How is the Jessica-Lorenzo subplot central to the play's chief concerns?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The subplot of Jessica-Lorenzo serves to reinforce certain themes and motifs while providing another situation in which Shakespeare can lampoon Christians' attitudes toward Jews as well as general attitudes about money.


  • Both the Jessica-Lorenzo and the Portia-Bassanio relationships involve a closely guarded daughters
  • Both marriages provide monetary rewards - Jessica steals jewels and ducats from her father before eloping with Lorenzo and Portia is provided for well and Bassanio can pay off his debts.
  • Both involve marriage as an escape - Jessica runs from her father:

Alack, what heinous sin is it in me
To be ashamed to be my father's child?
But though I am a daughter to his blood,
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)

 and, Portia ends the suspense of who will be her selected suitor. In          doing so, she is finally released from the hold of her father.

  • Both involve acts of loyalty - Jessica's ring plot at the end of the play tests Bassanio. Jessica proves loyal to Lorenzo by offering to become a Christian.


The motif of money prevails throughout the drama. Shylock, of course, is obsessed with money, always complaining that Antonio works against him. Bassanio needs money to be able to guess which box allows the man to become betrothed to her. Jessica wants to run off and marry Lorenzo, but before she does this, she steals from her father, Shylock, so that she be able to afford some comforts.


  • Bassanio plans to pay off his debts after he marries Portia, who is rich.
  • Lorenzo objects to Jessica's being Jewish, but he is capable of enjoying her money.
Read the study guide:
The Merchant of Venice

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