey" (III.i.109), and by spending
in "Genoa . one night forscore ducats" (III.i.98-9).
Although Lorenzc's first statement in thelovers' quarrel is
clothed with pleasant associations, beneath the surface of his images
and poetry, Lorenzo is playfully questioning Jessica's trustworthiness.
As critics generally recognize,1 the source for Lorenzo's allusion to
TL.:-i l- ii ChaJ.:-! TrI.-'l ll. : *JA Cc -: .-; nrd it is from Chaucer that
n.u':h .:.f ch ci'"ii .:,. L::r:tr,: '[ Lin.: CCi:Ti'1 Troilus and Criseyde reads
a4 f: l.:. :
And C .' i; r -: i-t, ; h i ;.l'. c J.:. .:.ne,
H-: .-..:.._ c L r *c i -l: I I': '.'-. t .I. : .l1. ,
HAn .: c l ch: I' i : t. .: t '. b c [.: t 1: .1.:3
1Jp..: El I 11- ft. -I ;. uild- aI-: i..a lkE ,
A ..J c i. C CI-i.i :-:- 1-e *.:;lde
A, J r. r... i-. h c h : ..,r.: t- !ell e:
''Lo, v.'.:rd. n-- *:-i. iL li:. fic. c
Or -1 i: ....:r. i cli. i [Ch Le :i. :
And c'. rr- : c:I-:.-i h :I iA rT Ll-.- : :c. soote,
TnaE ,r_ r;-.. : ul 1 f :lE L d.:-LIh f- b *:: te.2
Tl-- ci l' :f Cri aI-': : .': io: i.hi L: . c : r..: to six stanzas, is cap-
cu -:J b', L,:.i-..r_:. i-r : ii 1 . L.:.L-' .: j.:. r.his by selecting all the
t,:i.: li.a.e- : ai "r.,''c'' u-nd. r a "bri hc.: r-:.,-ie," all his "sorwe he to
clh. Dr.. ,.i- C-l- '' Fa !i .. I..._- ui-..-. r l "r 1. l. i" overlooking the Grecian
"E[ C C- .:" J ;L.- L .h:d Co: "-* :r Cl I L .: s. .r.e" for his "soul."
0 r c... i L i.', h: : 'i-t l. : .: a T r the idyllic garden of Bel-
I F ; : .r .J F:-. .f :'. I 1 :. i _r,.'. i Edmund Malone
(L-iJ:r., !;1 .-.i E. t i T. ; -u: C t cefr .,ld Ea. the Malone
Sha'.:: r 3 I'.. :rh h...- '... illustrations of the Life,
:tfi.. := -. i ic f -, : .. L.: .J :., 1845), T, 312; Furness
'i t''i '- ,r'. :- .- ['L : .t 'r ,' *'J [ i 'r'
--T' [ : f ei Ci ed. F. N. Robinson
IL;.:.:: -., 19'. I :, .l.' i--, :. .-.'-:.- Unless noted otherwise,
a ll u : L ,:.-, . l L r ,-, l-Ch L r .
mont, Lorenzo is recalling the pleasant images. But he is also unavoid-
ably recalling the submerged, pertinent, unpleasant facts about Troilus
and Cressid. Once beyond the "Trojan walls," Cressid accepted a new
lover in the "Grecian tents / Where Cressid lay that night." Moreover,
the whole war between the Greeks and the Trojans took its inspiration
from that kind of love which in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida
Ulysses calls "appetite, an universal wolf."
Thus, despite the beauty of the poetry and the harmony of the
garden at Belmont, Lorenzo's allusion to Troilus has ironic undertones--
not only in the light of Shakespeare's Chaucerian source but also in the
light of his own version written about six years later. For even while
Troilus was sighing out his soul for his beloved Cressid "In such a
night . When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees," she was be-
ing unfaithful. In Shakespeare's version the later anguish of Troilus is
memorable: "0 false Cressid! False, false, false!" cries Troilus. "O
beauty' where is thy faith?" "If beauty have a soul, this is not she"
(V.ii.178, 167, 138). Lorenzo's allusion to Troilus is then playfully
appropriate. For although he has no grounds for questioning Jessica's
fidelity in conjugal love, he does have grounds for questioning her
fidelity in parental love, obedience, and justice.
Lorenzc's allusion also recalls the danger of trusting anyone,
for throughout The Merchant agreements, contracts, and bonds of trust
Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, I.iii.121. Vergil i. 1'h&z .
develops this idea and argues that Troilus and Cressida views lif ch, ut.l
an Augustinian ethics in which "Love at sight must rest upon r. ij
therefore appetite; and it must be a triumph of passion in de'"sr.. of
reason, a sin." Shakespeare's Use of Learnin (San Marino, Call: nis,
1953), p. 211.
have been lightly regarded or intentionally deceptive from the start.
Repeatedly, someone puts his faith in someone or something only to be
disappointed. Antonio puts his faith in Bassanio by entrusting his
money to him even though Bassanio is a self-acknowledged bad risk.
Bassanio has never paid his debts to Antonio, and this time his debt
nearly costs Antonio his life.
Also, in contracting the loan with Shylock, Antonio puts his
faith in his ships which are to return "with thrice three times the
value of this bond" a month before the bond expires (I.iii.153-5). But
Antonio's ships do not return on time. Again, when Shylock protests:
"I would be friends with you, and have your love . and take no doit
/ Of usance for my moneys" (I.iii.134, 6, 7), Antonio accepts his word:
"Content in faith, I'll seal to such a bond, And say there is much kind-
ness in the Jew" (I.iii.148-9). Even when Antonio hears about the
pound of flesh and hears Bassanio's warning, "1 like not fair terms in a
viill-,i's mind" (I.iii.175), he accepts Shylock's "fair terms" and "merry
bo.d-." (i.iii.169) and tells Bassanio: "The Hebrew will turn Christian,
I- ..ir:'; kind" (I.iii.174). But Shylock's "merry bond" turns out to be
a raurd-r.:.L.- plot against the life of his competitor and, according to
J-s: ia, a plot with premeditated malice:
ihen I was with him, I have heard him swear
To Tubal and to Chus, his countrymen,
That he would rather have Antonio's flesh
Thaln twenty times the value of the sum
That he did owe him.
l'gain, when Shylock tells Jessica, "There are my keys .
Jor i.:.. my girl, Look to my house" (II.v.12, 15-6), he puts his faith
in hi- daughter, only to have her run off with his money and family
jewels. Even Portia's obedience to her father's will is in question if
we suppose she gave Bassanic a clue in his choice of the right casket.
And then Portia and Nerissa entrust their rings to their husbands as a
sign of marital fidelity. But these husbands give away their rings at
the first pressing instance. Thus, in the lovers' quarrel between Lor-
enzo and Jessica the playful consideration of Jessica's fidelity belongs
to an extensive series.
As critics generally view her, Jessica is hardly an example of
loyalty, integrity, or mature love. At her worst, according to Sir
Jessica is bad and disloyal, unfilial, a thief; frivolous,
greedy, without any more conscience than a cat and without
even a cat's redeeming love of home. Quite without heart,
or worse than an animal instinct--pilfering to be carnal--
she betrays her father to be a light-of-lucre carefully
weighted with her sire's ducats.5
4Henry N. Hudson observes: "This song is very artfully conceived
and carries something enigmatical or riddle-like in its face, as if on
purpose to suggest or hint darkly the way to the right choice. . The
riddle evidently has some effect in starting Bassanio on the right track,
by causing him to distrust such shows as catch the fancy or the eye"
(Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, ed. Henry N. Hudson [Boston, 1879],
p. 88n). Richmond Noble explains further that the song warns Bassanio
to "beware of that which is pleasing to the sight, for it has no sub-
stance and at best its superficial glory is transient. for almost
without waiting for the last strains of the song to fade away, he
[Bassanio] observes very abruptly,
So may the outward shows be least themselves;
The world is still deceiv'd with ornament.
A comment clearly enough inspired by the song" (SQhaespeare's Use of
So ._ [Oxford, 1923], p. 45). And Austin K. Gray notes thac "ihi: .r.;
is an Echo Song" in which the final rhymes "bred," "head," "ni.uriLh..,,"
and "fed" rhyme with "lead." Thus, "after the soloist's iijur. ..
'Reply, reply!'. . The song dying away on the sound Led, Bassari,:
takes the hint" ("The Song in The Meichant of Venice," M-N, 1927, X:II,
.N.C.S., p. xx.
H. B. Charlton and T. M. Parrott look upon Jessica as a minx who causes
Shylock to harden his heart against Antonio and the Christians of Venice.6
She "is clearly a girl whose revolt will strike to her father's heart.
