What purpose does act 2, scene 3 of The Merchant of Venice serve? Why is Jessica so ashamed to be a Jew? How much of her running away is related to her oppressive father, and how much is related to her faith?

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The scene is meant to highlight Shylock's generally disagreeable nature. As well as being a vindictive money-lender who hates Christians, Shylock is presented to us in this scene as a tyrannical father to his daughter, Jessica . As she tells Launcelot, "our house is hell," which gives you some...

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The scene is meant to highlight Shylock's generally disagreeable nature. As well as being a vindictive money-lender who hates Christians, Shylock is presented to us in this scene as a tyrannical father to his daughter, Jessica. As she tells Launcelot, "our house is hell," which gives you some idea of how bad things are at home. No wonder, then, that Jessica wants to escape; she doesn't want to live under the same roof as her father a moment longer.

Indeed, Jessica is so desperate to escape her father's clutches that she's even prepared to convert to Christianity. This way, she'll be able to marry Lorenzo. Then she'll no longer be under Shylock's control. There's no way in a million years that Shylock would ever give his blessing to such a marriage, and so the only way open for Jessica is to give up the religion of her birth and convert to Christianity.

It's not so much that she's ashamed to be a Jew; she just wants to escape her father's domestic tyranny and follow her heart. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Jessica's conversion is one such desperate measure.

The scene is significant in that it foreshadows what happens later on in the play, when Antonio offers to return his share of Shylock's estate on the condition convert to Christianity and bequeath all his goods to Jessica and Lorenzo on his death.

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