Please comment on the character of Jessica in Act II of The Merchant of Venice.
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Act II is the first time that Jessica is introduced in this play. Scene 3 presents her as a daughter who suffers greatly as a result of her father's miserly nature and also his grim character. She uses the strong metaphor of "Our house is hell" to describe her feelings about living with her father, and in this scene clearly reveals her plan to the audience to elope with Lorenzo and escape her father's influence:
Alack, what heinous sin is it in me
To be ashamed to be my father's child!
But though I am a daughter to his blood
I am not to his manners: O Lorenzo
If thou keep promise I shall end this strife,
Become a Christian and thy loving wife!
It is clear that such lines engage the audience's sympathy for Jessica. She presents herself as being caught in a conflict that places her in an impossible situation, and the only escape from this conflict involves her leaving her father and her religion, and becoming a Christian. She, however, clearly believes she is morally superior to her father, as though she is "daughter to his blood" her "manners" are different. By marrying Lorenzo she can escape her father's clutches and attain the moral high ground she believes she possesses. It is important realise, however, that the character of Jessica has been viewed in many different ways. The way that she so casually steals her father's fortune shows a cruel streak that is confirmed by Tubal's report that she pawns a ring that belonged to her mother for a monkey. Although this scene presents her in one light, the evidence of the entire play should cause the perceptive reader to question her character and the way that she buys her way into marriage.
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