She flippantly desecrates all that Shylock holds sacred,"
These critics, however, disregard the whole dramatic statement,
for Lorenzo and all the Christians of Venice and Belmont sympathize with
Jessica and look upon her as a beautiful young girl who has escaped the
bondage of a miserly, devilish, old father and now embraces the obliga-
tions of Christianity and married love. As John Russell Brown demonstrates,
Jessica claims the sympathy of the Elizabethan audience not only because
-:h- "cl.. ,:!-z.,i', ,: ., old im,-n who escapes from'duress," but also
b-....- '- "' : '." --r t'L-t.t. I. Llizabethan and classical comedies" are
"c.l fic r.c- E-: crh d :.:--. :f ci --r children."8 As in Romeo and Juliet
nrd A Hid jr.*r Ir' r'L --, .'e-n it comes to a choice between marriage
for I:- .id ir'- i: i i .:,: d'.- ,l:e to one's parents, sympathy usually
f-r:. cl- h ,,i."i ii.. r.:j-ul .-c -'i who elope. Moreover, the audience
WiL ril cril..r Ci. c j :,;'.: chl-.ft is very similar to the occult compensa-
cEi,. i [1-i Si.-. -ipp .: ...-.i Li- his story of Jacob and Laban. Besides,
th . i; rih -- .:: .L.. *:vi .l*. i:. che bride bringing her own dowry.
'bi,:-.:'i-.. i:t.. F r',-:.cc. fh-kespearcan Comedy (New York, 1962), p.
H .-.,' c~ h. IL.., Shakespearian Comedy (New York, 1938),
5EL. Lti'" bhi .i-r. .- on Anthony Munday's Zalauto (1530) and
I.ic: fl ,.. ~: ..-; r_-i .r.l- Novella (c. 1500), two possible sources
-r .. .- : ,--- : I ,-. L: 1L. of these romances, a prodigal daughter
,a.l-..- .iff -..ci, -.,-.': 1 f:c'- '. money, and yet all is condoned. Arden
cdij l l ., "i ,, l:,,: .,. '. .. ::'l
The Merchant. then, glosses over Jessica's disloyalty, disobedi-
ence, theft, and apostacy. In fact, the citizens of Venice, who clas-
sify better as Elizabethans than as Venetians, see Jessica's elopement
not only as an escape from bondage but as an actual triumph over the
Jewish misbelieverr, cut-throat dog" (I.ii.106). ;Wen Shylock cries
for law and justice after discovering Jessica's elopement and theft, the
Christians of Venice rejoice in her liberation and in Shylock's misfor-
tune. Salanio is exubscant in telling his friends about Shylock:
I never heard a passion so confused,
So strange, outrageous, and so variable,
As the dog Jew did utter in the streets:
'1My daughter' Oh, my ducats'. Oh, my daughter!
Fled with a Christian! Oh, my Christian ducats'.
Justice! The law! My ducats, and my daughter!
Here all Salanio's sympathy is for Jessica. For by the standards of
Salanio and his friends, Jessica is not abandoning the faith but rather
escaping the limitations of Judaism and choosing the higher loyalties of
Christianity and married love. He no longer sees her as an infidel but
as one of the Faithful.
This introduces one of the significant complications of the total
dramatic action, tamely Jessica's conversion to Christianity; for The
Merchant presents Jessica's apostacy as a conversion. Also, by her con-
version Jessica solicits the sympathy of the Christian audience and im-
plies that she is worthy of trust. Early in the play Jessica speaks about
the "strife" of feeling as a daughter and thinking as a Christian:
Alack, what heinous sin is it in me
To be ashamed to be my father's child!
But though I am a daughter to his blood
I am not to his manners: 0 Lorenzo,
If thou keep promise I shall end this strife,
Become a Christian and thy loving wife!
Here the issues in conflict are love and loyalty to her father versus
love of Lorenzo and loyalty to her religious ideas. Jessica wants to
1.n.- .,nd n Aj.irc Shylock because he is her father, and yet she cannot be
." ":child ''"tc his manners" because she judges them according to the
c3ndJ.:d. helh.J by the Christians of Venice. Shylock's ethics are in
confl ict cth the Christian community which Jessica accepts.
BuL ., -ica's trustworthiness is not merely a question of reject-
ir i 5.l.':I.' bannersrs," for the ethical manners of the Christians of
V.:ici' L r- jut'c as questionable and harsh as Shylock's. But by becoming
. Chri.ciail. ci implications are that Jessica is becoming one of the
fIichiful arcd therefore more trustworthy than an infidel. One element
of ch- ( tL l conflictt of The Merchant and of Jessica's "strife" is the
(Chr-tin- -, ii Lf salvation. For according to the Christians in The
li.rch-irL, .c- o .re infidels and Christians are the Faithful. Thus,
Gr ciancr cr.niic. Shylock by calling him an infidel: "Now infidel I have
y.-u u c.r : tii[" (IV.i.330). And he refers to Jessica in the same termi-
nr:lng. : '"Lut .ho comes here? Lorenzo and his infidel'" (III.ii.217).
L:'un-:l:.t C.b.:- similarly teases Jessica when he addresses her: "most
b -'i.. L I c.-, most sweet Jews" (II.iii.10-11). Launcelot continues,
rd inr hi, '. -i ish way alludes to the serious Renaissance view on the
iJ .hic. b-ar .cn natural paternity and the regeneration of grace:
Y\:, cruly, for look you, the sins of the father are to be
1iiJ up:.- the children, therefore (1 promise you), I fear
.cu --I ..as always plain with you, and so no'; I speak my
ric :icn of the matter: therefore be o' good cheer,for
crul. i think you :.* J.!.. 'd.
Th.er-: a j, :.;itrnI.:, :, i anr,.- cL parodying the role of a theologian,
-hicl', ,li;- L,.r- ,cu cL.I.I'Lc b_ ~:' ad because your fath-r i? 3 nagan,
an infidel, one of the unredeemed.
In speaking his "agitation of the matter," Launcelot bolsters
his pseudo argument with two allusions to the liturgy. ". . the sins
of the father are to be laid upon the children" is a passage from the
Ten Commandments which is read aloud at every Comimunion Service in the
Book of Common Prayer: ". . for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God,
and visit the sin of the fathers upon the children unto the third and
.iii. generation." In the context of the Ten Commandments this con-
demnation refers to the worship of false gods. Launcelot, then, is im-
plying that Shylock worships a false god and that Jessica will be in-
cluded in his damnaticn.
A second passage which is more relevant to the anti-semitism of
Launcelot's pose is a Gospel passage read on the Sunday before Easter.
In this passage the Jews absolve Pilate of responsibility for the cru-
cifixion and call down upon themselves and their children the blood of
Pilate said unto them: what shall I do then with Jesus,
Which is called Christ? They all said unto him: Let him
be crucified. The deputy said: what evil hath he done?
But they cried more saying: Let him be crucified. When
Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that more
business was made, he took water, and washed his hands
before the people, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this
just person, see ye. Then answered all the people, and said,
His blood be on us and on cur children.10
Prayer Book (1559), p. 181. As Richmoad Ncble obE-:r.*-, ",I.
Biblical version reads 'sins'" (Shakesneare's Biblical Knco ... l.:).
10Praye Book (1559),p. 106, iro', ilacc. 2/1:22-;5. L-ce-:, OhEb
Portia exhorts Shylock to have mercy, Shylock alludes to th.. :i;>g1.
saying, "My deeds upon my head" (IV.i.202).
Thus when Launcelot offers his theologized "agitation" of the doctrine
of salvation for Jews, he offers only damnation for the daughter of Shy-
lock, a descendant of the crucifiers. And Jessica derisively concludes:
"there's no mercy for me in heaven, because I am a Jew's daughter"
In answering Launcelot, Jessica responds with the same kind of
theologizing that condemns her, and she likewise bolsters her argument
with Biblical and liturgical allusions. According to the scriptures,
the liturgy, and the Christian tradition, argues Jessica, there is only
one solution available, she must become a Christian. The Good Friday
liturgy suggests this view, for on this day the liturgy has a series of
solemn orations for the conversion cf heretics, schismetics, Jews, and
pagans. The Prayer Book reads:
Merciful God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing
that thou hast made, nor wouldest the death of a sinner,
but rather that he should be converted and live: have mercy
upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Heretics, and take from
them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy
:.rd. And so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock,
th it they may be saved among the remnant of the true Isreal-
icrs, and be made one fold under one shepherd Jesus Christ
EPrayer Book (1559), p. 119. This Good Friday oration in the
Fi_.r _.ok was modeled on the Good Friday orations of the Latin liturgy.
Ir-: Pr *:: Book eliminates the adjective in the phrase perfidiois Jews
,,j ..r.:.-s the Jews with the Turks, infidels, and heretics in a single
*:.'c:.-, The availability and influence of the Latin liturgy will be
di;.-u:-;d in the following chapter. The oration for Jews on Good Fri-
dy! i Ei-e Latin liturgy reads:
Orermus et pro perfidis Judaesi ut Deon et Dominus
noster auferat velamen de cordibus eoru'_ ut et ipi
anoscant Jesum Christur Dominum nostrum.
;r 7.. Li---
Jessica, then, who knows that Launcelot is twitting her, answers: "I
shall be saved by my husband: he hath made me a Christian" (III.v.17-8).
Jessica is here alluding to two well-known scriptural passages.
The first appears in the Prayer Book in the ceremony for marriage: "For
this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall be joined unto
his wife, and they two shall be one flesh."12 This passage, from St.
