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Good girl, bad girl :
b the role of Abigail and Jessica in The Jew of Malta and The Merchant of Venice
h [electronic resource] /
by Anna Beskin.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
ABSTRACT: In The Jew of Malta and The Merchant of Venice, both Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare question anti-Semitism, Christian presumption, and socially constructed gender roles. Often compared, the two plays have obvious similarities: both plots center on rich, Jewish protagonists---Barabas in The Jew of Malta and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice---who are vilified and then destroyed by a merciless Gentile society. On the surface, the protagonists' daughters---Abigail in The Jew of Malta and Jessica in The Merchant of Venice---also share many similarities. Both are the young, beautiful daughters of rich and much maligned Jews; both love Gentile men; both flee from their religion and convert to Christianity; most importantly, both are presented as "different" from their fathers---somehow less "Jewish." However, despite their similarities, they represent polarities of early modern concepts of femininity.^ Employing Marilyn French's concept of gender principles, as presented in Shakespeare's Division of Experience, I argue that Abigail and Jessica embody the inlaw and outlaw feminine principles respectively, and that their importance in the two plays in which they appear has been critically overlooked. As James Shapiro points out in his study of the Jewish presence in England, a sixteenth century audience would hardly be familiar with practicing Jews, although they might have encountered representations ofJews in the drama of the period. Abigail and Jessica, the only Jewish characters in the two plays besides Barabas and Shylock, provide insight into the interaction between anti-Semitism and gender politics. Moreover, these two daughters sway the audience's sympathies toward or away from their fathers inversely. If we pity Abigail, whose actions are reactions to her father's machinations, then we are gratified that Barabas gets what he deserves.^ ^If we are angry with Jessica for her betrayal and theft, then we sympathize with Shylock and see him constructed into a villain by both his society and his own daughter. In this thesis, I will explore the ways in which Marlowe and Shakespeare employ Abigail and Jessica to interrogate the traditional sixteenth century roles of women, daughters, wives, and citizens.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2007.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
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Adviser: Sara Munson Deats, Ph.D.
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Good Girl, Bad Girl: The Role of Abigail and Jessica in The Jew of Malta and The Merchant of Venice by Anna Beskin A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Arts Department of English College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Sara Munson Deats, Ph.D. Lagretta Tallent Lenker, Ph.D. William E. Morris, Ph.D. Date of Approval: March 19, 2007 Keywords: Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jewish, Outlaw, Inlaw Copyright 2007, Anna Beskin
I dedicate this Masters Thesis to my best friend, John Jason Lott.
Acknowledgements I wish to express my sincerest appreciation to Dr. Sara Munson Deats for her valuable insights and warm encouragement. I would also like to thank my readers, Drs. Lagretta Tallent Lenker and William E. Morri s, whose critique has been extremely helpful. Although graduate schoo l is often a difficult and hu mbling time, I was fortunate to meet Marisa Iglesias a nd share the experience with a good friend. Finally, I owe the greatest debt to my family, whose sacrifices have made my achievements possible.
i i Table of Contents Abstract ii Chapter One Introduction 1 Chapter Two Historical a nd Critical Background 4 Historical Background 4 Demographics of the Jewish Pe ople in the Early Modern Period 4 Common Stereotypes about Jews in the Early Modern Period 8 Is Assimilation (Im)Possible for the Jews? 10 Gendered and Raced 13 Critical Background 15 Chapter Three The Jew of Malta 21 Abigail 21 Other Characters 29 Chapter Four The Merchant of Venice 32 Jessica 32 Other Characters 40 Chapter Five Conclusion 43 Works Cited 46 Bibliography 50
ii ii Good Girl, Bad Girl: The Role of Abigail and Jessica in The Jew of Malta and The Merchant of Venice Anna Beskin ABSTRACT In The Jew of Malta and The Merchant of Venice, both Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare question anti-Semitism, Christian presumption, and socially constructed gender roles. Often compared, th e two plays have obvious similarities: both plots center on rich, Jewish protagonistsBarabas in The Jew of Malta and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice who are vilified and then destroyed by a merciless Gentile society. On the surface, the protagonists daughtersAbigail in The Jew of Malta and Jessica in The Merchant of Venice also share many similarities. Both are the young, beautiful daughters of rich and much maligned Jews; both love Gentile men; both flee from their religion and convert to Christianity; most impor tantly, both are presented as different from their fatherssomehow less Jewish. However, despite their similarities, they represent polarities of early modern concepts of femininity. Employing Marilyn Frenchs concept of gender principles, as presented in Shakespeares Division of Experience I argue that Abigail and Jessica embody the inlaw and outlaw feminine principles respectively, and that their importance in the two plays in which they appear has been critically overlooked. As James Shapiro points out in his study of the Jewish presence in England, a si xteenth century audien ce would hardly be familiar with practicing Jews, although they mi ght have encountered representations of
iii iii Jews in the drama of the period. Abigail and Jessica, the only Jewish characters in the two plays besides Barabas and Shylock, provide insight into the interaction between antiSemitism and gender politics. Moreover, th ese two daughters sway the audiences sympathies toward or away from their fathers inversely. If we pity Abigail, whose actions are reactions to her fathers machinations, then we are gratified that Barabas gets what he deserves. If we are angry with Jessica for her betrayal and th eft, then we sympathize with Shylock and see him constructed into a vill ain by both his society and his own daughter. In this thesis, I will explore the ways in which Marlowe and Shakespeare employ Abigail and Jessica to interrogate the traditional si xteenth century roles of women, daughters, wives, and citizens.
1 1 Chapter One Introduction By the time Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare were born, England had banned Jews for several centuries. However, even though there were no practicing Jews in England, the travel and trade of the period suggests, and studies such as James Shapiros, Shakespeare and the Jews further show that Jews were living secretly in England during the early modern period and that, as a result, anti-Semitism was still very much in fashion. Why then would Marlow e and Shakespeare create charismatic, and often sympathetic, Jewish characters, wh ile their Christian ch aracters often embody highly un-Christian characteristics? I argue that the two playwrights provide such anomalies to interrogate anti -Semitism, Christian presumption, and socially constructed gender roles. Often compared, The Jew of Malta and The Merchant of Venice have obvious similarities: both plots center on rich, Jewish protagonistsBarabas and Shylockwho are vilified and then destroye d by a merciless Gentile society. On the surface, the protagonists daughtersAbigail in The Jew of Malta and Jessica in The Merchant of Venice also share many similarities. Both are young, beautiful daughters of rich and much maligned Jews; both are in l ove with Gentile men; both flee from their religion and convert to Christianity; and, most importantly, both are presented as different from their fathersas somehow less Jewish. Despite their analogous characteristics, however, they represent polarit ies of sixteenth concepts of femininity.
2 2 Employing Marilyn Frenchs gende r principles, as presented in Shakespeares Division of Experience I argue that Abigail and Jessi ca embody the inlaw and outlaw feminine principles respectiv ely and that their importance has been critically overlooked. Moreover, Abigail and Jessica provide insight into the interaction between anti-Semitism and gender politics, and sway the audiences sympathies toward or away from their fathers inversely. If we pity Abigail, whose actions are reactions to her fathers machinations, then we are gratified that Baraba s gets what he deserves. If we are angry with Jessica for her betrayal and theft, then we sympathize with Shylock and see him as being constructed into a vill ainous role by both a Christian society and his own daughter. Abigail and Jessica also act as visual foils to their fathers; John Gross identifies the red wig and fake nose that both Barabas and Shyl ock, and in earlier plays Judas and Satan, probably wore on stage as an unmistakable si gnifier of their Satanic ancestry (27). Therefore, the beautiful Abigail and Jessica serve to contrast with the hyperbolic representation of Judaism pr esented by their fathers. In this thesis I will adopt a Feminist New Historicist methodology to explore the ways that Marlowe and Shakespeare employ Abigail and Jessica to interrogate the traditional early modern roles of women, daughters, wives, and citizens. However, before I begin my analysis of the two plays, I w ill provide a detailed historical background of the Jewish people in the sixteenth cent ury period, focusing on such issues as demographics, stereotypes, and the (im)possi bility of conversion. In my examination of both the historical milieu that helped to produce the two plays and the dramas themselves, I will examine how these author s interrogate hierarchies of gender and religion by showing how Abigail, an inlaw femini ne character, dies fully interpolated into
3 3 her appropriate social role, while outlaw Jessica, rebellious and cunning, is often portrayed as living happily ever after, but in many modern pr oductions is played as both regretful and marginalized.
