Analyze how Shylock prioritizes the loss of his money over the loss of his daughter in The Merchant of Venice.

There’s a clear emotional conflict within Shylock represented by Shylock’s ambiguous feelings towards his daughter, Jessica, and towards his hard-earned money and jewels. Shylock’s reaction to Jessica’s elopement and her theft of his money and jewels is “confus’d,” as Solanio says (2.8.12), and ranges from his bitterness and distress at having his own “flesh and blood” rebel against him (3.1.30) to wishing Jessica was dead at his feet with his “jewels in her ear!” (3.1.78-79).

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In act 2, scene 6 of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, the Jewish money-lender Shylock’s daughter, Jessica, elopes with a Christian, Lorenzo. When Jessica elopes, she takes with her all of the money in Shylock’s house, as well as a a diamond, other jewels, and a turquoise ring which was given to Shylock by his deceased wife, Leah, before they were married.

Shylock’s reaction to the elopement of his daughter and her theft of his money, jewels, and ring comes to the audience not directly from Shylock, but second-hand from Solanio, in a mocking description of Shylock’s distress:

SOLANIO. I never heard a passion so confus'd,

So strange, outrageous, and so variable,

As the dog Jew did utter in the streets:

My daughter!—O my ducats!—O my daughter!

Fled with a Christian?—O my Christian ducats!—

Justice! the law! my ducats, and my daughter!

A sealed bag, two sealed bags of ducats,

Of double ducats, stol'n from me by my daughter!

And jewels; two stones, two rich and precious stones,

Stol'n by my daughter! (2.8.12–21)

Solanio clearly embellishes the scene. One “sealed bag” of ducats turns into “two bags of ducats,” then into “double ducats” (2.8.18–19).

Salerio adds his own embellishment to the scene:

SALERIO. Why, all the boys in Venice follow him

Crying,—‘His stones, his daughter, and his ducats.’

Given that Solanio and Salerio have considerable ill-feelings towards Shylock—Solanio calls him the devil “in the likeness of Jew” (3.1.19)—Solanio’s description of Shylock’s reaction to Jessica’s elopement and the loss of his "double ducats" might not be entirely accurate.

The first time the audience hears Shylock speak about Jessica’s elopement is in his conversation with Solanio and Salerio in act 3, scene 1. Shylock doesn’t mention his money at all to them, but expresses his bitterness and sadness that his own “flash and blood” would “rebel” against him (3.1.30).

Shortly thereafter, however, Shylock laments to Tubal about the loss of a diamond worth “two thousand ducats” (3.1.75) and other precious jewels which Jessica takes with her when she elopes. Shylock says that he wishes Jessica was dead at his feet, “and the jewels in her hear!” (3.1.78-79). Shylock also talks about shedding tears (3.1.84–85), but it’s unclear if the tears he sheds are for his daughter or his diamonds and jewels.

The ambiguity of Shylock’s responses to the elopement clearly demonstrate an emotional conflict within Shylock himself.

Shylock seems to shows a spark of humanity when he agonizes over the loss of the turquoise ring that his wife gave him:

TUBAL. One of them [one of Antonio’s creditors] showed me a ring, that he had of your

daughter for a monkey.

SHYLOCK. Out upon her! Thou torturest me, Tubal: it was my turquoise: I had it of Leah, when I was a bachelor: I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys. (3.1.103–107)

Again, it’s difficult to know for certain if Shylock is tortured about the loss of the ring because of the sentimental importance he attaches to it, or if he’s tortured about the loss of the value of the ring itself.

Shylock mentions Jessica once more in the play, in the court scene in act 4, scene 1, but only to say that he wishes that “any of the stock of Barrabas / Had been her husband rather than a Christian!” (4.1.304–305).

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

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