The Merchant of Venice


William Shakespeare

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The Merchant of Venice: Act 3, scene 5 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
At Belmont, Launcelot quotes the old saying that the sins of fathers are visited on their children, and teases that he is worried that Jessica is damned unless it turns out that Shylock is not actually her father. Jessica retorts that her marriage to Lorenzo will save her. Lorenzo enters, and scolds Launcelot for having gotten a Moorish servant pregnant. Launcelot responds with a series of puns, then exits to prepare dinner.
Launcelot again brings up the question of Jewishness, and implies that being a Jew is a matter of "blood," and can't be escaped. Jessica counters that Jewishness is a matter of "manners," and says she can be "saved" from Jewishness by marriage and conversion.
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Lorenzo asks Jessica what she thinks of Portia. Jessica replies that she finds Portia more perfect than she can express, and compares her to a god or angel. In reply, Lorenzo jokes that he is just as good a husband as Portia is a wife. Then they head to dinner.
The Venetian Christians compare Jews to animals and the devil. Jessica, a former Jew, compares the Christian Portia to an angel or god. Given this exchange, it seems hard to defend the play from the charge that it displays some anti-Semitism of its own.
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