Paul's Letter to the Ephesians (5:31), explains the lines in the Book
of Genesis (2:24), expressing the Jewish and Christian tradition that
the bond of loyalty between husband and wife takes preference over the
bond of loyalty between child and parent. The second scriptural passage
which Jessica musters to her cause answers Launcelot's views on justifi-
cation: "I shall be saved by my husband" (III.v.17). Jessica is alluding
to St. Paul's statement that "the unbeleeving wife is sanctified by the
husbande."l3 Thus, she argues, the faith of the unbelieving spouse (her
own) in a mixed marriage is supplied by the faith of the believing spouse
veritatis tuae luce. cuae Christus est a suis tenebris
[Let us also pray for the perfidious Jews, that the
Lord our God may tear away the veil from their hearts
so that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ.
[Almighty and everlasting God, you do not refuse your
mercy to even the perfidious Jews. Hear the prayers which
we offer for the blindness of that people so that they r'i
acknowledge the light of your truth, which is Christ, and
be delivered from their darkness.]
Salisbury Missal, 1516, University Microfilms (Ann Arbor, 1948), : -;
482, "In Die Veneris Sancta." All English translations are mine
l2Prayer Book Q55), p. 223.
13Richmond Noble notes this Biblical allusion and gives c'.i-
version of I Cor. 7:14 from the Bishops' Bible as the version use1 b"
Shakespeare. Shakespeare's Biblical Knowledge, p. 166.
Consequently, when Jessica says she is going to "end this strife"
by becoming Lorenzo's "loving wife," she claims that the important thing
is not that she is abandoning her father but that she is following the
"ill of CMd 30 it if made knownn in the Old Testament, the New Testament,
S,,,i cri-I l: gicl ,: i.:r;on.. of marriage in the Prayer Book. In this way,
ci , J.-: :; 1 in- Lr,- : r i l- .: hy of the Venetians, solicits the sympathy
'of tl-,i '.C i;ic i ,uJi. n:.i :r-d claims to be worthy of trust. And when
L,.:.rL-. [ilci:r 1, il. !..: co Troilus in the lovers' quarrel, he is
itL.n...: L Ltjiiri. .i i-c' : -out the unpleasant, questionable aspects
of h.: ir. : ii. c .n-:- --at r.doning her Jewish heritage--faith, father,
:iJ i.',Ci'.: "--eloIcF.,I r,4 i.ing, and converting to Christianity.
-.h.tl- F. tLL rn COf ch.: Lorenzo-Jessica dialogue which sheds sig-
ni I'iL.: it li.-; .:o ,ii c.:-La:l dramatic action is the phrase "In such a
nL- hL," .hi:h i..',:c.: r r che beginning of each of the antiphonally re-
cc.J ll1..t-'co-. Cr iric: h., e always found this phrase appropriate for
th, i.-cc:t'l ;--cin;: a,-i Ij Ilic atmosphere of Belmont. They have also
r.uL.J ich. L ml:-~ ;: I: :or.Lemporaries thought so too since at least
C-.,, -:f Lh ni -, fit t:. it ..'.tc:-te it in a similar love scene in Wily Be-
._.....'" .-.d :lth:j.g-:i riics have not recognized it as a liturgical
Ii' .; : ..i 'er.en in 1601, imitated The Merchant in the
f,.l .l ..lo n .,-. :r :
S.:.h;.- h: I-.'-w the twinckling Starres do hide their
b:L E --.-ed shine
; h i 3 :Iii.'J clheir luster so is stain'd,
i L-.li,'-: L-'t-cio.a: eyes that shine more bright,
i:r. .. ,ni- ... = carres do in a winters night:
ir. i-. I ri .:'hL 1 .J Paris win his love.
L-la Ir, -:.- a night, Aeneas proved unkind.
-_., .. In *...ch a night did Troilus court his deare.
L-ia5. In r;u-i a night, fair Phyllis was betraid.
h:.-:. I L iove as t'- : :- : .- T r : '11.
allusion, this phrase does appear in the "Exultet," a liturgical hymn
for the vigil of Easter. The context of this hymn is quite similar to
the context in The Merchant. and so it adds another level of meaning to
the lovers' quarrel and reinforces some of the themes and motifs of the
whole play. In the garden of Belmont, just as Lorenzo and Jessica make
use of classical events which took place at night in the light of the
moon, so do they make use of liturgical phrases, images, and motifs
which have overtones of events from Jewish and Christian salvation his-
tory which occurred in the light of the moon on such a night as this.
Before examining che relationship of the Easter ligil to The Merchant,
however, it will be necessary to examine the history of the liturgy and
in particular the availability of the "Exultet" and the Easter vigil
service of the Roman liturgy in Reformation England.
The Liturgy in Sixteenth-Century England
Although Shakespeare was more familiar with the Prayer Book and
the official liturgy of the Church of England, he also seems to have
been familiar with the Easter vigil "Exultet" and the Rorian Liturgy. In
the sixteenth century the avowed policy of both the Church of Rome and
the Tudor kings and councillors was to bring about ritual urn-f..-U-icy
everywhere. The Preface to the first cditi).u :f ir. Fr.-:.: 5 ...:. (il' )
Lelia. And I as constant as C-rr'.:,r..
Sophos. Then let us solace, jr-nu n ir.... J~li '
And sweet inbricings spend the livc-1-:L.i. r-* r
And whilst love mounts her on her m:,i-.:t i.,;,,
Let Descant run on Musicks silver i.-cn,;
__-I.% L L,:J, ed. W. W. Gr,: ,i .,, 1 ) '.. Fr..i hi C C. t r c
dating of this play see Bal 1 12 "'il i L_:1," :E u-.'i tr.
Philology, xix (1922), 206-: .,
And where heretofore there hath been great diversity
in saying and singing in churches within this realm:
some following Salisbury use, some Herford use, some
the use from Bangor, some of York, and some of Lincoln:
Now from henceforth, all the whole realm shall have but
In accordance with this, Edward VI issued an injunction in 1549 abolish-
ina all Catholic "antiphoners, missiles, grayles, processionalles, mannu-
cll-., 1-.. ndc. [, pc,:: portasses, jornalles, and ordinalles after the
--e f *.r tu.-.. LI.:. 11_, Yorke, or any other private use, and all other
t..;r.. .f r."e." differing from the Prayer Book.16 Before this injunc-
tion e .' b'.-.:-h[ ~,~h.i been free, according to the jus liturgicim (church
l;.* f..r itLur'p i:l uL-), to establish his own rites and ceremonies in
h-i Ji. c --. aftt' cL-1cialting his chapter. But with Edward's injunction
thLL j _u: li r. LA:u.r. -3 limited at least in theory.
II. li .EL : r.-wevel, the bishops often continued to exercise
tO.ci iuL_ Lutri, -,i cven up to 1604 when the Puritan bishops and clergy
of Lii~.-.ltr. C- ii,'i totest against a parliamentary attempt to enforce
riLI.l- u i ,forC.ri These ministers felt that the revisers had not purged
CeIL.u-h Fm-i- jLLC,- Is from the Prayer Book, and they took the following
.e ;re :.:rswaded that both the Booke of Common
P.i :*. [d cr,. other books to be subscribed by this
CJrn,:n (.. f J..i-., yet in some respects we reverently es-
Lti) cL ;.i ,[r.- in them sondry things which are not
:r. .i 1 t- t contrary to the word of God.17
Ir- iT .-. iti.rgies, A.D. 1549 and 1552, ed. Joseph Ketley (Cam-
brid i.-..:. i1. The word use designates the liturgical practices
c '-.r, -L .o : ,oce-s,- or archdiocese.
'I .Er, GE i-i William John Hardy, Documents Illustrative of
Etn li.- h C:u .:h li t- i .i-, (London, 1921), p. 358.
17;r L .:-,...t of that book. . ," 1605, University Micro-
fil. -; (Arnn ti- :-.. !'."-'), reel 843, "Exception I," p. 2.
Many Catholic and Anglican clergymen, however, felt that too much had
been omitted from the Prayer Book, and they were concerned with the
practical problems that arose when something desirable was missing from
the Prayer Bock and not expressly abrogated. In such cases they turned
to tradition and the customary usage prior to the Reformation. G. W. O.
Addleshaw notes that the book called the "ceremonial" in particular
"was based primarily on the age-long customary ceremonial usages of the
Church, much of it not mentioned in the Prayer Book.18 This use of
the ancient liturgies was thought preferable to having no ceremony or to
creating a new one. Thus, in practice, the actual liturgical customs of
the day were often much wider than those defined in the Prayer Book.
The "Exultet" from the Easter vigil service is one of those Roman
ceremonies which was, according to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, "devised
b. men's fantasies," and tended to "idolatry and superstition."9 At
first the reformers of the liturgy did not specifically condemn rhe
Easter vigil liturgy but simply excluded it from the first edition of
the Prayer Book. Subsequent editions (1552, 1559, 1561), however, those
that would be affecting Shakespeare, took a stronger stand and included
Edward VI's "Act for the Uniformity of Common Prayer" which required all
to use only those rites contained in the Prayer Book.
But again it is clear that the clergy continued to use various
elements of the old liturgy, including the Easter vigil service, because
the list of liturgical items called abuses and checked annually by the
18G. W. 0. Addleshaw, The High Church TraditionA Stud in the
Liturgical Thought of the Seventeenth Century (London, 1941), p. 149.
