In William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, what does Shylock mean when he says "Fast bind, fast find, A proverb never stake in thrifty mind" (2.5.53-54)? How do these words confirm a common stereotype?
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When, in Act II, Scene V, of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, the Jewish money-lender Shylock says to his insolent daughter Jessica "fast bind, fast find, a proverb never stale in thrifty mind," he is instructing her to secure herself within their home lest she fall victim to the temptations of the outside world, namely, the romantic attentions of Lorenzo. Shylock's point is that a daughter locked up is a daughter that will be there when he returns from his errand.
Shakespeare's Jewish money-lender, whose arrangement with Antonio involves the proverbial "pound of flesh" should the latter fail to repay his debt, is the quintessential stereotypical Jewish character. Shakespeare's brilliance as an author cannot conceal the fact that one of his most famous and enduring characters is representative of the most pernicious of racial profiling. Shylock is a human being -- the playwright has given him an eloquent defense of his and his fellow Jews' humanity -- but one who symbolizes the greed and avarice that was often unfairly attributed to Jewish characters. The stereotype of greedy, shifty money-lender found its most enduring personification in the character of Shylock, whose very name became synonymous with usury. Shakespeare's portrait of this tragic figure has been criticized for its anti-Semitic tone, and the quote from the second Act is intended to emphasize Shylock's more unfortunate traits.
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