4 4 Chapter Two Historical and Critical Background HISTORICAL BACKGROUND Demographics of the Jewish Peopl e in the Early Modern Period To understand the socio-economic position, as well as the physical location, of the Jewish people in the sixteenth century, we must begin five hundred years prior to Marlowe and Shakespeares births in 1564. In 1096, the First Crusade departed from Europe in an attempt to reclaim the Christian holy places in the Middle East from their Arab conquerors. On their way through Fran ce and Germany, the Christian Crusaders slaughtered Jews in the middle-European ci ties. There were large-scale massacres in Worms, Cologne, Prague and other places (S imkin 137). Stevie Simkin notes that in certain locations, such as the Regensburg, Je wish lives were spared; yet, they were forcibly baptized in the River Danube (137). Less than a hundred years later, the Third Crusade, led by Richard Plantagenet (also known as Richard the Lionheart), began yet another wave of persecution during which hundr eds of Jews were burned alive in their own houses. Meanwhile, in England the Hebrew congregation took refuge in the castle and were besieged. Rather than face torture and death at the hands of the mob, 150 of them committed suicide. From the castle the crowd proceeded to York Minster,
5 5 where records of money owed to lo cal Jews were found and burned. In a grim irony, Richard the Lionheart, ransomed from captivity in the Holy Land, owed his freedom in large part to the money of wealthy Jews in England. (Simkin 138) As in Nazi Germany, starting in 1217 Jews liv ing in England had to wear signifiers of their religion, in this case, in the form of a yellow badge in the shape of stone-tables representing the Ten Commandments (Sim kin 139). Seventy years later, Edward I arrested English Jewish community leaders, and during the rei gn of Edward and of Henry III, the Jewish population was liter ally bought and soldhaving no rights of citizenship [ or] inheritance, all their pr operty being confiscated by the state on their death. They were also heavily taxed, and tortured if they re fused to pay (Simkin 139). By 1290 the situation for the English Jewish inhabitants had reached an even more dangerous climax. Edward I had expelled the entire Jewish population from the nationperhaps as many as 15,000 (Simkin 140). The King seized all property belonging to Jews and, like Richard the Lionheart, collected the money that the Christians owed to them. The King allowed a small group of Jews to remain behind as long as they converted; but whether their c onversion was genuine, we will never know. Some Jews must have remained in England, however, because they were blamed for the European plague in 1347. Christian Europeans believed that the plague was a weapon of Satan, and the Jews were Satans agents. The rumor circulated that Jews were poisoning the water supply and thousands of Jews were killed in the wake of the report, many burned at the stake, others in their homes (Simkin 139-140). The stereotype of a well-
6 6 poisoning evil Jew often appears in Mediev al and early modern plays, such as The Jew of Malta Those Jews who converted publicly but ma intained their Judaism in private were called Marranos: a term of c ontempt that originated in Spain to indicate a Jew who chose the only form of life which made it possible for Sephardic, or Spanish, Jews to survive in what had hitherto been their homeland. However, many refused to adopt this course, preferring to be burned alive (Yat es 110). The concept of a crypto-Jew, certainly not original to sixteenth century soci ety, can be traced back to Hellenistic days (Roth 1). After two particularly harsh wave s of forced conversions in 1391 and 1412, a handful of Marranos, crypto-Jews from Spai n and Portugal, made their way to London during the reign of Henry VIII, and a some what larger colony, numbering perhaps a hundred in all, established its elf during the reign of Elizabeth. Its members played an important part in overseas trade (Gross 31-32). In 1492 the Spanish Inquisition altered the course of the Jewish migrants who traveled in search of a nation that would accept them, and some of the refugees came to London (Roth 253). Gross observes that With the spread of me rcantilist thinking, of policies designed to foster trade, the economic skills and intern ational connections of the Jews came to seem too valuable an asset to cast aside  new communities sprang up, pointing the way ahead. In the cl osing years of the sixteenth century around the time that The Merchant of Venice was writtena group of refugees from Portugal established the first openly Jewish community in Amsterdam. England remained on the outer edge of these developments. (31-32)
7 7 The environment for Jews changed in the sixteenth century as Marranos living in England were able to participate somewhat in commerce. Shapiro explains that while Jews were not fully tolerated or granted citi zenship in early modern England, they were never subject to violent att acks, forced to convert, penned up in ghettos, or burned in inquisitorial fires, as they were elsewhere in Europe ( 11). Cecil Roth titles the Elizabethan Era a remarkabl e period of English expans ion, and as a result the foreign mercantile colony in London naturally increased. Among these there was, as always, a considerable number of New Christians from the Peninsula; encouraged, perhaps, by the greater possibilities of tolerance that were heralded by the victory of Protestantism. Thus the Marrano community developed. It numbered at this time approximately one hundred souls. (256) Mary Jannell Metzger argues that Jews were accepted as long as they were living and working honestly and unobtrusively, which meant that they had to become invisible as former Jews and convincingly performing the prerequisites for integration into English society  As long as Jews did not publicly insist on their Jewishness, economic interests prevailed (54-55). Roth points out that during the sixteenth century, the Marrano community in England was comprised of no less than thirty-seven householders (Roth 253), which continued to hold regular Jewish services. Because these meetings and their attend ees remained a secret, rumors about Jews proliferated and stereotypes flourished (Harris 81).
8 8 Common Stereotypes about Jews in the Early Modern Period Since Jews were banished from Engla nd in 1290, the Jew became not so much a person but a concept for a sixteenth century English citizen. The absence of actual Jewish people did little to k eep the figure of the Jew from leading a powerful life within Christian imaginations (Lampert 11). The st ereotypical way that Christians saw Jews, and consequently treated them, stems from th e Old Testament. Berek remarks that during Elizabeths reign, Jews were fi gures from narrative rather than experience  derived from the Hebrew Bible, as New Testament, or medieval legends of Jewish villainy (128). The myth of the Jew as a villain dates back at least to Herod, the slayer of children and aspiring Christ-killer in disguise ; to Judas, the original businessman with the contract in the pocket; and to the anonymous vulgar Jewish farceur who, in answer to Christs eli,eli, forged a reed filled with vinegar between His lips (Rosenberg 21). Rosenberg even locates a physic al stereotype of the Jew in the Bible: Herods frenzy on being mocked by the wise men foreshadows the violent gestures with which subsequent caricatures have been afflicted; and the group of Jewish elders w ho come to watch the Crucifixion are already pictured as wagging their heads in the immemorial fashion that Shylock re-enacts when t hey spit at him. (21) H. Michelson remarks that the Jewish charac ter in the Gospel is a creature full of subtlety and treachery, a dealer of underhanded blows, a liar, a cruel, malicious fellow, a mocker, a murderer, a hypocrite, a traitor, a coward, covetous boisterous, loud and haughty (10). He further insists that literatu re and religion must be examined together
9 9 since English Literature in its infancy was suckled with Christian religion, the influence of which it has hardly ever shaken off (Michelson 13). Stereotypes about Jews in the early modern periodChrist-killer, traitor, financial hogwere abundant and, as Rosenberg notes, had Scriptural sanction from the first (22). The poisoning of wells, the char ging of unreasonable in terest when lending money, and the possession of magical abilitie s were just some of the characteristics attributed to the Jewish people. Many Christ ians feared that a Je wish person was not only capable of poisoning, but that the Jewish body itself was poison. King Richard the First was so afraid of the Jews malignant magical power that he forbade any Jews to be present at his coronation, for fear th ey should bewitch him (Michelson 33). Stereotypes were often mobilized at times of crisis or for reasons of political expediency to elaborate an a pparently genuine thr eat of Jewish infiltration (Harris 82), as occurred with Dr. Roderigo Lopez, Queen Elizabeths physician, perhaps the most famous Marrano during the sixteenth century. Well respected by the English medical community, Lopez was not only the roya l physician but also employed by the government by reason of his extensive fore ign correspondence (Michelson 85). When Lopez opposed the Earl of Essex in a political matter, however, the latter accused him of attempting to poison the Queen and of not bei ng a true Christian by practicing Judaism in secret (Harris 82). Until his death, Lopez cl aimed that he had renounced Judaism and considered himself a Christian. However, expl oiting the stereotypes about Jews, the Earl of Essex managed to forge his false accusati on; Lopez was tortured and hanged in June 1594 (Simkin 141).
10 10 Another stereotype associated with Je ws is usury, which although censured and considered a sin for Christians, was not illegal, and so the lucrative practice was grudgingly handed over to the Jews (Michelson 29). Simkin explains that in a law was passed in England that allowed interest to be charged at the rate of 10 per cent , resulting in a shift in the att itude toward usury and an identification of the Jew with overinflated rates of interest ( 140). Usury played a vital role during the early modern period because the borrowing of money allowed mercan tilism to flourish and the Jew to survive. Is Assimilation (Im)Possible for the Jew? In his monumental study of the Jewish pr esence, Shapiro reminds his readers that any discussion of Jews must start by defining what one means by Jew (13). He elaborates that Jewish identity has been unders tood in different ways: The first category has consisted of those who believe themselves to be Jews (for not everyone who is Jewi sh by descent necessarily assents to being considered Jewish). The second category has incl uded those whom other Jews accept as Jews, either by descent or through conversion. The third and final category is compri sed of those whom non-Jews have thought of as Jews. Some individuals have fit easily within a ll three categories; others have not  Jewishness has thus been understood not only in terms of religious practices a nd beliefs but also in the context of racial and nationa l identifications. (5)
11 11 If Jewishness should be understood as a raci al or national identi ty, can a Jew ever become English by early modern standards? Or is Jewishness an essence that one cannot escape regardless of conversion? For a county that had a dearth of Jews for over 300 years, England was surprisingly engrossed in questi ons about Judaism, such as: In what ways were Jews racially and physically different? Did those who converted lose all trace of their Je wishness? Was it true that Jews habitually took the knife to Christ ians, circumcising and murdering their victims? Should Jews be formally readmitted into an England that had long ago banished them, or were En glishness and Jewishness mutually exclusive identities? Were the Jews in their diaspora stil l a nation, and, if so, should they be restored to their homeland? (Shapiro 1) Shapiro does not attribute such inquisitiveness to a deep interest in the Jewish people themselves but primarily to a concern about English identity. From our own perspective, Shapiro proposes, their interest in Jews pr ovides unusual insight into the cultural anxieties felt by English men and women at a time when their nation was experiencing extraordinary social, religious, and political turbulence (1). Why else then would writers, such as Marlowe and Shakes peare, be preoccupied with writing about Jews? Lisa Lampert proposes that an idealized view of Christianity could not sustain the ambiguity and paradox of having both [Marranos] and/or actual Jews in its midst (110). The sheer number, and the publicity, of conve rsions blurred the line between Christian and Jew and made it more difficult to ascer tain who was English and who was not. Shapiro notes that it was easier to identify those who were English by pointing to those
12 12 who were assuredly note.g., the Irish or the Jews. So in order to enforce this point, differences were greatly exaggerated and at times simply invented: other people were deemed un-English in the way that they l ooked, prayed, ate, smelled, dressed, walked, and talked (5). Shapiro points out that for several decades before the Reformation, the English thought of the Jews  as a poten tial threat to the increasingly permeable boundaries of their own social and religious identities [...] Turning Jew was also an unnerving possibility (7). This raised the c oncern that the banishment of the Jews in 1290 had not been absolute, and, even if it had been, those Jews who had converted and remained rather than accepted exile might ha ve mingled racially with English stock (Shapiro 7). Little is known about what Marranos felt or thou ght about Judaism or Christianity, and Shapiro sugge sts that what they believed probably ranged from devout Catholicism to equally devout Judaism, with all kinds of permutations in between (16). Christian confusion about Jews appears in official treatment of the Jewish people. For instance, the Vienna Faculty of Medicine believed that a privat e code adhered to by Jewish physicians obliged them to murder one patient in ten; according to Spanish authorities, the figure was one in five (Har ris 84). Yet, Count Al fonse of Poitiers, an important official and a protector of the Counc il of Beziers which had banned Jews from practicing medicine, summoned a Je wish physician to cure his failing eyesight. In the fifteenth century, it wa s decreed in the Castilian court that no Jew could be a surgeon or phys ician, except for the kings personal doctor. And in England, the ailing Henry IV disregarded the stricture
13 13 against Jews in his kingdom and summoned an Italian Jewish doctor. (Harris 85) It was not simply a matter, Jonathan G il Harris asserts of a monarch entrusting himself to a dependable and skilful practioner who happened to be Jewish; rather, it was believed that Jewish physicians possessed uni que, semi-magical powers to cure sick patients (85). Frances Yates contends that ev en if Marlowes play did incite anti-Semitic riots, there werent many Jews in England to bait. At whom, then, Yates asks was the propaganda aimed? (124). Gendered and Raced In her highly influential and groundbr eaking study, Marilyn French classifies three gender categories portrayed in litera ture, history, theolog y, and philosophy: the masculine, the inlaw feminine, and the outlaw feminine. The masculine principle, predicated on the ability to kill, is the pole of power-in-the-world. It is associated with prowess and ownership, with physical courage, assertiveness, aut hority, independence, and the right, rights, and legitimac y. It claims to be able to de fine and administer justice; and it supports law and order (21). Both th e inlaw and outlaw feminine principles are constructed as secondary to the masculine and are associated with nature. Just as nature can be either benevolent or malevolent, so women were viewed as either inlaw feminine or outlaw feminine. French argues that Christianity is responsib le for splitting the feminine principle in two in order to unde rmine it (23). In essence, by dividing women into two categoriesinlaw (good) and outla w (bad) the patriarchy inherent in Christianity could more effectively conquer and control female power She further states
14 14 that the patriarchy considered Eve responsible both for the fall from unity with nature and for the continuation of the race becomes a subversive figure redeemed by the Mary who accepts that she is  only a vessel in the transmission of a male line (23 emphasis mine). The inlaw feminine principleemphasizing emotions, relationships, and loveis predicated on the ability to give life, form communities, show mercy, and affirm passivity. The more pejorative outlaw femi nine can give life as well, butlike the masculine principlealso possesses the ability to kill. Sexually dynamic, excessive, and often irresistible, the outlaw fe minine principle poses a threat to the masculine principle because it has the capability to corrupt men with distractions and tempt inlaw feminine women with a more attractive existence. French posits that the outlaw feminine principle is associated with darkness, chaos, flesh, the sinister, magic and above all, sexuality. It is outlaw because it is subversive, [and] undermin ing of the masculine principle (24). Lynda Boose and Betty Flowers explain th at in the anthropol ogical narration of family, the father is the figure who controls the exogamous exchange of women [ and] the exchangeable figure is the daughter (19) This accepted concept is different in a Jewish family, as Lamperts study show. She focuses on how the interconnected representation of women and Jews func tion in literary texts beyond the limiting economies of particularism (3), sugges ting that we can be tter understand the intellectual tradition that posits an absolut e human type as masculine and Christian by investigating early representati ons of the hegemonic relationships that posited a Christian universality standing in superses sionary relationship to the particular identities of both
15 15 Jews and women (8). Shapiro further main tains that conversion for Jewish women was not the same as for Jewish men: In the world of fiction, the marri age and conversion of Jewish women usually go hand in hand; as Jessica [from The Merchant of Venice ] puts it, she shall become a Christian a nd [Lorenzos] loving wife. In contrast, Jewish men who convert to Christianity ar e never married off to Christian women. And where Jewish women are always depicted as young and desirable, male Jewish convert s are invariably old and impotent, condemned to remain unwed and at the periphery of the Christian community. (Shapiro 132) To sixteenth century Englishmen, the fantasy of Christian men marrying converted Jewesses was far more appealing than the id ea of Jewish men, even converted ones, marrying Christian women (Shapiro 132). CRITICAL BACKGROUND In my research on Abigail and Jessica, I have found that littl e attention has been paid to the two daughters, although much literary criticism has focused on their respective fathers. Although Abig ail and Jessica have been briefly examined in individual studies of the plays, few critics have attempted to compare them. Abigail, in particular, has been neglec ted by commentators. Many, such as F.S. Boas, totally overlook Abigails importance in The Jew of Malta In Shakespeares Contemporaries (1961) Boas presents Abigail as little more than Barabas helpmate, whom he sacrifices just as Agamemnon sacr ifices Iphigen. Similarly H. Michelson, in
