Blood RelationsChristian and Jew in The Merchant of Venice

Blood RelationsChristian and Jew in The Merchant of Venice

Janet Adelman

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226006819

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

In this book, the author confronts her resistance to The Merchant of Venice as both a critic and a Jew. With a distinctive psychological acumen, this book argues that William Shakespeare's play frames the uneasy relationship between Christians and Jews specifically in familial terms in order to recapitulate the vexed familial relationship between Christianity and Judaism. The book locates the promise—or threat—of Jewish conversion as a particular site of tension in the play. Drawing on a variety of cultural materials, it demonstrates that, despite the triumph of its Christians, The Merchant of Venice reflects Christian anxiety and guilt about its simultaneous dependence on and disavowal of Judaism. In this psycho-theological analysis, both the insistence that Shylock's daughter Jessica remain racially bound to her father after her conversion and the depiction of Shylock as a bloody-minded monster are understood as antidotes to Christian uneasiness about a Judaism it can neither own nor disown. In taking seriously the religious discourse of The Merchant of Venice, the book offers a book both on the play itself and on the question of Jews and Judaism in Renaissance England and beyond.