Free Merchant of Venice Essays: Noble and Worthy Jessica?
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Noble and Worthy Jessica?
While researching for this paper I reviewed numerous essays,
assessments, and commentaries concerning The Merchant of Venice.
One essay used the terms "noble" and "worthy" in relation to
Jessica. The author stated that "sometimes what they [the characters of the
play] 'sell out' for is worthy and shows them to be noble (Jessica for
example)." The author goes on to say that Shylock's reasons for selling out
"seem ignoble." Those statements really got me thinking, so I strolled
over to my trusty dictionary to look up "noble" and "worthy."
Noble--1. a: possessing outstanding qualities.
2: of high birth or exalted rank.
3. a: possessing very high or excellent qualities or properties.
Worthy-1. a: having worth or value.
Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (10th edition)
The most common connotation of "noble," in my opinion, is a combination
of the first and third listings. While Jessica certainly fits the
second meaning listed of "noble" and the meaning of "worthy"
(financially anyway), I didn't see any proof of her being such an
outstanding person or "possessing very high or excellent qualities"
within the context of this play. She may very well be a wonderful
person, but I didn't see anything that would lead me to that conclusion
in the play itself. Let's look at the facts. Jessica robs her father
of all the jewels and money she can carry to marry Lorenzo. She casts
aside her religion as if it were an old hat. The only outstanding
quality I see is that she can do all this without the slightest remorse.
We are told by Jessica that Shylock's "house is hell," but within the
play I did not see any proof of this (II.iii.2). It is true that
Shylock did not know which to weep for more, his daughter or his ducats,
but does that make that house a hell? Because we didn't see what life
was like in the house, we can only take Jessica's word for it. I, for
one, am not terribly comfortable with her word as she has proven herself
to be a thief and liar already. How do we know she isn't just an
incredibly ungrateful daughter blinded by love (as she herself
proclaimed love to be a blinding force--II.vi.36)?
Frankly, Shakespeare did not give us much to work with as far as