16 16 The Jew in Early English Literature (1972), reduces Abigail to an innocent lamb, arguing that she is prompted by filial love and obedience to the will of her father, at least until his true character is revealed to her (78). However, I would suggest that even after Abigail recognizes her fathers true charact er, she remains loyal to him, as an in-law feminine daughter should. Despite a promisi ng title, Jeremy Tamblings essay, Abigails Party (1991), also fails to recognize Abig ails importance, describing her as the most marginalized character in The Jew of Malta (106). Tambling asserts that Barabas daughter has internalized the discourse of pa triarchy and as a result accepts the total demands of her father by acting in a nurtu ring, restorative manner (106). However, I would insist that she is never given a chance to play this role, as Sara Munson Deats and Lisa S. Starks note in their article, So Neatly Plotted, So Well Performd: Villain as Playwright in Marlowes The Jew of Malta (1992). In this essay, Deats and Starks show how Barabas exploits his daughter when he promises her to both Lodowick and Mathias and how he exploits the suitors competitive desires to orchestrate his plot (381). Furthermore, in Spectacles of Strangeness: Impe rialism, Alienation, and Marlowe (1993), Emily Bartels posits that Barabas turns Abigail and her Judaism into an exploitable commodity (98). This is an accu rate appraisal, although I would insist that Bartels underestimates the comple xity of Abigails role. By the same token, Janet Clares reductionist reading, in Marlo wes Theatre of Cruelty ( 2000), insists th at Marlowes The Jew of Malta should not be read in the same humanistic and psychological way as other Renaissance dramas; rather, she characterizes The Jew of Malta as a savage farce and Barabas as nothing but a joker. Conversely, Lagretta Tallent Lenker, almost alone among commentators, recognizes the importance of the father-daughter relationship in
17 17 the play and explores it in Fathers and Daughters in Shakespeare and Shaw (2001). She defends Abigails importance in the play and suggests that undeniably, the play and its protagonist deteriorate when Abigail is no l onger alive. According to Lenker, when the drama lacks the leavening agent of the daughter even a nave one whom some critics call a fool, the patriarchal world  plunged into the literal and figur ative abyss (Lenker 99). Jessica has received far more critical atte ntion than Abigail, perhaps because her characterization is so problematic. On the one hand, to a modern audience, she appears cruel to her father; yet, on the other hand, as critics have noted, an early modern audience might interpret her very di fferently. For instance, in Shylock: A Legend and Its Legacy (1992), John Gross argues that Jessicas sell ing her fathers tur quoise ring for a monkey would not need defending to a sixteenth cen tury audience, since she is the ogres beautiful daughter, who makes her escape from his castle, and it is th e clearest proof of her goodness that she is [as] different from him as possible. She is a gentle, and no Jew. (69). Gross places Jessi ca in a long tradition of st ories about young Jewish women and maintains that she is the bad Jews good daughter [who] attain s classic perfection (70). Conversely, in Reprise: Gender, Sexuality and Theories of Exchange in The Merchant of Venice (1996), Karen Newman, whose study examines the exchange of women and gifts (emphasis mine) as well as woman as gifts, approaches Jessicas rebellion somewhat differently from Gross. A pplying an historical rather than a mythic lens, Newman observes that in early modern England daughters were pawns in the political and social maneuvers of their fam ilies, particularly their male kin (109). Therefore, Jessicas taking control of her fina ncial future and not allowing her father to
18 18 benefit monetarily from her marriage, might re veal her as an outlaw feminine character to a sixteenth century audience. Similarly, Mary Jannell Metzger investigates the importance of patriarchy in Now by My Hood, a Gentle and No Jew: The Merchant of Venice and the Discourse of Early Modern E nglish Identity (1998) arguing that for Shakespeares audience, patriarchal author ity was divinely ordained  Jessicas disregard for that authority thus creates th e first obstacle to a Christian audiences acceptance of her as a Christian (56). Me tzger further contends that Jessicas incorporation into Christian soci ety is essential to defining he r fathers alien status (59), and, I suggest, Jessicas actions generate a mo re sympathetic view of her father. Carol Leventen also examines the relationship be tween patriarchy and re ligion in her article, Patrimony and Patriarchy in The Merchant of Venice (1991), in which she insists that although Jessica seems to subvert the patriarc hal establishment she does not actually do so, since she only transfers from one patriarc hy to another. Leventen adds that Jessicas assimilation into a Christian society is unsu ccessful and she is more tolerated at the periphery than welcomed at its center ( 74). Also focusing on Jewish conversion, Lisa Lampert, in Gender and Jewish Difference from Paul to Shakespeare (2004), postulates that although Jessicas situati on is seemingly a Christian fantasy of Jewish conversion, her characterization reveals concerns about the fragility of Christian and Venetian identities (15). Lampert initially finds Jessi cas assimilation into Christianity to be successful because as a woman, she becomes subject to her Christian husband, her body and goods easily taken into his household and his community (144), while admitting that although Jessicas fair beauty and wealth, m ake it easy for her to pass into the world of Belmont [...] her true assimilation is more questionable. In this Jessica exhibits 
19 19 the dangerous effects of willful female sexuality that all of the plays females represent (144). Similarly, Suzanne Penuels essay, Castrating the Creditor in The Merchant of Venice (2004), compares Jessica to Medea, who stole from her wealthy father to run away with her culturally Ot her love (268), while also e quating Jessicas selling the turquoise ring for a monkey with the a reject ion of the connection between her parents (268). Penuel concludes that Jessica makes a successful physical escape but cannot manage its less tangible and conc rete mental equi valent (269). When comparing Abigail and Jessica, some critics do not make a sufficient distinction between the two. For instance, Edgar Rosenberg, in From Shylock to Svengali: Jewish Stereotypes in English Fiction (1960), examines Abigail and Jessica together, noting that when each of the two daughters runs away from her father, she deprives him of his last domestic ties, and leaves him free to enga ge in his diabolic activities (88). Rosenberg doe s not recognize, however, that Abigail can hardly be seen as running away from her father, and the noti on of Barabas ever having domestic ties is questionable. In his vastly influential st udy of the Jews in England during the early modern period, Shakespeare and the Jews (1996), James Shapiro explains that Jessica becomes a Christian through he r marriage to Lorenzo; howev er, Abigails conversion is less permanent as evidenced by the fact that Marlowe has Abiga il convert not once but twice to Christianity in the course of th e play (Shapiro 157). Moreover, Shapiro notes that since Jessica was hardly a good daughter to Shylock, Shakespeares audience may have wondered how long her own vows of fa ith, religious and marital, would remain firm (159).
20 20 Utilizing the above critics, I intend to compare how the inlaw and outlaw feminine principles in the characterizati on of Abigail and Jessica act to sway our sympathies either toward or away from thei r fathers. Although excel lent articles have already been published on The Jew of Malta and The Merchant of Venice few have compared the two daughters in detail. In th is thesis, I intend to examine Abigail and Jessica through a different lens, employi ng both a Feminist and New Historicist perspective.
21 21 Chapter Three The Jew of Malta ABIGAIL The Jew of Malta was first performed around 1589-90 and became Marlowes most popular play. Between May and December of 1594, it was revived twenty times (Palmer 133). The plays popularity soared during Lopezs trial due no doubt, at least in part, to the scandal of the L opez affair (Simkin 141). The plot begins on an exciting note and continues to escalate. A Turkish fleet arri ves to claim the money owed to them by the Maltese government, led by Ferneze. Since Malta does not have the available funds, Ferneze decides to simply take it from the Ma ltese Jews. Reminiscent of actual historical events, the Maltese government shows no qualms about taking what belongs to the Jews. The Maltese government has let the tribute to the Turks accumulate for ten years, probably intending all along to pillage the f unds from the Jewish population. Unlike the other Jews, who remain optimistic and una ware of the circumstances, Barabas knows what to expect but does not advise his fellow Jews to hide their assets, while he stashes away his own. Michelson points ou t that instead of acting as the Jews in history did and standing by his brethren, [Bar abas] behaves like a smooth ambiguous Italian statesman (77). Abigails willingness to help her father recover his we alth contrasts with Barabas lack of camaraderie toward his fellow Jews. He murders, while Abigail repents, until she too is killed.
