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Why does Jessica convert to Christianity?
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In the course of the play, Jessica elopes with Christian youth Lorenzo and their dual inclusion in Act V suggests that she has been converted into a full-fledged Christian. There are plainly "push" factors involved in Jessica's decision to leave her father's home, which she characterizes as a "hell." But Jessica is not mistreated by her father: he shows genuine affection towards her and trusts her with the keys to his chest. As to the "pull" factors, Lorenzo is an undistinguished young man and Shakespeare does not furnish us with any romantic moments between the two. Assisting Lorenzo in the elopement plot, Gratiano remarks upon Jessica that "She is gentle and no Jew" Act II, scene vi, l.51). This statement is ironic, for immediately preceding it, Jessica relishes the experience of stealing her father's ducats, saying that she will "gild" herself with "some moe ducats" (II, vi., l.50). Jessica's conversion to Christianity is not a matter of faith or even a matter of personal compatibility with a Christian world-view. It is, instead, a convenient means through which she can quit the "losing" side in the play, obtain the wherewithal to live a free-spending life-style, and gain entry into the masque that concludes The Merchant of Venice, Jews being excluded from the proceedings of the play's last act.
Posted by enotes on September 8, 2013 at 3:56 PM (Answer #1)
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