What are your impressions of Shylock in William Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice when he says "I would my daughter were dead at my foot and the jewels in her ear"?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shylock says "I would my daughter were dead at my foot and the jewels in her ear" in  William Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice, Act III Scene 1. If the statement were taken out of context, one might be horrified at Shylock's apparent lack of paternal love for his daughter. If we read it in the context of the entire scene, though, it becomes far more complex.

Shylock's history here is one of having been a victim of anti-Semitism, consistently mocked and scorned by Christians, with his wealth really being his only bulwark against persecution. He evokes his situation in one of the most brilliant and poignant speeches of the play:

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?  ... If you prick us, do we not bleed?

After a lifetime of enduring religious discrimination, now Shylock has endured having his daughter run off with one of the very Christians who has mocked, insulted, and abused him and his religion. His daughter Jessica in eloping has even taken with her and sold a ring that Shylock's deceased wife Leah gave him, that was a cherished possession because of his love for Leah.

Although we may deplore Shylock's vindictiveness, at the same time, this scene makes us realize the degree to which he has been deeply hurt by his treatment at the hand of Christians and his daughter's behavior. 

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The Merchant of Venice

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