Tag Archives: Christianity

Genesis in Shakespeare

Image: “Jacob and Laban”, Jean Restout II (1692-1768), Before 1737

Shakespeare was no dope: his writing reflects his deep understanding of the cumulative nature of storytelling and the intense influences of early texts, including the bible, on modern writing. The Merchant of Venice synthesizes this relationship, borrowing from the bible in order to comment on the anti-Semitism that was prevalent in Elizabethan England. In particular, Shakespeare incorporates a story from Genesis directly into the play during an argument between Shylot and Antonio over the correct interest rate to charge. This story, involving an agreement reached between Jacob and his uncle Laban, not only serves as fodder for Shylot’s argument, but also additionally provides historical and biblical firepower to the story of Shylot’s downfall and eventual ‘salvation’. Continue reading