Jessica is doubly distinguished. Unlike her father, Shylock, she is said to be gentle; at once noble and gentile. Yet, she remains a daughter to Shylock’s blood despite her conversion. According to Mary Metzger, representations of Jessica turn on alternating characterizations of her as a latent Christian and as a racialized and thus unintegrable Jew. Until recently, discussions of race or Jewishness in the Merchant tended to focus on Shylock, thus ignoring the intersection of religion, gender, and class. Metzger argues that, in order to elucidate The Merchant’s relation to early modern England’s emerging ideology of race, attention must be paid to the shifting emphases on discourses of gender, class, and religion in Shakespeare’s representation of Jessica. Continue reading
What do I mean when I call you “gentle”? Is it out of affection, because you are courteous and polite? Do I consider you a person of distinction? Or am I reflecting on the character of your birth?
And if I am, is it in derision, praise or with the intent of reinventing you?