The Merchant of Venice

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The Merchant of Venice Act 2, scene 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At Shylock's house, Launcelot bids farewell to Shylock's daughter, Jessica. Jessica says that she will miss him—his presence helped make her life at home more tolerable. Then, she gives him a letter and asks him to pass it on secretly to Bassanio's friend Lorenzo at dinner that night. Tearful at having to leave her, Launcelot takes the letter.
Identifying the defector Launcelot as her ally in her own home, Jessica immediately shows "Venetian"-style prejudice against her own group—the Jews—and hints at the disloyalty and betrayal to which she will subject her own father.
Themes
Prejudice and Intolerance Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
After Launcelot departs, Jessica worries that her shame at being her father's child is a sin. Yet, she reflects, she is daughter only to his "blood" (2.3.18); she does not share his "manners" (19). Then, she reveals why she sent the letter with Launcelot: Lorenzo has promised that he loves her and wants to marry her. If he keeps his vows, she vows that she will convert to Christianity and become Lorenzo's wife.
Jessica's reflections on what it means to be someone's child call into question the division between animal and human traits—that is, "blood" versus "manners." Her blithe betrayal of her father also casts some doubt on Jessica's character, despite the affection that the Christians show for her.
Themes
Prejudice and Intolerance Theme Icon
Human and Animal Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon