Jessica in The Merchant of Venice
In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare introduces his audience to the multi dimensional character of Jessica. Jessica is identified as the daughter of a Jewish Merchant but the audience learns she is much more than that. As the play moves along and Jessica marries a Christian man, Jessica’s identity as a Jewish woman is challenged. Although a minor character in the play, she is important because she makes the audience question what it means to be Jewish and therefore what it means to be Christian. The differences between Judaism and Christianity in the play are shown through Jessica’s relationships with Shylock and Lorenzo. The father daughter relationship that Jessica and Shylock share shows the audience values of Judaism. The two have a very rocky relationship through out the play and although it appears that Jessica is no more than a rebellious teenager, their relationships and interactions show the foundations of a Jewish family. Shylock shows the rigid rules of the Jewish religion through how he treats Jessica at their home. What the audience knows about Jessica and Shylock’s history is that Shylock locks up Jessica in their house and she is not allowed out. Jessica then undoubtedly has resentment towards her father when she says "Our house is hell, and thou, a merry devil, / Didst rob it of some taste of tediousness" (2.3.1). It is clear to the audience that Shylock not only wants to lock up his daughter to the world he, also doesn't want Jessica to experience Venetian society when he says "lock up the doors" so the sounds of music don't drift in from the streets (2.5.5). It becomes very obvious that Jessica’s house is a strict, rule driven household that she does not appreciate or like. Jessica’s life under Shylock’s rules shows the rigidness of the Jewish religion that Jessica was brought up under. These instances, at the beginning of the play, show the audience what Jessica’s life as a Jew is like. It is not until we...
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