In The Merchant of Venice, how does Jessica spend Shylock’s money and how is this a reaction to her upbringing?

Expert Answers
gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act Three, Scene 1, Shylock has a conversation with Tubal, who tells him that Jessica spent eighty ducats in one night. Tubal then tells Shylock that he met a creditor, who showed him a turquoise ring that Jessica had given him in exchange for a monkey. Jessica's outrageous purchases reflect her upbringing. There is significant evidence that suggests Jessica had a strict, unhappy upbringing in Shylock's home. Jessica was more than likely denied access to purchasing things she desired as a child because of her father's greed and austere nature. After Jessica steals her father's money and elopes with Lorenzo, she has access to the finer things in life for the first time. Jessica seems more than happy to spend her father's money freely without much thought. Her disregard for her father's money and possessions also suggests that there is an aspect of revenge associated with her spending habits. Jessica probably resents Shylock for raising her in a strict home and not allowing Jessica to enjoy her childhood. 

lit24 | Student

Jessica has been brought up very strictly according to  the Jewish traditions by her miserly father Shylock leading her to remark:"Our house is hell." ActII sc.3.  She soon decides to elope with her lover Lorenzo and says: "But though I am a daughter to his blood/I am not to his manners......I shall end this strife/Become a Christian and thy (Lorenzo) loving wife." ActII Sc.3.

Jessica steals all of her father's jewels and money and elopes with Lorenzo when Shylock had gone to Bassanio's house for dinner. When Shylock discovers that his own daughter has stolen all his wealth he angrily excalims: "I would my daughter/ were dead at my foot." ActIII Sc.1.

In Act II Sc1 We hear from Tubal another Jew who reports to Shylock about the extravagant ways of Jessica. In Genoa she spent 80 ducats in one night and in Venice she bought a monkey with a very expensive ring.

Jessica's actions in stealing her own father's money and jewels and eloping with and marrying a person from another community-a communitywhich her father detests- is her way of protesting and rebelling agianst the cruel and stifling way in which she has been brought up.

It is however questionable whether her actions are right or wrong. Is she an ungrateful daugher? or a conscientious right thinkng individiual?