22 22 Although Barabas is not a usurer, he is certainly passionate about wealth, as Berek notes: he celebrates riches not for what they can buy but for what they are. He is as willing to deceive his co-religionists as he is to deceive Turk or Christian (137). From the beginning, the play establishes Baraba s as selfish and cruel, and immediately validates his Jewishness. Deats and Starks su ggest that Barabas posture, gesture, and dialoguethe fingering of coins as he chants a hymn to precious stonesmark him as a stage icon for the sin of covetousness ( 379). Berek further posits that although Barabas is a kind of hero, Marlowes plot defeats him and he ends up in the cauldron he built for his enemie s. The pervasive irony of Marlowes play exposes the Christian characters as being no better than the Jew. But none of this changes the fact that for Marlowe, unlike his predecessors, the Jewishness of Barabas is part of the essence of his evil, and not just an accidental accompaniment. (138) Abigails Jewishness is glossed over, howev er, as she easily converts to Christianity and seems to have no essence besides goodness. Lenker argues that Barabas uses Abigail shamelessly to serve his own ends. At age fourteen, the virtuous and innocent Abigail becomes, in turn, a dissembler as she pretends to become a nun, a thief as she steals her fath ers confiscated gold from the nunnery, a temptress as she manipulates her l ove to the Governors sonall at the instruction of her father. (90) However, her intentions are always admirabl e, as she attempts to be the good daughter. The Christian society of Malta, critics argue, represents the Christian society of England; however, Greenblatt identifies one important distinction: [t]here was no
23 23 Jewish Question in Marlowes England; there were scarcely any Jews (291). If questions about Jews and Judaism did not in terest the sixteenth century audience, why did Marlowes play about Jews find such a large audience? According to Berek, the answer perhaps lies in Marl owes own ambivalence about his heroes and Elizabethan ambivalence about social change (136). Th e interrogation of identity (race, religion, gender, nationality) was actively debated in th e early modern period, and the theatre of the 1590s was obsessed by the possibilities that identity might be willed or chosen and social position achieved by deeds, not birth (Berek 130). Berek further posits that Barabas Jewishness is part of the essen ce of his villainy, the energy underlying the plays anti-Semitism arises less from beliefs about Jews than from anxieties about selffashioning. Jewishness becomes a trope for anxiety about social change (137-8). Rosenberg suggests that the whole of Marlowes Jew of Malta is presumably an echo of the accusation, widely circulated in the f ourteenth century, that the Jews had caused the Black Plague by poisoni ng the wells, though doubtless the old superstition of the Jewish witch-doctor contributed to his being cast in this role. Barabas, the exemplar of the type, has mastered every trick in the manual. (26) Greenblatt argues that Barabas, the main fi gure in the plot, is also the dominant spirit of the play, its most energetic and inventive force (297), which increases the importance of Abigail, his only child. On ce Marlowe establishes Barabas as the stereotypical Jewish villain, Abigails i nnocence becomes even more significant and Rosenberg asserts that whether Barabas is merely boasting or telli ng the truth [about his
24 24 evil pursuits] is not the issue here; what matters is that his catalogue pretty well exhausts the Jewish capacity for criminal variety in the sixteenth century (27). Michelson describes Barabas actions as a retaliation upon society lik e a veritable devil, killing right and left, till he is caught at last like a rat in the trap he had set for his enemies (82). Nevertheless, Barabas wild performance is qu ite entertaining and charismatic. He is also arguably the first villain as playwright to tread the Renaissance stage, and, as such, the progenitor of an entire clan of villainous interior playwr ights (Deats and Starks 378). However, a twenty-first century reading of The Jew of Malta might engender some sympathy toward Barabas since his adversarie s share equally Jewishmaterialistic and Machiaveliancharacteristics. Perhaps Marlowe is arguing that Barabass cruelty results from the racism of his society, although an Elizabethan audience would probably not have approached the evil Jew in that way. Therefore, as Greenblatt argues, Marlowes characterization of Barabas as a Jew is not the exception to but rather the true representative of his society[s attitudes] (296). Further perpetuating the stereotype of an uncaring parent, Barabas views Abigail as a sacrifice. When Barabas first mentions Abigail he refers to himself as Agamemnon and Abigail as Iphige n and Boas suggests that Agamemnons readiness to sacrifice his daughter for th e welfare of the Greek host may have suggested to Marlowe the idea of a daughter whom Barabas would be willing to sacrifice on his ow n behalf (116). Merciful, kind, and devotedfirst to her father, then her lover, and finally to GodAbigail embodies the inlaw feminine traits highly valued in th e sixteenth century. French describes the inlaw feminine principl e as one founded on the ability to give birth, [and] includes qualities like nutritiveness, compassion, mercy, and the ability to create
25 25 felicity (24). She further proposes that an inlaw woman would subordinate herself voluntarily as well as relinqui sh any power she might possess. The inlaw feminine principle is entirely altruistic, it values above all the good of the whole, the community. It exalts the community above the individual, feeling over action, sensation over thought. It is not passive : it actively reaches for subordination for the good of the whole and finds its pleasure in that good rather than in assertion of self. (24 emphasis mine) The prototypic inlaw feminine daughter, Abig ail ignores what is best for her, and repeatedly (and willingly) sacrifices herself for her fathers sake. The altruistic Abigail contrasts sharply with the egocentric Baraba s, who is defined by the eerie playfulness with which he pursues his goals. This play fulness manifests itself as cruel humor, murderous practical jokes, a penchant for th e outlandish and the absurd, delight in roleplaying  radical insensitivity to human complexity and suffering, extreme but disciplined aggression (Gree nblatt 305). Conversely, Abigai l sees her existence as entirely complimentary to her father. On her first introduction, Barabas asks her why she is sad, and the selfless Abigail replies, Not for myself, but aged Barabas, / Father, for thee lamenteth Abigail (1.2.230-31). Barabas th en confides that he only pretended to lose all of his money and that he has hidde n a stash in their house. Showing no remorse for his performance and disregarding the wa y that his secrecy has hurt the other Jews, Barabas explains to Abigail that there is no shame in misleading those who are dishonest themselves (2.3). David Bevington states that the small crowd of Jews functions to evoke pity for Barabas, and then they ar e permanently suppresse d (220); however, I
26 26 would disagree, suggesting that rather than evoking pity for Barabas, the other Jews impede sympathy for him because he has betr ayed them and shows little empathy for his fellow Jews. Yet his daughter, who is misled like everyone else, does not seem upset; she remains willing to help her father recover his money, not out of a selfish desire for riches, but for his welfare alone. When Barabas tells her of his plan to infiltrate what was recently his house, she replies Father, whate er it be to injure them / That have so manifestly wrongd us, / What will not Abigail attempt? (1.2.274-276) By presenting Abigails innocent de votion as a foil for Barabas selfcenteredness, Marlowe undercut s the Elizabethan essentiali st viewpoint that affirms negative Jewish stereotypes. Abigail, also a Jew, adheres to Christian maximssuch as kindness and mercymore than any other character in The Jew of Malta Displaying her total obedience to the patriarchal establishment, Abigail does as her father instructs even when she is uncomfortable with her own actions When he asks her to pretend to care for Lodowick, she confides in the audience that Ma thias has my heart; I smile against my will (2.3.291). Being deceitful, as Barabas enco urages her to be, does not come naturally to Abigail and she questions how long Baraba s will force her to keep up the charade, What, shall I be betrothed to Lodowick? ( 2.3.312) In response to his daughter, Barabas replies, Its no sin to deceive a Christian, / Fo r they themselves hold it a principle / Faith is not to be held with heretics (2.3.31315). By equating himself with the so-called Christians of Malta, Barabas is attempting to explain and excuse his behavior. Although I agree with Bartels that Bara bas treats Abigail as an exploitable commodity (98), I would also suggest that sh e plays a more significant role than simply Barabas pawn. As an inlaw feminine ch aracter, Abigail accepts her fathers