Thomas Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings and Letters, ed. John
Edmund Cox (Cambridge, 1846), p. 490.
bishops always included the Easter vigil service. Cranmer's "Articles
to be Inquired of in the Diocese of Canterbury" reads:
Iten, Whether they upon Easter-even last past hallowed
the font, fire, or paschal, or had any paschal set up,
or burning in their churches.20
And Nicholas Ridley, during his first year as bishop, inquired in all
the churches of London, "whether any useth . the font of Easter-even,
fire on paschal, or whether there was any sepulcre on Good Friday."21
But not even episcopal visitation was able to bring about uni-
formity. Since the official policy was inconsistent, the resistance of
Catholics was encouraged when Mary burned the Prayer Book, and the re-
sistance of Protestants was encouraged when Elizabeth burned the Missal.
As a result, the actual liturgical practice became a matter of conscience,
or consistency, and therefore less subject to official scrutiny. A. F.
Poll3rd crnj cturrT that "Often the same priest read the Anglican sewv-
i.. in 1,blt c. ~:cii h.- law and then said Mass in secret to satisfy
hir c.:. : --.:. .' ..rl n i L,: John Jewel of Salisbury, setting out in
1559 .:ni I "'n -J : r.:jblE,,:. commission for the establishment of re-
i.,..:.- cl.r.:.cr l, F :j .: -hn..i:n,, Gloucester, Bristol, Bath, Wells,
E' r ., C.:-.:';~'=i D.- r tr. :i S'jlisbury," complains:
Th tihr-A..f;, ra.r-t [,-ijr abandon the pope, whom they have
0 ...lc,'in IJ.1 .r .l b.f.:'. are willing to submit to every-
thinr,. i.:,, h;.-if-,L ch-t they do so for the sake of re-
lici-..n, :. f i; .:tL che.. t-r.e none; but for the sake of
Sr1 r ,,.- II-, l .1 .:. Writjing p. 158.
DIL.-. : ..l. .rl: ed. Henry Christmas (Cambridge, 1841),
p. 5 1
:l'.l~F r ir- F.: llj'.J, Political History, 1547-1603 (London,
consistency, which the miserable knaves now choose to
call their conscience. Now that religion is everywhere
changed, the mass-priests absent themselves altogether
from public worship.23
It was under these conditions, then, that the Roman liturgy continued
to be available for those who wished to remain Catholics. And there is
always the possibility that Shakespeare encountered the Roman liturgy
and the Easter vigil liturgy when his Company was on tour during the
In the 1580's and 1590's the use of the Roman liturgy was tanta-
mount to treason and in 1585 the mere presence of a priest on English
soil constituted a capital offence. In 1593 Queen Elizabeth issued an
. sundry wicked and seditious persons, who, terming
themselves Catholics, and being indeed spies and intel-
ligencers . under a false pretext of religion and
conscience, do secretly wander and shift from place to
place within this realm to corrupt and seduce her majesty's
The Roman liturgy at this time was, then, so dangerous and secret that
evidence for its use is meager and consists of searches made for priests
and their mass books, fines imposed for recusancy, charges of conspiracy,
and trials. By the end of Elizabeth's reign nearly two hundred priests
had been executed and nearly twice this number had died in prison.25
Nevertheless, in 1596 William Holt S. J. claimed that there were between
23John Jewel to Peter Martyr, dated London, Aug. 1, 1559, Zurich
Letters, I (1558-79), cd. Hastings Robinson (Cambridge, 1842), No. 16,
*Gee, Documents Illustrative of Engilsh Church History, p. 499.
25H. Mutschmann and K. Wentecsdorf, ',' .:.- iri:: 'e i l c' ici.:_-,
(New York, 1952), p. 15.
forty and fifty of the old Marian clergy still active in England.26
Besides the general practice of Catholics and priests, which
would have made the Catholic liturgy available in Reformation England,
there is evidence that within Shakespeare's family and his circle of ac-
quaintances there were Catholic recusants.27 And their use of the liturgy
was a possible source for Shakespeare's acquaintance with both the
liturgical text and with the Easter vigil service.
Sh:I'-epesre' mother, Mary Arden, his father-in-law, Edward Arden,
s;'. itf r f .jiu ii:' -h r h'1 : cousin-in-law, John Somerville, and the
C -,h':o!. pr- F c ..-', -i.i Hall. :re all publicly arrEgned as Catholics
c.rp rin1, '; n.: cI. Il.'' 1-.f the Queen. On October 25, 1583, Arden's
-.:,n--ila.-:'. j:.hn .:ir'..l, :et off from Park Hall for London proclaim-
in 2cl.'.i rr. i ,' chiac I: '.. going to assassinate Queen Elizabeth for
ppr-;i'.,; C ci.: t : ?F.:. ille was apprehended and the Ardens of Park
H-.li i .: i ..f. -t*Jr. ;ic. i ember Edward Arden, his wife, Somerville,
-j L.. f-ri..:-:: hi hh Halt .-:ci arraigned on charges of conspiracy. Evi-
dc;, h.:": r .: di'i.:i.lc to establish as Thomas Wilkes, Clerk of
ch.- F _.r. (.:-n ,Lil. ;,--:ici ;n his letter to Sir Pr-,.::3 Walsingham,
-,* t .. ar., ,: r' t ,:
Lnl. .: ,, '- n i ,.: ,ierville, Arden, Hall the priest,
;,:.;n.r l! ife ar~ :-,is sister to speak directly to
clo E;,';.: .,: ,il.,h .:-u desire to have discovered, it will
nrt L. ,-.-;; ..l f'.:L UL here to find out more than is al-
-'2.:.-,J h, C :i I. i.:er, Elizabeth I and the Religious Settle-
r- r. f :. .i I ouit ':.0), p. 129.
E.. I-l['.: l--.i i-.' -i .ussion of Catholics and Catholic sympa-
[i-L.r- -. r : *. :-..r. f: L... ly and circle of friends. Shakespeare and
Ca ti cl.- '::n p :. -.,
ready found, for the papists in this country greatly do
work upon the advantage of clearing their houses of all
show of suspicion.28
By December, however, all were found guilty of high treason and con-
demned to death. Incidents such as this forcefully suggest why recus-
ants valued secrecy and left little evidence of their liturgical prac-
tices for historians.
Another person who was under suspicion of being a Catholic and
who had a great influence on Shakespeare is Henry Wriothesley, third
Earl of Southampton (1573-1624). Southampton was the patron of an am-
bitious and admiring young Shakespeare. When the second Earl of South-
ampton died in 1581, the Countess of Southampton wrote Leicester explain-
ing that it was not her fault that her eight-year-old sor refused to
attend the PrayerBook services; it ,,as the late second Earl who taught
him that. The Countess writes in October:
That my little son refused to hear service is not my
fault that hath not seen him almost this two years.
I trust your lordship esteems me to have some more dis-
cretion than to forbid him that which his few years can
not judge of. Truly, my lord, if myself had kept him, he
should in this house have come to it as my lord, my father,
and all his doch. I pray your lordship let her Majesty
understand this much from me, to put her out of doubt I was
not guilty of that folly.29
In spite of her explanation, however, the Acts of the Privy Council for
December 20, 1581, notes that the Southampton house was searched for
evidence of Catholic services:
A letter unto Mr. Recorder of London by the which he is
required to resorte unto the Earle of Southampton's howse
8Quoted by Mutschmann, Shakespeare and Catholicism, p. 52.
29Quoted by A. L. Rowse, Shakespeare's Southamoton (New York,
1965), pp. 44-45.
in Holborne, and there to make search for the appre-
hending of one William Spencer . and, furder, he
is required to search the said howso for books, letters
and ornaments for Massinge.30
Although Southampton came from a Catholic family and was brought up
Catholic, his sympathies gradually inclined to Protestantism, and it
Ta -.:. ._*u-:, ii, t:. *. :.rl if t,:.:.rial or-anization, Sir Edwin Sandys,
i..i,' .i ,-.-i L : i 'l, 1l c,:n. lJ f.,',':i r l..J '-. iiTi .-
Alh..uLi-h ic i .JiicJlt E c f'inrJ p.:r-iiive external evidence of
Sh L. ir.: t:'- .:'u-in :.r,:: .iL -h chi: L Lth..ik: liturgy, an examination of
ir.c-rri al I; id- ': 1 Tr.r:.r-: t - -jir.. F .t, lchough many of Shakespeare's
a Ilu ao- i ii L. CL h- urt. 3a, t,' I-:. '1 r.h2 Prayer Book, some of them
l narni, b- fu .:.u J r, atr :. chl-: _F. '-.- :t... -:'itions (1549, 1552, 1559,
15- b Lt r i '. -._.i- r Licurr : : tb...:.:. For example,32 Launce-
il.:.' ur -. r--r_-_' a II ,' ,',,, r, c' i =[-.-r as a pun on approach, or in
cti- c..cie..:c if L=ur:.: ic4ip / :. F'h..ock the Jew it can be taken
a i llu.;I:..' c i i::;-d FLir:!a, "Fe; l :, :i. of the Latin Rite (eli-
mIr.teJ fior.i -,: F :.i- t. Ai-, F: i.i's image of mercy dropping
-d.-.n It'.. g- .t! e t ,iir, n '. \: I. -." t,. ir. -'-: found in the "Rorate Caeli"
of ti. F,:o r. lIu ,.
