In Act 2 of The Merchant of Venice, why did Jessica leave Launcelot?

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Noelle Matteson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act II, Launcelot decides to leave Shylock, his master. Bassanio offers him a job which he gladly accepts. Jessica hears of this and expresses regret that he is leaving: “Our house is hell, and thou, a merry devil, / Didst rob it of some taste of tediousness.” She gives him money and a letter to hand to Bassanio. Jessica plans to run away with Lorenzo, a Christian and a friend of Bassanio’s. Launcelot cries and leaves her.

Launcelot again leaves Jessica when Shylock exits the house in order to meet with Bassanio.  While Shylock is distracted and absent, she disguises herself as a boy and sneaks out with Lorenzo and his friends. Launcelot and Jessica remain on good terms, but Shylock is outraged at her betrayal. His daughter has stolen money and eloped with a man who is not Jewish. Ultimately, Jessica and Lorenzo live happily together and will inherit much of Shylock’s money, Launcelot continues to serve his new master, and Shylock is forced to convert to Christianity and lose half of his assets.

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The Merchant of Venice

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