27 27 machinations while intending to marry Math ias so that she may transfer her devotion from her father to her husba nd. Mathias describes her as Sca rce fourteen years of age, and a virgin, the sweetest fl ower in Cythereas field ( 1.2.377-78), and the play depicts her as too innocent and young to fully compre hend her fathers evil. Although it is clear to the audience that Barabas would not let her marry a Gentile, so strong is Abigials love for Mathias that I believe she would have de fied even her father to marry him. In a moment of uncharacteristic forcefulness, she exclaims, I will have Don Mathias; he is my love (2.3.365); however, that sentiment is quickly stifle d, and she is put in the house by Ithamore. When she discovers that her father has caused the death of her lover, Abigail, unlike the other characters in the pl ay, does not take revenge. Instead she enters the nunnery, informing the audience in an aside, Oh Barabas, / Though thou deservest hardly at my hands, / Yet never shall thes e lips bewray thy lif e (3.3.78-80). Following the traditional inlaw feminine principles, Abigail actively isolates herself from men andtaking her vow of celibacy more seri ously than the other nunsmaintains her virginity until death. Lenker points out that when Abigail reje cts her father and Judaism, she moves from the status of Outsider to that of In sider, on both a literal and a figurative level. Within the confines of the convent, Abigai l hopes to find protection from her vengeful father (96). However, the corrupt Christian patriarchy does not protect her and, after being poisoned by her father, Abigail dies a virgin nun. Despite an anti-Catholic sentiment prevalent during th e early modern period and pe rmeating the play, Abigail whole-heartedly believes in the Christian ma xims espoused by the Catholic Church and
28 28 her continual pity for her father evokes more audience sympathy toward this inlaw feminine character. Bartels suggests that, by joining the nunnery, Abigail does rebel against Barabas, but turns herself over to a new position of subjugation beneath those who  are as corrupt as her father (26). Nevertheless, Abigail remains loyal to Barabas until she is literally on her death-bed; only at that point does she confess, as she believes she must, having complete trust that the friar will not repeat her words. No longer a Jew, Abigail becomes just another victim and our sympathies follow Abigail and die with her at the nunnery. Bartels also argues out that the thinness of her [Abigails] characterization [ as well as other characters] all murdered by the Jew, create a distance between their interests and ours, their victimization and our sympathy (21). In response, I contend that even if we interpret Abigail as a narrow personification of inlaw characteristics, she remains incredibly sympathetic and her murder adds yet another vilifyi ng factor to the list of Barabas crimes. Given Abigails innocent motivation for converting to Christianity, Barabas reason for her murder is doubly dubious and se ems to derive from his anger over her conversion, rather than fear that she will betray him: I fear she knows tis so! of my device In Don Mathias and Lodovicos deaths. If so, tis time that it be seen into, For she that varies from me not, Or, loving, doth dislike of something done. (3.4.7-12)
29 29 Bartels finds Abigails death amid the pregnant nuns farcical and argues that the comedy distances the audience from this potentially po ignant event. In response, I would insist that Abigails death, far from farcical, is mournful, or, at the very least, pathetic. Although anti-Catholic sentiment was rampan t during the Elizabethan era, the play presents Abigail as entirely genuine a nd worthy of admiration until the very end, emphasizing that she does not cause Barabas evil, but is merely collateral damage of his rampage. Through Abigail, Marlowe has an opportunity to fu rther subvert antiSemitism by presenting her as different from Barabas in her goodness, but still Jewish. However, by creating her as an inlaw feminine character, a trait so highly valued during the sixteenth century, and th en alienating her from her religion, Marlowe erases her Jewishness as a part of her identity. Abiga il, a virgin nun, becomes the good Christian, who is then killed by her own father, the evil Jew. OTHER CHARACTERS In The Jew of Malta Marlowe questions anti-Semitism when he presents all of the characters, except Abigail, as possessing ster eotypical Jewish tra its. McAdam asks if characters can really embody Christian qualities in a society like Malta, and explains that [t]urning the other cheek would certa inly not help anyone survive for long in Maltese society. Rather than confirming such ideals, the biblical parody in The Jew of Malta makes evident the inadequacy, even the absurdity, of Christian ethics in the dogeat-dog world that the characters inhabit (150). All of the characters in the play, except for Abigail, universally express desire for selfish gain, and hardly embody the Christian or inlaw feminine maxims of charity, me rcy, and kindness. Greenblatt argues that
30 30 Barabas actions are responses to the initiatives of others (299) and McAdam notes that Barabas, as Antichrist, is not pitted against a true Christian or Christ-like counterpart (an ideal that few characters in the play come close to embodying) but rather against those characters, most importantly Fe rneze, who successfully operate within the limits of their natural and social selves (146). Ferneze, a Machiavellian figure, hides behind religion and steals from the Jews because they have no way of protecting them selves. Barabas, well-aware of the hypocrisy confronting him, shrewdly expl ains to Abigail that relig ion hides many mischiefs from suspicion (1.2.281). Further subverting Christ ianity, Marlowe presen ts the friars and nuns as a mockery, and bawdy jokes about their sexual escapades pervade the play. Greenblatt comments that Marlowe never discredits anti-Semitism, but he does discredit early in the play a Christian social concer n that might otherwise have been used to counter a specifically Jewish antisocial element (297). Barabasand Marlowe behind himthereby flips the stereotypic negative pe rception of Jewish greed and depicts the Gentile characters as preoccupied with the desire for wealth. P romising his daughter Abigail to both Lodowick and Mathias, Bara bas exploits their competitive desires to orchestrate his plot (Deats and Starks 381) Lodowick probably pursues Abigail for her dowry; and even Mathias, who at times seems genuinely to love Abigail, refers to her as the rich Jews daughter. Noticeably, Lodowick begins the wooing of Abigail by referring to her in financial terms when referring to her as a diamond (Tambling 102). Similarly, Pilia-Borza and Bellamira manipulat e Ithamore to obtain Barabas riches; Ithamore betrays his master for lust and mone y; and the Turks and the Spaniards are also
31 31 driven by their desire for riches. All ha ve duplicitous motives, one public and one privateall except Abigail. Bartels points out that Marlowe sets Ba rabas on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean, a key site of cross-cultura l commerce and conflict, demanding that we consider what it means to be of Malta wh ile deciding what it means to be the Jew (83). Yet, I would like to suggest that Marl owe sets Abigail in an even more difficult situation: placed within a patr iarchal, anti-Semitic land with a monster for a father and a suspect-lover, and surrounded by hypocritical nuns and friars. No matter which corrupt patriarchal system claims Abigails allegiance, she always evokes the audiences sympathy.