Fri.,- rcl-,i. b.if r -c..ritjl :ur' .:. is clear, then, that texts
,_f c'-u C.~r:.-i: )i ur g.cri ~. ji.-.ib! jich-..gh they were often searched
our a :! d: r .:- . : -ffi -:r- f Pri..', C:u cil. It is also clear
3 .cc .:f c,'-. P: Co.-.nr ,i f -lainj, A. D., 1581-1582, ed.
J.:hir, r ---- L L i .i -:'i, ii '...h .L.: ." ,_,.; .
3L i.:-..r,..o .. ':ar,,:a .Lrr.h.' 'London, 1917), MXI, 1059.
3 'L .r I..- ',-i:..; l ': .i -:.: i:ed in detail.
that the Easter vigil service was one of the more popular ceremonies
of the ancient liturgy and was not easily suppressed by episcopal visi-
tation. It is also clear that within Shakespeare's family and circle of
acquaintances there were Catholics who may have celebrated the Easter
vigil when he was present. And in particular, since the "Exultet" does
not exist in the Prayer Book, the likelihood is strong that sometime be-
fore he wrote his allusion to the "Exultet" in The Merchant, Shakespeare
witnessed the Easter vigil service. This service--one of the most beau-
tiful, musical, thematic, symbolic, and impressionistic ceremonies of the
ancient liturgy--was very likely to make a deep impression on anyone who
had an eye open for dramatic and esthetic expression.
Occasionally, references to the Easter vigil liturgy can be found
in non-episcopal and unofficial literature of the period. One of these
references, which actually sounds like an eyewitness description, is that
of Barnabe Googe in The Popish Kingdom, a translation of Thomas Naogeorgus.
Writing in 1570 Earnabe Googe, a devout Puritan, was impressed (although
rather negatively) with the ceremonies of the Easter vigil and published
the following description of the "idolatrous and heathenlike" liturgy
practiced in his day.Although his account is a fierce denunciation of
Roman ceremonies, it gives an excellent, detailed picture of the dramatic
setting of the Easter vigil service of the sixteenth century. Barnabe
In Eastereve the fire all, is qucncht in every place
And fresh again from out the flint, is fetcht with solemn grace:
A taper great, the paschall name, with musicke then they blesse,
And franckensence herein they price, for greater holinesse:
This burneth night and day ss signe, of Christ that conquerde
As if so be this foolish toye, suffiseth this to tell.
Then doth the Bishop or the Priest, the water halow straight,
That for their baptism is reserve:
With wondrous pompe and furniture, amid the Church they go,
With candles, crosses, banners, Chrisme, and oyle appointed the:
lii,, tir"- -t:.E[ c.r f.:c they march, and on the saints doe
T1i,, 'ill ait I.crh ci.:, stand, and straight the Priest begins
A.d thrl-i ri- c- t dorch he touche, and crosses thereon make,
Hee [ii;. aid I: -t.L-oui -.rdes he speaks, to make the devill
In ::;.ie F!.-, i- l.ir ir.Ces and shows, & Pageants fayre are
il-h-i I'un Jr : :.t .: L :.1- .a-: kers brave, in strange attire arayd,
h'. t.hrt.: ct ';l-*i. ci t.ie doe meet, the sepulcre to see,
An', j.:.:-r .'LL, t.i- :c -.ifcly runners, before him there to bee.
7r- r cLi-.i_ ,r.: JOn- ..iih gestures such and with so pleasant
IT~t .c '.in Lt-r2 ri.. *.-' that live, would laugh to see the
E i ',lv-. G.:,:_.-' J ;... i i .:.i f Lt-.e Easter vigil with the cycle plays sug-
g.:c-: ao.:...c i' rt'e rin 1cr .I- .i[.-ularity and availability of this cere-
s,..-,o,. Th, Eaii- r '. :. L-- ; arks the end of the penitential season
,:.f i er.L :J io L Li rr'i. l lliy known as the day on which solemn serv-
ai -- i, ,I ; [;, i zl - r," .z .: .t : .1.
CG:...:-' macwi i -ri*-r..i.:n of the fire at night, the "paschall"
c i-,j_.:, and.j l-e "[r'u.i :I-" n:.L. u: that part of the ceremony which
ShTl.e :atl.L: :,...- i:. h:-.': '-.i mind when he created the setting for
:,:c rfi. : Th: ll. ..b:'r s.. A, C-.:4ee notes, the liturgical ceremony begins
w-,-.n ci... l1. r. j.: "- u..-'cc;i-, e:'.'ry place," and all is darkness except
the c.rnjl. lihr 'iIr.' i.- "fiC:.:. *.or che flint" (a liturgical symbol of
I.:. Fr il-. bi. a. .:, T.h..mas Naogeorgus, "Englyshed by Earnabe
GC.:.. -. ;i.'." i .::r- :-iLT : Hope (London, 1880), pp. 52-53.
Christ as the light who "shines in the darkness, and the darkness has
not overcome it" (John 1:5). On returning to Belmont Portia exclaims:
That light we see is burning in my hall:
How far that little candle throws his beams'
So shines a gcod deed in a naughty world.
The "Exultet": Sacrificial Love Leads to Life
From the beginning of the Easter vigil ceremony, the nighttime
and musical settings, the images of candle and moon, the symbolic flicker
of light, and the theme of sacrificial love are parallel with the garden
scene at Belmont. According to the Salisbury Processional,34 after the
lighting of the "new fire" and the Easter candle, the people form a pro-
cession and follow the Easter candle into the darkened church while
singing the following hymn:
Inventor rutili dux bone luminis,
u.i certis vecibus temor.n dividis,
Merso sole Chaos ingruit horridum,
Lumen redde tuis Christe fidelibus.3
34In choosing the Sarum (or Salisbury) use for my study, I hav~
considered the availability and the distinctive features of the three
main uses: Sarum, York, and Hereford. The Sarum use was followed in
London and in South England including Southampton. This is the lit.rgical
use that Shakespeare would be most likely to encounter during his early
career after he left Stratford and sought the patronage of the Earl of
Southampton. The liturgical use of the Stratford area is called the
Herefore use which would also be the use of the Arden family at Wilmcote
near Stratford. If Shakespeare encountered the Easter vigil liturgy where.
his Company was on tour of the North during the plague, it would have
been the York use. The verbal text of the Easter vigil is the same in
these three uses. The rubrics and ceremonial directives are slightly
different according to the local church customs and facilities. And th-
musical notation has the same basic melodic line but in varying degt..-.
of ornateness. The Salisbury Processional, 1544, is of the Sarumn
and is comparatively ornate.
35Salisbury Processional, 1544 (University Microfilms, Ann i!'.
1948). reel 482, folio lxxxvi, Appendix I, p. 167. Subsequent quce":-
[Good Creator and master of the golden light,
You divided the seasons into precise periods;
Now as the sun sets, hideous chaos threatens us,
Restore light to your faithful ones, 0 Christ.]
After thick the congregation standS in the darkened church with only
tV.: _it.:r C:rl- i r.-..i ai..i .:cens to the deacon sing the climactic
"L':.-til.r" .c .,r.- 'Ir: ;. i....[ -L ain primarily that of light:
HIni r -'" 'j,. r pC u
(TII i L.. n r- .:f h itich it is written:
It .- -Sd._.. 1 .,,-.,- .l: ,-
;- t -' L L-- F.2 LI
11 o I d -ciis 'eis.
"II r_ r. c .-il t- L!,ined by my rejoicing.")
(fo. xci, 180)
In -ubh;.erc li.-.; cl-, incr.-icLtory motif repeats seven times that on
ru- ri ii. : [i iF J.-i '. I . Christian salvation history took place.
'ihu.. Lt- i li i.i, .. Jl.-- and moon that constitute the setting for
Lt h-. i .:-; '.r a t. i- ..
C:;r t.c.- ..icr cr.,- .i.,r imageryy is the fact that the Easter
.iil : ~,r.e .:'-:. !i~our'.::. : I .r :Tony which always takes place at night
in le i-.', .:t f cr.- f.l ....:.. f:'r according to the Prayer Book, "Easter
iA.i:., .:ihii -: r.: ':pr.d, : always the first Sunday after the Full
i.l ,. f.- crn- : ti.:,', :..rC' L': paginal citations will refer to Appen-
dix J V.'1 3 i ,- r..' :r.-: r -f tii L:- ter vigil service is given.
Moon"36 of the vernal equinox. Nighttime, mcon, candle, song, and the
symbolic restoration of light, then, constitute the basic setting for
the Easter vigil.
The garden scene at Belmont also has the same tone and setting
that is found in the "Exultet." Against a background of candle light
(V.i.90, 92, 220), moonlight (V,i.1,54,92,109,142), and music (V.i.
53, 55, 68, 69, 76, 82, 83, 97, 106) Lorenzo and Jessica reminisce that
she "did run from Venice As far as Belmont" (V.i.16-7) and escaped the
"hell" (II.iii.2) of Shylock's house.
Against this background, then, identical with the opening scene
of act five of The Merchant, the deacon introduces the first theme that
is parallel with one of the themes of The Merchant:
.*.-- ;--- -.'4.1^- ---- *--p-,:_---- .n
Haec nox est, in qua prium padres
(This is the night in which you led our
&____--____ ~-- e-
nostros filios Israel eductos de Aegypto
forefathers, the children of Israel, out of
_--- 0------ D---
Trubrum mare sicco vestiao transire fccisti.
