The Merchant of Venice

by: William Shakespeare

Jessica

Alack, what heinous sin is it in me To be ashamed to be my father’s child! But though I am a daughter to his blood, I am not to his manners. O Lorenzo, If thou keep promise, I shall end this strife, Become a Christian and thy loving wife. (A II, s iii)

Jessica speaks to the audience after saying goodbye to Launcelot as she plans her escape. She reveals how she feels ashamed to be her father’s daughter because of his behavior. She also declares her love for Lorenzo and her desire to leave home and become a Christian to marry him. Jessica’s bold move demonstrates her courage and strength to choose love over family and religion.

She hath directed How I shall take her from her father’s house, What gold and jewels she is furnished with, What page’s suit she hath in readiness. If e'er the Jew her father come to heaven, It will be for his gentle daughter’s sake. And never dare Misfortune cross her foot Unless she do it under this excuse: That she is issue to a faithless Jew. (A II, s iv)

Lorenzo explains to Gratiano how Jessica has planned their escape while also describing her gentle and heavenly spirit. Lorenzo continues to explain how Shylock would only get to heaven because of his daughter’s influence. He provides strong evidence of Jessica as far different and better in character than her father, Shylock. He clearly reveals his love and admiration for Jessica.

I am glad ’tis night, you do not look on me, For I am much ashamed of my exchange. But love is blind, and lovers cannot see The pretty follies that themselves commit, For if they could Cupid himself would blush To see me thus transformèd to a boy. (a ii, s vi)

Jessica speaks to Lorenzo about how love looks past embarrassments or faults. While Jessica feels ashamed of the disguise she wears in order to escape, she recognizes that if Lorenzo truly loves her, he will not care about her looks. By recognizing an essential quality in love, Jessica reveals not only her genuine feelings for Lorenzo, but also the strength of their relationship, despite a tumultuous start.

Beshrew me but I love her heartily. For she is wise, if I can judge of her. And fair she is, if that mine eyes be true. And true she is, as she hath proved herself. And therefore, like herself—wise, fair and true— Shall she be placèd in my constant soul. (A II, s vi)

Lorenzo gives a straightforward appraisal of Jessica as he reflects on his love for her. He describes her as wise, fair, and true, all qualities that she demonstrates to him. The audience has also seen these traits through her thoughtful plan of escape. Lorenzo completes his declaration by stating that as long as Jessica remains true to herself, she will have a place in his heart. True love can only exist when those involved reveal and act upon their true nature.

LORENZO: In such a night Did Jessica steal from the wealthy Jew, And with an unthrift love did run from Venice As far as Belmont . . . In such a night JESSICA: Did young Lorenzo swear he loved her well, Stealing her soul with many vows of faith, And ne'er a true one. (A V, s i)

As Lorenzo and Jessica wait at Portia’s house, they compare themselves to famous lovers. Lorenzo and Jessica go back and forth with declarations of love. During this exchange, Jessica reveals her playful character. The audience notes how genuinely the two love each other. Lorenzo and Jessica even mention Jessica’s bravery in running away, an act in which her devotion to Lorenzo as well as her strength of character reward her with great love and happiness.