32 32 Chapter Four Merchant of Venice JESSICA Jessica is clearly an outlaw feminine char acter: she lies; she st eals; she runs away from her father; she marries without his a pproval; and, as a resu lt of her actions, she pushes Shylock into a state of uncontrollable revenge. J ohn Middleton Murry argues that Jessica does not act to sway the audiences sympathy toward her father; on the contrary, he believes that Shakespeare is most careful to prevent any such impression from taking lodgment in our minds (106). I would agree that Jessicas cruelty is difficult to forgive; however, we should remember that Jessica is no t Christian and that the rules for Jewish women during the early modern period were different from those of Christian women. Jessicas characterization should thus be exam ined in the appropria te context, since, at least according to Murry, taken out of the play, and exposed to the cold light of moral analysis, [Jessica] may be a wicked little thing; but in the play, herein alone she has her being, she is nothing of the kindshe is charming  she is much rather a princess held captive by an ogre than the unf ilial daughter of a persecuted Jew  it is almost certain ly true that [Shakespeare] did not himself conceive, or imagine that ot hers would conceive, that Jessicas behaviour was unfilial. (104)
33 33 Certainly it would be anachr onistic to assume that a sixteenth century audience would feel as disappointed in Jessica as woul d a contemporary one; however, Shakespeare makes a point of establishing Jessicas role in her fathers downfall, showing how her treatment of her father effeminizes him. Metzger notes the differences between the representation of Jewish men and women. For instance, according to Metzger, Shylock is likened to: a devil intent on the apportionment of a Christian body which is part of a tradition of anti-Semitic discourse in which Jews were said to be horned, tailed, and bearded like goats, to emit a distinct smell, and to be the source of leprosy and syphilis. According to this discourse, Jewish men, unlike Christian men, shared the mark of womens sexual difference: menstruation, a feminizing trait that would effectively erase the patriarchal authority inscribed literally a nd figuratively on Jewish men. (59) Despite the emasculating stereotypes of Jewish men current at this time, Metzger points out that even though Jessica distances herself from sin by blatantly disregarding her fathers authority and although a sixteenth century audience mi ght consider this distancing necessary, it is al so problematic. For Shakespeares audience, patriarchal authority was divinely ordaine d, and it secured the ri ght of princes as well as that of fathers. Jessicas disregard for that authority thus creates the first obstacle to a Christian audiences acceptance of her as a Christian (Metzger 56). Although some of the early modern a udience would probably have considered Jessicas treatment of her father well deserved, she
34 34 embodies the threat of indeterminat e identity, who is both Christian and Jew and whose beautiful exterior may belie an intractable Jewish essence  As a woman, Jessica is propert y to both her father and her husband, but in her decision to convert a nd to abandon her fathers house, she displays an agency that is at least as much of a threat to Venetian order as Shylocks bond. (Lampert 143) I argue that Jessicas outl aw actions operate to evoke sympathy for Shylock. Her behavior threatens her father, just as, acco rding to French, the outlaw principle is tremendously threatening to the masculine principle because it does not respect the constructs attendant on that pr inciple (23). Indeed Jessicas agency can be approached from an historical rather than a mythical pe rspective, as Karen Newman clearly does in her valuable study. She observes that, in early modern England, among the elite at least, marriage was primarily a commercial transa ction determined by questions of dowry, familial alliances, land ownership and inherita nce. Daughters were pawns in the political and social maneuvers of their families, particularly their male kin (109). Not following this mold, Jessica, takes control of her financ ial future and does not allow her father to benefit monetarily from her marriage. By elim inating Shylock from hi s paternal role as metaphoric king, and herself as metaphoric subj ect, Jessica emotiona lly cripples him. Comparing Abigail and Jessica, Gross obs erves that, unlike Abigail, Jessica is not so much afraid of her father as ashame d of him, and the domestic hell of which she complains turns out to be a matter of tediousne ss (71). Gross explains that if examined traditionally, Jessicas defense is not necessar y, because she is vindicated as the ogres beautiful daughter, who makes her escape from his castle, and it is th e clearest proof of
35 35 her goodness that she is different, from him as possible. She is a gentle, and no Jew (69). However, before the audience meets Jessi ca, we see an exchange between her father and Antonio that invokes pity fo r the former. Shylock states: Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last, You spurned me such a day, another time You called me dog, and for these courtesies Ill lend you thus mu ch moneys? (1.3.124-127) The theme of usury dominates The Merchant of Venice. The play immediately establishes Shylock as a usurer, who is consistently vilifie d for practicing the activity that Jews of the period were virtually forced to practice. He does not seem unreasonable in his demands, as Penuel observes: it is unclear that S hylock is an unusually demanding creditor for taking interest, despite his debtors complaints. As Merchant critics and editors have noted, a rate of up to 10 percent was both legal and common in England by 1572, and 5 percent was legal in Venice by the end of the century (258). Shylock is incredulous that the same man who spits on him and calls him a dog asks to borrow money (1.3.126-7). Unaffected by Shylocks protests Antonio proudly proclaims: I am as like to call thee so again, To spit on thee agai n, to spurn thee too. If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not As to thy friends, for when did friendship take A breed for barren metal of his friend? But lend it rather to thine enemy, Who, if he break, thou mayst with better face
36 36 Exact the penalty. (1.3.128-135) Shylocks downfall derives from his attempt to exact the penalty at all costs. Although the first exchange be tween Jessica and her fath er is a friendly one and Shylock lovingly refers to his daughter as m y girl (2.5.16), she clea rly wants to escape from her father whom she sees as a miserly killjoy. Jessica also wa nts to establish that she is different from her father as she reveals in an aside: But though I am a daughter to his blood, I am not of his manners. O Lorenzo, If thou keep promise, I shall end this strife, Become a Christian and thy loving wife. (2.3.18-2.3.21) These words contrast with Shylocks later la ment, since even after Jessicas betrayal, Shylock acknowledges Jessica as flesh and blood to Solanio and Salerio (3.1.350). In response, Salerio bursts into a bitter invective in order to show Shylock the constructed differences between himself and his daughter: There is more difference between thy flesh and hers than between jet and ivory, more between your bloods than there is between red wine and Rhenish. (3.1.36-38) After thoroughly insulting Shylock, Salerio ex acerbates the situation by askin the much abused Jew: do you hear whether Antonio ha ve had any loss at sea or no? (3.1.39-40). At this point, Shylock steps over a metaphoric edge, warning Antoni os friend: Let him look to his bond (3.1.44). Jessicas treachery and the taunting of Shylock by the Venetians combine to coerce him into villai nous actionthe killing of Antoniothat he probably would not have attempted had Jessica not betrayed him.
37 37 At the end of the play, the Venetians unite to destroy Shylock, even as the Maltese destroy Barabas. Shylocks silence at the denouement contrasts with his earlier loquaciousness. Indeed, he seems close to de ath as he mutters, I am not well. Send the deed after me, / And I will sign it (4.1.394-395). Martin Ya ffe bluntly asserts that Shakespeare did not endorse the prejudices of his time period but instead saw them for what they are: dubious and damaging opinions, and so encourages his reader to do likewise (23). He insists that there is a pervasive, philosophical element to Shakespeares Jewish play, which has re mained by and large unappreciated by current scholars. Not Shakespeare, but scholars themselves seem vulnerable to the charge of having imposed their own dubious prejudices on the events that Shakespeare dramatizes (Yaffe 23). We will never know exactly what Shakes peare thought or felt about Jews or Christians but he certainly would not have provided such moving, emotional speeches for Shylock and such ambivalence in Jessicas c onversion had he endorse d the prejudices of his society. A master of his craft, Shakespear e subtly yet pointedly interrogates the social mores of his time in The Merchant of Venice Metzger proposes that Jessicas multiplicitous natureas Jew and Christian constitutes an emblematic figure for the plays renowned discon tinuities. The ambiguous mix of comedy and tragedy, humanism and racialism, patriarchal imperialism and festive rebellion in The Merchant corresponds to the inherent inco mpatibility of identities Shakespeare attempts to unite in Jessica (53). I would expand th is argument to observe that Shakespeare does not attempt to unite Jessicas identities but instead shows the falsity of her conversion, at the end of the play, silencing Jessica, as he does Shyloc k, and leaving her in limboneither entirely