Egypt through the Red Sea with dry feet.)
(fo. xc, 178)
"Calendar Rules," Prayer Book (1559), p. 16.
i'h.- "L i'.' '.:c" l .r : E i C .o .-: Biblical account of the night on
i ic .;: i . i. : . : .:l ft .-i ci.: Londage of Egypt:
It i i,-i i ci. -b .:.tb-i .ed unto the Lorde, in the
v11ii.0, ,i.: tiu i-tr chr.l- Cu: of the land of Egypt: This
ii trha ,, i-. ,: o r. 1..:.d., which all the children of
IsL; ,.l r.uic '.r.:pi chrcu c:ut their generations.37
Elizbi lIt. hn i',. f.t.'i-1L iit this event because they also heard it as
t!i, i -c .:L i':'u-i '-:-:.- [-::..' at morning prayers on Easter in the
lirur::' .f t-.- Fr_ _-: [ .
It -h:.ul.. t, n.:t .I ',..r.. ciat the fifth act of The Merchant is not
S -ll :c. ..' re.J-:lic :..i Ec'l .:....2.-lu; motif or on the various motifs and
i,-ii.-r :.f [cli "I:..i.y" L. ." T... "Exultet" does, however, contain Biblical
n-!d lir.uL,:.1 ... cif-. ci ,;,' ; nd images which explain some of the pat-
c:L '- a. -.1.d ii h- il-,il I,- a ini present ti.em in a light which is not
lI.. i: f.: c [ '. l-.*'. ,,.1 One of these patterns is the bondage-
:..!-" -c 'Li'. .,.:,:rLi ri g c. t, ?ook of Exodus, God delivered his chosen
fi:'i i: .:. i ,-,~i.1 e fr:.r ri.e: tendege of wealthy, powerful, and cruel
EL. pt, i,''r .:1.:- l e., :- t ch. - r.i,. gh the Red Sea and the desert, dropped
r:inr ir. ci, ", ; c 'r i.n [.r:ile, and brought them into the promised
[.,-5-. J .
H.- : c -i-. -L... '. .,-.. . f '.'..nice in The Merchant and of Egypt in
ch.. O!Il TI.cS--,:rt i n i.L: .:.; i : 1;son; the similarity between Belmont and
thl- p:. : .j c .- .I i -; comparison. According to the Book of
CG[,-:-tir ('C ,.: i r. L Cr: -r. ir :hough fifty), God used the wealth and
r i..u .r E- c-: co -: .' o. b r ..J his twelve sons, the tribe of Israel.
S E:':. i'! .. . 37.
But according to the Book of Exodus (chapters one through twelve) Egypt
became the land of bondage, cruel masters, flesh pots, and golden calves.38
For Elizabethans the city of Venice apparently evoked much of the same
emotional response as a Babylon of Egypt did for the Jews. Thus, Thomas
Coryate saw Venice as the "incomparable city," the "rich diadem and most
flourishing garland of Christendom."39 But Thomas Nashe felt that the
Italian city had an unambiguous corrupting influence over the English
From thence he brings the art of atheism, the art of epi-
curizing, the art of whoring, the art of poisoning, the
art of sodimitry. The cnly probable good thing they have
to keep us from utterly condemning it is that it maketh a
man an excellent courtier, a curious carpet knight; which
is, by interpretation, a fine close lecher, a glorious
hypocrite. It is now a privy note amongst the better sort
of men, when they would set a singular mark or brand on a
notorious villain, to say he hath been in Italy.40
In The Merchant Venice is also ambivalent. It is the city of
wealthy merchants, ready loans, gay dinners, evening masques, la.. and
order. But it is also the place of bondage, usury, debt, inhospitable
dinners, forgotten masques, deceitful business deals, and cruel laws.
38At the foot of Mt. Sinai, the Israelites molded a calf with the
golden earrings they had pilfered from the Egyptians and then worshipped
it saying, "These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee out of the
land of Egypt" (Exodus 32:4). From this incident and especially from I
Kings 12:28-9), where Jeroboam returns from Egypt and sets up bulls for
worship, "It has generally been supposed that the Israelites borrowed
calf-worship from the Egyptians" (The Schaff-Herzo EncyclopedLa of
Religious Knowlede, ed. Samuel M. Jackson [New York, 1908], II, 345).
3Thomas Coryate, Corvat's Crudities, 1611 edition (New Y.[rl.
1905), II, 427.
40Thomas Nashe, Selected Writings, The Unfortunate T.avelter ..
Stanley Wells (Cambridge, Mass., 1965), p. 259.
Belmont, on the other hand, stands in contrast with these harsh reali-
ties of the city. It is a promised land of.resolution and harmony fol-
lowing a journey of turbulence and discord. At Belmont all are rejoic-
ing in Antonio's escape from the cruel bond of Shylock. And all the
main characters except Shylock are grateful for their blessings--"manna"
dropped "in the way of starving people" (V.i.293-4).
When Lorenzo exclaims,
Fair ladies, you drop manna in the way
Of starved people
he recalls the themes of exodus, suffering, trial, death, and new life.
(A'. c.'Ci.-. '- ..:E-l m cI.:. -.'; c lady, you have given me life and living,"
..i':.i. i u c ;, !i ch- r me.) Lorenzo is alluding to that memo-
rabl: ..:'.cii r. c...1* .J F:...l..: ..I.en God miraculously preserved his chosen
IF-o '. i. L,,: c .l .:...rc :r.fc. ci -;IL escape from the bondage of Egypt and
b.;f.r. th.i ,:,nci i -.:* ci p .: iiised land. Exodus reads:
I;.r.: cl,. c i; li.:-, :f j r.-~ sayde unto them, Would to God
.. ha.l- d, id tL c i-: I-..- d .:f the Lorde in the Land of Egypt,
h--.e : .e t3L-: ~L i.-h- Ii r pots, and when we did eate bread
our b-lliii c. f.ill: Cfi,. .' have brought us out into this
'ld.rn. c... I ill c .i -hole multitude with hunger.
b. i-il. r, u c.:n cle .,:i.u-Ji in the wilderness there lay a small
ru...)- ch.ii,. i -.iall ia the hoare frost on the ground. And
ii,..i, ci..: I-,1 .. i i .:f i -r el saw it, they said every one to
..Vi i.L;.;i-..-t Ic i r .-.r.' . This is the bread which the
L:. -:le: hI3 iv n- c .:u c: :ate. .. and so they did eate
lj-i.r.I ur.cil th,. .:a.7: i.too the borders of the land of Chanaan.
(16:3, 14, 15, 35)
EliZat-hEnh r0.i: il..: fimiie-t with this passage read at morning
pri:.r -r ror r r' f.,.rct. rt r.he liturgy of the Prayer Book.41
ih: :::u..du mr.:.:ct L h.:- erchant constitutes one of the basic
IF't :.lI: (i" ,'f-* '), P, 45 .
movements of the play. Antonio, Bassanio, Jessica, Lorenzo, and Launce-
lot Gobbo all move away from a type of bondage associated with Venice
and with Shylock and move toward a type of deliverance and resolution
found at Belmont. And we have already seen in the previous section that
Jessica and the Venetians look upon her conversion to Christianity as a
type of exodus from the bonds of infidelity and Judaism.
Associated with the motifs of bondage and exodus and parallel with
another theme in The Merchant is the death motif in the "Exultet." Sing-
ing the "Exultet," the deacon repeats the melodic Haec nox est:
__ ,-__-____ ~
.__ .... .. ,- .. ....- ..-.
Haec noi: est
(This is the night
in ua destructis vinculis mortis
in which Christ destroyed the bonds of
Christus ab inferis victor ascendit.
death and came forth a victor from hell.)2
This passage unites three themes: the bondage of death, the power of
sacrificial love, and the triumph of Christ over death. Since all men
4Folio xc, Appendix I, p. 178. In Medieval Latin the word ir-
ferus is the word for hell; see i.-d_ T : 1- tit.'- T "*icIo "".-u:. id.
J. F. Niermeyer (Leiden, Netherlaj,.:,i ). 1. r F.i ..- F r.LE
1585, the verse "ex i-nfaeno inferK :: ." i. r -'..-,';.1 i r ar.; l.ac.
"from the lowest part of hell" (Psalm 86:13).
die, death holds all in bondage. But the debt which brings about this
bondage, according to St. Paul and the Christian tradition, is paid
when Christ dies. For by his sacrificial love, Christ pays all men's
debt; and by his resurrection--when he comes forth "ab inferis victor,"
a victor from hell--Christ releases men and breaks the bonds of death.
!lI.rt ..~.i, Cilr,.rc' J .:r ficial love brings new life, for all bap-
c'..:d t.._ l....~~ Lfir fit': T. iChrist's triumphant resurrection when they
i. hi .j-ah -.-d r:t JLL -:cion in their lives. St. Paul writes:
kn.:.i .: .rn. Ll-h:c ll .- which have been baptized into
J_.-:-u Chrli.. hi'. bL-:_ baptized into his death. We
i- t~iu~.-:J ch':i ic' r niL by baptism into his death, that
11k:'.1',. i- ChriL '. a t. ised up from the dead by the
L:.:,r f h, fL-r:..;: ...:r, so, we also should walke in
r. .i--:.-: -if !if: F...c r" we be grafted together by the
1:1.-r-, -. FL hi i: cl'.,-: yven so shall we bee partakers
0, [ E,',, E .. i t Li -L i.
