Is Shylock's daughter Jessica a victim or a villain in Merchant of Venice?

Expert Answers
sensei918 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Villain" is probably too harsh a label to put on the moneylender Shylock's daughter Jessica. Yet it is also not quite true that she is a victim. Shylock has tried to keep her away from other influences,  but Jessica has fallen in love with Lorenzo. She wants to marry him and become a Christian. So the issue is complex; it is not so black and white as to be able to label her. Yes, she betrays her father by running away with Lorenzo. That does not make her a villain, but it does demonstrate that she is not a victim. She is acting in a way that she can achieve her desires. Shakespeare does allude in Act II, Scene v to the fact that Jessica is likely stealing "what gold and jewels she is furnished with (35) from her father for her escape. Still, it is up to the reader to decide if Jessica is a true villain. She does what she does for love of Lorenzo. Perhaps one can excuse her actions, too, because her father would never have permitted their marriage.