38 38 Jewish nor Christian. According to Penuel, she makes a successf ul physical escape but cannot manage its less tangible and c oncrete mental equivalent (269). A case can surely be made to defend Je ssicas fleeing from her father. As Gross points out, she had just made her escape from an environment where she felt stifled. She was young, in love, swept up in the great adventure of her life (69). However, how can one defend Jessicas stealing of the ring that he r mother gave her fath er and selling it for a monkey? Gross explains that [p]erhaps the business with the ring was no more than a moments thoughtlessness. But does she really need defendi ng, anyway? If we accept the traditional reading of the play, we rejoice in her progress: at worst, the business with the ring is a mere blip (69). In reply to Gross, I would insist that her frivolous and insulting gesture would impede the audiences empathy for her plight. Whether she actually sold the ring or not is of little importance; in stead, the significance of the ring derives from Shylocks reaction; he clearly values the se ntimental meaning of the ring more than its material value. Gross maintains that the turquoise ring Jessica st eals from her father is an appropriate stone for a keepsake sinc e turquoises were widely believed to have magical properties. They were said to change color, in order to warn those who wore them of impending da nger, they were also supposed to reconcile man and wife. An approp riate stone for a keepsakeand if the ring was dear to Shylock while Leah was alive, it must have been doubly precious now she was dead  Disposi ng of the ring was heartless. It is as though Jessica were trying to undo her parents entire marriage at a stroke. (69)
39 39 Jessica wishes to assimilate into a Christian society in Belmont, but, as Leventen observes, she is more tolerated at the peri phery than welcomed at its center (74). One of the few times that Jessica does speak out in her new Christian home, she tells of her fathers seriousness in his quest for Antonios flesh; however, Gross suggests, she is not really telling those present anything that they do not already know  she is also plainly anxious to distance herself as far as possible from her father and his countrymen ( his countrymen they are no longer hers) (74). By the end of the play, Jessicas outlaw feminine characteris tics appear to be forgiven, and she regains some of the symp athy that she had ear lier lost through her callous actions because she re-appropriates herself into another patriarchal society, transferring the financial as well as the psyc hological power that she stole from her father and thrusting it into her new husband s hands. However, Lampert submits that although seemingly a Christian fantas y of Jewish conversion, Jessicas situation actually calls this very fantasy into question. In Jessicas uneasiness and her continual doubts that she can escape a Je wish essence, the play most clearly reveals its conc erns about the fragility of Christian and Venetian identities  The plays emphasis on the making and unmaking a Christians suggests that to be a Christian is not a static state but an identity to be performed and enacted. (15)
40 40 OTHER CHARACTERS In The Merchant of Venice the exchange of ringsa symbolic transference of love, money, and powerplays a central role in the plot and cri tics have debated the audience response to Jessicas stealing of he r fathers turquoise ring, the ring given to him by Leah, his late wife, when he was stil l a bachelor. I would argue that unlike the other male characters in the playBasssa nio and GratianoShylock values the ring primarily for its sentimental meaning rather than its symbolic monetary value. Gross agrees, remarking that Jessicas actions are particularly heart less because to the Elizabethans, monkeys symbolized lechery  and for a man like Shylock, the mere idea of acquiring such a pet must have seemed unbearably frivolous (69). Portia and Jessica are bo th involved with the tran sference of rings. Critics frequently contrast the two daughters because Po rtia, at least on the su rface, is a devoted daughter, who protects her fathers money a nd passes it along safely to her husband although a number of critics have persuasive ly argued that she manipulates the casket ordeal in order to choose her own husband. In contrast, Jessica steals from her father, throws the caskets of jewels down to her love r, and then squanders it all. Newman notes that Bassanio gives his ring to an unruly woman, that is, to a woman who steps outside her role and function as subservient, a woman who dresses like a man, who embarks upon behavior ill suited to her weaker in tellect, a woman who argues the law (115). Similarly, Jessica also violates her feminine role by defying her fa ther, by stealing from him, by dressing like a man, and by challenging the social conventions that attempt to convert her into an inlaw feminine characte r. However, the motivations of Portia and
41 41 Jessica are significantly different; Portia acts to secure her fathers money while Jessica plunders her fathers wealth. As Leventen re marks, Where Portia gives, Jessica takes; where Portia accepts constraints, Jessica rebels; but in the end, where Jessica wins the battle, Portia wins the war (62). Unlike the Jew, who would not have gi ven it [Leahs ring] fo r a wilderness of / monkeys (3.1.116), only a gentle prodding fr om Antonio convinces Bassanio to surrender Portias ring, validating the new husba nds earlier promise to give up his life, his wife, and the world to save his friend. S hylocks priorities seem different; he values the ring simply as a token of love from his wife, whereas when Portia passes the ring to Bassanio, it becomes a transfer of power authority and wealth. Penuel explores Shylocks downfall and suggests that by t aking Shylocks stones, ring, ducats, and daughter, Merchants Christians not only betray fear of de bts to fiscal creditors as well as economic and emotional resentment of parent s, but they also reveal anxiety about Christian cultures indebt edness to Judaism (263). Jessicas mishandling of the precious ring evokes sympathy for her father, whereas Bassanios betrayal of Portia by giving away her ring evokes only laughter. Barbara Lewalski observes that when Bassanio returns to Belmont he is briefly taunted but soon the whole crisis dissolves in la ughter (37). However, the play presents Jessicas offense with more gravity, by sugges ting that this partic ular act of cruelty pushes Shylock over a metaphoric edge into villainy. Yaffe states that after Jessica despoils her father of cons iderable cash and jewels, Shyl ock is afterward unable to separate the loss of her from th e loss of his savings (65). Would Shylock have been as obdurate in his revenge if Jessica had not be trayed him? The multivalent voices in the
42 42 play, as well as Shylocks multivalent character, make an answer problematic, although I certainly believe that he would not have been as determined to obtain a pound of Antonios flesh had he not been so abused by both his daughter a nd his society. Although the play first depicts Jessica as kind and unthrifty, unlike her fathershe soon turns out to be just as cruel and prodigal as the other characters in the play.
43 43 Chapter Five Conclusion It is difficult to separate issues of religion and gender in The Jew of Malta and The Merchant of Venice because they intertwine so closely in the characterizations of Abigail and Jessica. The two are very similar: they are both daughters of rich and vilified Jewish men, who flee from their religion and are appropriated by the dominant Christian community. However, they are also very different: Abigail, an inlaw feminine character, comforts her father, helps him when she can, and generally sees her role as a supporting one until he kills her love, Mathias. Jessica, on the other hand, steals from her father, lies to him, and despoils him of the one posse ssion that means more to him than moneya turquoise ring from his late wife, Leah. Abigails goodness contrasts with her fathers villainous actions and our pity for her increa ses as she endures one test after another; meanwhile, Barabas grows in cruelty as Abig ail grows in goodness. Conversely, Jessicas betrayal, shoves Shylock further into a villainous role and simultaneously evokes at least some compassion from the audience for th e Jew. As a result, the father-daughter relationships act to sway our sympathies invers ely. If we pity Abigail, whose actions are reactions to her fathers machinations, then we are happy that Barabas gets what he deserves. If we are angry at Jessica for he r betrayal, then we sy mpathize with Shylock and see him as being coerced into a villainous role by his society and his own daughter. Marlowe shows that the so-called Christ ians display all of the negative traits normally associated with Jewishness (mater ialism and Machiavellianism). Abigail's
44 44 sincere conversion evokes sympathy for her but hardly for the Christian community which remains entirely corrupt. Indeed, the fact that the only truly Christian figure in the play is a young Jewish woman certainly ex plodes anti-Semitism. Shakespeare offers a more subtle satire of anti -Semitism; however, he evokes sympathy for Shylock by giving him moving speeches that remind the audien ce of the bond of common humanity that transcends religious and racial differences. Also, Shakespeare arouses compassion for his villain by showing how the cr uelty of his daughter combines with the taunting of the Venetians to drive Shylock into villainy. Shakespeare also demonstrates how the Venetians, like the Maltese, em body those characteristics tradi tionally considered to be Jewish. Ultimately, most of the Venetians are revealed to be very commercial (Bassanio is a fortune hunter ; Lorenzo and Gratiano are gros sly materialistic; Portia makes sure at the trial that she does not lose any of her m oney). They are also vengeful; Shylock receives no mercy in the courtroom but only an eye-for an eye, tooth-for-a-tooth vengeance. Both of the plays expose cultural diffe rences as unreliable signifiers of goodness and depict the Christians and the Jews as mo re similar than different, thereby calling all kinds of racial/religious pr ejudice into question. However, Marlowes satire is more trenchant and the world of Malta more corrupt than that of Venice a nd thus Barabas, in one sense a representative of that society, alienates audi ence sympathy, primarily because of his treatment of Abigail. Conversely, both the Venetians and Shylock are presented more sympathetically than the Maltese and Ba rabas. In light of these similarities and differences, it is important to consider the implications of The Jew of Malta and The Merchant of Venice Were Shakespeare and Marlowe really interrogating anti-Semitism?
45 45 Or, by appropriating the two daughters into th e Christian society, is anti-Semitism simply reinforced? I conclude that although Marlow es caustic satire point s out the hypocrisy of the Gentile characters and Shakespeares more subtle satire reveals common human weaknesses, both authors are certainly inte rrogating the social nor ms of their time.
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