Ih-: ii:. Te ::.--rc J.r .:iF tL.n ..*f resurrection and liberation from the
t.:....:a.: .:.f J; .- i.: ch- -:c.,..d Scriptural reading for morning prayers on
E-ir-. i; t .. li. u .:.f :he FL r Book.43
Th.-e ic Hi- f.:t .-ai h .:.,rdage, sacrificial love, resurrection, and
ii-O .I r.._. chi.:.- .. -ic a--c ...f The Merchant. In fact, one of the basic
tl',-, f ii !-.L:i.-r., iL ; th-i. illingness to die for love brings new
litf-. Thu,. ;', .:cl-.'. p:u-i d ..f flesh which is vindictive and deadly
fi ;.i.-i.c l. id- ~L I.i. *.T. d.-ath; while Antonio's willingness to die
tf. -ii. ftjird .: i ,r fc,: al love which leads both him and his friend
Lc: r.-. litf. I:h _r l:i2.. .... on as Antonio does toward an experience
of Li' lI rr.I -t i 1 ...ve and new life.
"..-i :.. 15'. .. 437. And as we saw earlier, chapter six-
rc.. ,f E odju- '2., i. d: i :. the liberation of God's chosen people from
i-,. t.-n r L .iij L. iL c-.. rIist lesson for morning prayers on Easter.
In Act One Portia tells Nerissa that she is bound by the last
will and testament of a dead father:
0 me, the word "choose"'. I may neither
Choose who I would, nor refuse who I dis-
like, so is the will of a living daughter
curb'd by the will of a dead father.
In a sense, here death holds Portia's power to love in bondage until
Bassanio releases her to a new life by choosing the right casket.
In Act Two Morocco experiences a form of bondage unto death and
without resurrection when he chooses the golden casket. In choosing
gold, his love is not "as wise as bold" (Il.vii.70), and so the casket
he opens is tomb-like:
0 hell' what have we here?
A carrion Death, within whose empty eye
There is a written scroll,--I'11 read the writing.
All that glisters is not gold,
Often have you heard tnat told--
Many a man, his life hath sold
But my outside to behold,--
Gilded tombs do worms infold.
Here Morocco discovers not love but hell and death; for, guided by ap-
pearances, he thinks to "thrive" (II.vii.60) by choosing gold, and so he
judges by the glisteringg" outside and finds but "worms" within. Love
then for Morocco is "Cold indeed and labour lost" (II.vii.74). And
since those suitors who "fail / Of the right casket" are "enjoined by
oath" never "to woo a maid in way of marriage" (II.ix.9-13), Morocco is
bound till death without love.
It is important here to note the contrasts between rhi li.:J "-,n
gold caskets and how they run parallel with the themes of .-.' ., .:-
ficial love, and resurrection found in the "Exultet." '.- ...: 1,
it is Bassanio's choice of the lead casket, a symbol of death and losing
one's life, which brings him and Portia to new life and love. Thus,
Bassanio's choice is similar to the central theme celebrated at Easter
time in the "Exultet": the willingness to lose one's life for love is
the choice that, paradoxically, gives life. At the Last Supper Jesus
reminded his disciples: "This is my commandement, that ye love together,
as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man then this that a man
bestowe his life for his friends" (John 15:12-13).
In contrast, however, when Morocco, the Moor, is confronted with
the same paradoxic choice he chooses gold and consequently a "Gilded
tmbL." For Morocco's value system is similar to Shylock's. Just as
Shil-l.::. evaluates himself and Antonio by the gold standard, namely, by
the i...earances of sufficiency, so Morocco in trying to win Portia's love
j..,:- by the gold standard:
A golden mind stoops not to shows of dross.
They have in England
A coin that bears the figure of an angel
Stam'd in gold, but that's insculp'd upon:
But here an angel in a golden bed
Lies all within. Deliver me the key:
Here do I choose, and thrive I as I may.
The death-resurrection motif enters into Act Three when Antonio
*.;,.= himself as a debtor who has forfeited his life and is bound to die
at t.h hands of Shylock. Antonio writes to Bassanio:
Sweet Bassanio, my ships have all miscarried,
my creditors grew cruel, my estate is very low,
my bond to the Jew is forfeit and (since in paying
it, it is impossible I should live), all debts
are clear'd b-t-cr, ni you n 1T, if I might but see
you at my d...L'-: ii:.Ei i LI-' 1 J.ng, use your pleasure,
--if your i. _. ic.: ;.. L:uc..:' you to come, let
not my letter. (III.ii.314-20)
Here Antonio makes it clear that he is willing to accept death "since in
paying" Bassanio's debt, says Antonio, "it is impossible I should live."
But he is willing to accept this death only out of love for his friend,
and he confronts Bassanio with the willing obligation of a similar love:
"if your love do not persuade you to come, let not my letter." In ac-
cepting Antonio's love Bassanio must be generous, for he must acknowledge
that his friend is willing to die for him. And Bassanio does return a
similar willingness to sacrifice himself for his friend:
Antonio, I am married to a wife
Which is as dear to me as life itself.
But life itself, my wife, and all the world
Are not with me esteem'd above thy life.
I would lose all, ay sacrifice them all
Here to this devil, to deliver you.
Apparently both Antonio and Bassanio evaluate their love by the same
paradoxic standards celebrated in the "Exultet" and on Easter. Because
they are willing to die for love they expect to triumph over the bondage
of Shylock's deadly hate.
According to Antonio the bonds of love are the only debt to be
contracted by Christians. Thus he rejects usury and wants Bassanic to be
present and witness the willingness of his sacrifice. Antonio tells
Repent but you that you shall lose your friend
And he repents not that he pays your debt.
For if the Jew do cut but deep enough,
I'll pay it instantly with all my heart.
Although Bassanio's monetary debt is going to cost Antonio his lif,
Antonio does not want to be obligated to die for money but for love ad
friendship. Antonio is suggesting, then, that love's bond is grear:i
than death and more binding than Shylock's hate and money--an idea that
runs parallel with the First Epistle of Saint Peter. Speaking of the
love of Christ which brought new life into the world, St. Peter says that
Christ paid mankind's debt not with money but with his blood:
For as much as ye know, how that ye were not redeemed
with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from
your vayne conversation, which ye received by the
tradition of the fathers: But with the precious blood
(I Peter 1:18-19)
Act Five particularly contains examples of the death-bondage-
sacrificial love motif. In the ring quarrels, the true love of Bassanio
for Portia and Gratiano for Nerissa is supposed to bind them till death.
Nerissa reminds Gratiano:
You swore to me when I did give it you,
That you would wear it till your hour of death.
Again, it is sacrificial love that binds till death and gives new life,
for the ring is symbolic of Portia's willing gift of herself:
Ihis: house, these servants, and this same myself
Art yours,--my lord's'--I give them with this ring
iJl.-.:h when you part from, lose, or give away,
Lec it presage the ruin of your love.
.~'1' in Act Five Lorenzo and Jessica focus on love, death, and
ti:.-oi' in each of their classical allusions. "In such a night," Troilus,
Tiniie Llrdo, and Medea transcended the bondage of death out of love.
Thi.- c ilassical allusions will be discussed in detail later.)
Sh.kespeare, of course, did not have to go to the "Exultet" for
thi i :j. :f death's bond being broken by sacrificial love since the idea
L; .! Ln-;orporated in Christian literature and is current in much of
['- lLr.ri:cal and religious thought of Elizabethan England. Neverthe-
less, in The Merchant, as in the "Exultet," self-sacrificing love tri-
umphs over the bondage of hate and death. Moreover, this theme occurs
in a similar setting in both The Merchant and the "Exultet." For in Act
Five when Lorenzo and Jessica notice "How sweet the moonlight sleeps
upon the bank" and how the "sounds of music Creep in our ears," they
recall that "In such a night" as this the bonds of death were broken
by love. Troilus, Thisbe, Dido, Medea, Antonio, and Jessica, all in
various ways, were triumphant martyrs for love.44
Another theme of the "Exultet," which is parallel to the justice
theme in The Merchant, is that of the Jews robbing the Egyptians of their
jewels before they left Egypt. In the "Exultet" the deacon sings about
the night on which this took place,
B -- ,p 1___ ,- _,_____-__-_ -_ --_ _____.._-_ -
__M1 Q, jL;z4s_
O beata nox, quae expoliavit Aegyptios,
(0 happy night, which despoiled the Egyptians
and enriched the Jews.) (fo. xcii, 182)
The "Exultet" is referring here to Jewish history as it is rec,:rjed in
the Book of Exodus:
4Later I discuss Chaucer's classification of Thisbe, [i3.:., 3r,
Medea as mar yvrs for love in the 1...- -i of 3.:-J ii- :r.. the r.:...;-,'z .-J
source for Shakespeare's classical allusions in V.i.7-14.
