The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare

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In act 2, scene3,

LAUNCELOT  "But, adieu: these foolish drops do somewhat drown my manly spirit: adieu.

JESSICA  Farewell, good Launcelot. Slack, what heinous sin is it in me ........ and thy loving wife! 

How does Launcelot bid farewell to Jessica? In this context, what are your feelings for Launcelot, Jessica and Shylock?

Why does Jessica regret being the daughter of Shylock? What is the "heinous sin" referred to in this extract? Is it really a sin? Give reasons to justify your answer.

Which promise has Lorenzo to keep? Describe the strife that Jessica is going to end?

Explain Jessica's relationship with her father which is shown in this scene. 

Give the meaning of: "But though I am a daughter to his blood, I am not to his manners."

Expert Answers

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Act II Scene 3 of The Merchant of Venice introduces a subplot to the main one of The Merchant of Venice; namely, the romance between Antonio and Bassanio's friend Lorenzo and Shylock's daughter Jessica. It also partially acts as a counterpoint to the antipathy between the Christian merchant Antonio and the Jew moneylender Shylock; for, Jessica desires to reject Judaism and become a Christian whereas Shylock is repulsed by the "pork eating" Christians.

Certainly, Launcelot wishes Jessica well, but his use of the French word Adieu which means "I commend you to God" or "Go with God," serves as his well-wishes for her conversion to Christianity. This conversion is further extended as Jessica perceives it as a chance to end strife in her life--the feelings of anti-Semitism in Venice--with her marriage to Lorenzo. This farewell of Lorenzo's is somewhat hypocritical as he has impregnated a non-believer, a Moor, and abandoned her.

Alack, what sin is it in me
To be ashamed to be my father's child!
But though I am not to his manners. O Lorenzo,
If thou keep promise, I shall end this strife,
Become a Christian and thy loving wife! (2.3.16-21)

Nevertheless, Jessica does feel some guilt about her make-up being unlike her father's "manners," or nature, as she asks "what sin" lies within herself that she would deny her cultural background--"a daughter to his blood"--and wish to become a Christian, Shylock's enemy.

This feeling is, of course, contrary to Shylock's feelings about his forced conversion to Christianity later in the play as Shylock hates Antonio and is forced to convert, Jessica loves his friend Lorenzo and willingly converts. And, yet, ironically, Jessica retains some of the more negative traits of the Jew Shylock, her father, as she steals his money and her mother's jewels in a gross act of disrespect and greed, feelings Shylock displays toward Antonio.

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