Christianity versus Judaism in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice


Essay, 2008

9 Pages, Grade: 2+


Abstract or Introduction

In Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, the Jewish character of Shylock refers to the biblical story of
Jacob tricking his uncle Laban (1.3.68-98) by tampering with the procreative process of Laban's
flock of sheep (Genesis 30.25-43). In the following, I will try to point out why Shylock tells this
story, and in which literary context he ruminates upon it. Besides a critical comparison of how his
speech interacts with the original biblical story, I will furthermore discuss this analogy foremost in
terms of its religious and dramatic functions within the play. Against this background, it will be
made evident that 'usury' as a negative Jewish stereotype, presumed by the judging eyes of medieval
Christians, is put in the centre of consideration here. It will be argued that as a general declaration in
MoV, a superiority of the New Testament to the Old Testament, of Christianity to Judaism, can be
derived, and that this conclusion is strongly linked with the majoritarian mindset in Shakespeare's
times and cultural sphere, rather than with Shakespeare's personal attitude towards Jews or Judaism,
an often supposed attitude of unprovable nature.

Details

Title
Christianity versus Judaism in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice
College
Harvard University  (Department of English)
Course
Shakespeare and Modern Culture
Grade
2+
Author
Year
2008
Pages
9
Catalog Number
V138271
ISBN (eBook)
9783640468959
ISBN (Book)
9783640469062
File size
416 KB
Language
English
Notes
This essay is politically and historically engaged and evinces the care and acuity you put into its research and composition. I take seriously your claim that Shylock’s mixed but largely anti-Semitic depiction is a product of cultural matrices pertinent to early modern Europe, and the distinction you point up between individualizing details and essentializing, ‘majoritarian’ (great term!) predications is a useful one.
Keywords
Christianity, Judaism, Shakespeare, Merchant, Venice
Quote paper
Andrea Oberheiden (Author), 2008, Christianity versus Judaism in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/138271

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