And they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver,
and jewels of golde, and rayment. And the Lorde
gave the people favour in the light of the
Egyptians, so that they granted such things as
they required: and they robbed the Egyptians.45
There seems to be no question here about the justice of the Je.s
despoiling the Egyptians. For the "Exultat" celebrates the event; and
the Book of Exodus proclaims that the Jews are to thank the Lord annu-
It is a night to be observed unto the Lorde, in the
which hee brought them out of the Land of Egypt:
this is that night of the Lorde, which all the children
of Israel must keepe throughout their generations.
l'.l-c' ,r, .,: =.. .:rli..er, in the Old Testament the Jews are God's
F.: c'i,:'i ~ L 1,oily people unto the Lorde thy God:
[lie 1.-rd- ct-, C.:j hath chosen thee to be a special
.:.ile uicr hl_,-:..lif, above all nations that are upon
Ar.d -, c.i.- c bi._ jd a.ith the Lord's assistance and providence. 7r
iJ.-: c h L.:.J *.'-: :Luc' che Egyptians with plagues ard delivered his
cl-...- r --:. ;1: I i-, i- -- .ghty hand:
tic.u.i i',0 Lorde loved you . therefore hath
chr .-r.'. tr.:'.,:' you out through a mighty hand, and
.. 1i-.r:Jr ,d .. Ou of the house of bondage, from the hand
:f PhF ria .r.- : f Egypt.
.n,-i cE-: Libl :rid the liturgy were authoritative sanctions fo-
iCltill ; -, i-in r [ .i .i.iance, this despoiling of the Egyptians sheds
:. 12::.-: According to the "New Calendar" in the Praver
L.-.' r ,L i) chl-.;. of Exodus is the first lesson for morning
pr.., ; ,. cr. 1 morning prayers, in Cramner's revision of the
IcL,.:- .- c.-i. -1..:_ of the Easter vigil service.
significant light on Shylock's taking interest from Christians and Jes-
sica's despoiling Shylock when she fled from Venice. There are already
enough overtones of the exodus in The Merchant to justify considering
The Merchant in terms of it.
Although it is Shylock who considers himself one of the Lord's
chosen people with a right to take interest from the Christians, it is
Jessica turned Christian who actually despoils Shylock and seems to
share the same approval that Exodus attributes to the chosen people when
they "robbed" the Egyptians. For although Shylock considers himself as
one of the Lord's chosen people, he seems to be the only one in The Mer-
chant who does so.
When Shylock thinks of himself in this way he usually introduces
an element of tension between himself as a Jew and others as Christians.
As we saw in chapter one, he refers to his "tribe," "our sacred nation,"
and the "ancient grudge" he bears against the despised Gentiles while he
meditates revenge against Antonio: "I hate him for he is a Christian"
(I.iii.37). Also, Shylock's opinion of himself as one of the Lord's
chosen people is based on a careful distinction between thrift, theft,
advantage, and prodigality. Shylock specifically rejects theft, but
with Biblical quotations he defends his right to occult compensation and
taking advantage of those who are prodigal. For him usury is thrift not
This was a way to thrive, and he [Jacobi was blest:
And thrift is blessing if men steal it not.
However, thrift does not thrive; theft does, risk does, prodigal-
ity does, and sacrificial love does. If Shylock is correct in thinking
that increase is a sign of God's blessing to his chosen people, then
it is the Christians--generous with love and prodigal with money--who
are blessed. Moreover, just as Jacob tricked Laban out of his ewes and
lambs with what Shylock considers the Lord's blessing when he fled his
uncle's domination, and just as the Jews despoiled the Egyptians of their
silver and jewels when the Lord "brought them out of the land of Egypt
with great power, and with a mightie hand" (Exodus 32:11), so Jessica
runs from her father taking his ducats and jewels.
Thul. 19..:0 ': ar,i, ,_nt that increase be recognized as a sign of
GodJ' pr.. .i1 n i a -ir ironically becomes a sign of contradiction.
F:r AriL:.rTiL. J:-..: i-t b i.'.: L.: pay even the principal on his loan (IV.i.
332-5) tE..L 1_ cJl- -,,c .._I :.ne half of Shylock's wealth (IV.i.366)
uhi.:t, ;,, t'~-- '"'r. J:-. c. r.:nder it Upon [Shylock's] death unto the
g.rLiL -1,." L,:.ri' : .: (TV.L 31'-80). And lorenzo and Jessica become bene-
f .i;-'i" ,_ 5i. h l.h .: '.ill: "a gift . of all he dies possess'd/
liu-.: h -- L,:. ir.:-:. ac nd hi; daughter" (IV.i.384-6). To use the words
o.E r:lc.:t --"hl i .' a.i: I ..: co thrive, and . they were] blest" (I.
i,; ..-.). i:..r.:.'er. ch.- ":'.na of heaven" which brings about the loss of
Ar i.: j-.- !3 : L'.,- enough for him to forfeit his bond to Shy-
IL-C.e' =i :-L.r,- i: :rip;. Shakespeare, then, permits us to watch
n-:r Lt.. "h'rh .. -: 1-. .,;" Lit Jessica and the Christians of Venice despoil
Sh. '.c:... in .:.r.Lrr i, che paradoxical Christian choice of death
:hi.: li: .1: c.-. itfi:, I::'-, chooses increase and profit through the
l -C 1 .e, c,... c: c :.fr it .:.:.-.etitor but actually finds a type of death:
",Cc-,. rl:e r,., Il. :r.-.i ,.',:.- do take the means whereby I live (IV.i.
Another parallel between the "Exultet" and The Merchant is the
escape from bondage through Baptism. Although Shylock considers him-
self one of the Lord's chosen people, a descendent of the promise, and
an heir to the promised land, Jessica and the Venetians feel that she
is one of the new elect when she escapes from the hell of Shylock's house
and becomes a Christian. For Jessica and the Venetians, the old covenant
promise and election are replaced by the new covenant.
The liturgy also reflects this idea when it prays that the Jews
be converted and so become the truly chosen Israelites:
And so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that,
they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israel-
ites, and be made one fold under one shepherd Jesus Christ
The "Exultet" in the Roman liturgy explains further that baptism is the
New Testament equivalent to liberation from bondage, passage through the
Red Sea, and initiation into the communion of saints--the Christian term
for Shylock's "sacred nation." The text of the "Exultet" reads:
Haec nox est, quae hodie per universum mundum in christum
credentes, a vitiis saeculi segregatos et caligine oecca-
torum, reddit gratiae, sociat sanctitati.
[This is the night which returns to grace those throughout
the whole world now believing in Christ, and unites those
separated from worldly vices and the darkness of sin to
the communion of saints.]
(fo. xc, 177-178)
Lorenzo's version of this doctrine of Gcd's chosen people re-
flects his own prejudice and that of his Venetian friends. Speaking to
Gratiano, Lorenzo explains that Jessica,
46Prayer Book (1559), Collect for Good Friday, p. 119.
How I shall take her from her father's house,
What gold and jewels she is furnish'd with
What page's suit she hath in readiness,--
If e'er the Jew her father come to heaven,
It will be for his gentle daughter's sake,
And never dare misfortune cross her foot,
Unless she do it under this excuse,
That she is issue to a faithless Jew.
L: r :.a' p ....n ,:.,, EcEr.L!e ("ch; iords were not completely distinguished
inr -11 'ic., :i cL- cir- 1') -- significant here because, as he sees it,
J.-v;c-=' L -c;.-.~t, M ":, r.cl." i: the only claim Shylock can make to
"c' j c'. i.,i'.'en". n.-le b.: tL -', g "issue to a faithless Jew" is the only
":.ic.-" i.jiltable ri:. '.'iiircnne Ito] cross her foot." Lorenzo liter-
all ,:i lii... C.:J' - r. ':.'-. :.C' ':hristians with a vengeance.
Lic.:, the j.: .'u .:r. .:,'ntile leads to another image from Exodus.
P.:LL'. r[l-ledidgr ir ., i:,. .-.:.. d to strict justice, tells Shylock: "We
.a!l ..-.>..:c i ,-cl.. ir.:',.r je.'" (IV.i.34). But when Shylock insists
ch. : ,nj L-F. .. .:--...uCe' cl, letter of the law, Antonio laments:
ic.: ,., .: I .. 11 jor. cIhing most hard
i ;. cc fc: cl--.--chan which what's hardar?--
J. u; 'i-- ;. 4, '.
Th- Irn:, : -. i1 :I-.:.t ..L ..dus. For Pharao was punished with ten
i,.::ir i.. [,. -'ie: ArnJ ifi' ll .Jespoiled by the chosen people because he
"hdit,,i nri: l-i.c~,c" (EL -J.J. 1 '2; the phrase is used as a Biblical motif,
. f:c --*:r;-.l -:13, 7.1-, ..22, 8:15, and 8:19). For the Venetians
thi iL-.--niE.cif :. :,i Jf l, -.- 1. i* complete; he is not a member of the
ct.::'-, ";cred iCi.:cr," buc 3 hard-hearted Pharao holding Christians
'.t.JS.:. ciC -' Gratiano makes the same pun later:
"i;... (b: n., h-.:..-j, i :;. r. l.., r, I no Jew" (1I.vii.53).