In The Merchant of Venice, what can I write in a death bed letter from Shylock to Jessica? Please give evidence from text.

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Merchant of Venice, Shylock has suffered at the hands of the Christians who have showed him little compassion and have , in his belief, contributed to his present feelings of hatred."The villany you teach me I will execute" (I.iii.62)clearly indicates that he blames the Christians for his animosity.

In considering Shylock's "death bed" letter, you could choose either to be remorseful having learnt from the Duke and Portia on the value of forgiveness and how mercy "blesseth him that gives, and him that takes" (IV.i.190)or vengeful, having learnt nothing from past events:"Cursed be my tribe If I forgive him! (I.iii.47)

The audience, dead-set against Shylock and his all-consuming hatred, has been persuaded through his talk of the value of the ring he received from his beloved Leah, that maybe there is a compassionate side to him and maybe there is some truth in his talk of how, despite being human and "warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian," he has not been treated with the same level of fairness. This should also feature in the death-bed letter - how Shylock has been fighting all along for Jessica's future, so that she will not have to suffer the way he has: He can implore her to understand - even now that she is NOT a Jew, having converted to Christianity- "hath not a Jew eyes? (III.i.51) 

As Jessica prepares to leave her father's house and renounce her religion, the audience is aware that she apparently doesn't stand a chance in life, even though she has renounced her religion because she is nothing more than "issue to a faithless Jew” (II.iv.37). Shylock could considering this statement apologize that Jews find themselves  "feed(ing) fat the ancient grudge I bear him"(I.iii.42) instead of learning to be a better person.

Whether you choose to make Shylock's letter remorseful or bitter and unforgiving , the same issues are relevant:

  1. I am sorry that I have been all-consumedand made you believe I am not an honorable Jew BUT the Christians are to blame
  2. I hate to leave you to fend for yourself against these hateful Christians - take care as you will never be one of them.
  3. I have sacrificed everything for you. "The pound of flesh" that I demanded would have ensured that the Christians would have feared the Jews and maybe left us alone. You wouldn't have needed to convert to Christianity to save yourself.

These points can be incorporated. Alternatively, he can show Jessica no mercy:

  1. You abandoned me and all I stood for when I tried to make a decent life for you as a Jew. The way I feel now "I would my daughter were dead at my foot"(III.i.78)
  2. You are partially responsible for the position I now find myself in. I wanted to provide for you and all you did was to steal from me. You will "be damned for it."(III.i.28)
  3. I shall never forgive you for stealing Leah's ring and trading it for a monkey. " I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys."(106)
  4. I only demanded the "pound of flesh" after you abandoned me and left me with nothing to live for.

Incorporate a range of these possibilities into your answer and you will undoubtedly get your message across.

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The Merchant of Venice

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