The Merchant of Venice | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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The Merchant of Venice | Act 2, Scene 5 | Summary

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Summary

Launcelot brings Shylock an invitation to Bassanio's dinner, and Shylock tells Launcelot he will be able to judge the difference between his new master and his old one. Before Shylock leaves for dinner, he warns Jessica to close and lock all the doors and windows, not to look outside, not to even allow the sounds of merriment in the streets outside into his home. Launcelot takes her aside to tell her to keep an eye out at the window for Lorenzo. Shylock asks about the exchange, but Jessica tells him Launcelot was only telling her goodbye. After Shylock leaves, she offers an unheard farewell to her father.

Analysis

Act 2, Scene 5 provides some evidence to support Jessica's hostility toward her father. He forbids her to leave the house, look outside, or even open the windows. He keeps Jessica isolated from the outside world, which shows why she is eager to leave home quickly, especially without the comical Launcelot around the house. Her isolation also raises the question of how she and Lorenzo ever saw one another enough to begin a courtship even as it explains why the courtship has been conducted entirely through letters. Launcelot's role as messenger shows how his participation has probably been essential. His departure, hence the loss of their messenger, provides another reason why their elopement must happen as soon as possible.

Although Jessica perceives her father's strict rules as "hell," Shylock's reasons for those rules are most likely founded in his religion and his paternal love for her. As her father, he wants to protect her from the sinful behavior of the rowdy young men on the street. Jessica's perception of Judaism is probably equally tainted by her resentment of the limitations placed on her. In this way she is a typical teenager, and her desire to elope with Lorenzo and convert is just as much due to her desire to free herself of Shylock's constraints as it is to be with Lorenzo.

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