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The Merchant of Venice Race Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Norton Shakespeare edition.

Quote #10

Nay, you need not fear us, Lorenzo. Lancelet
and I are out. He tells me flatly there is no mercy for
me in heaven, because I am a Jew's daughter; and
he says, you are no good member of the commonwealth,
for in converting Jews to Christians you
raise the price of pork.
I shall answer that better to the commonwealth
than you can the getting up of the negro's
belly! The Moor is with child by you, Lancelet. (3.5.30-38)

When Jessica and Lorenzo clown around with Lancelot, we get a sense of the play's anxiety about interracial couplings. Here Lancelot has been joking that Lorenzo's marriage to a "Jew's daughter" has raised the price of pork. (The idea being that Jessica's marriage has automatically converted her to Christianity, a religion that doesn't shun the consumption of swine.)  

The conversation becomes even more bizarre when Lorenzo says something like, "Well I may have married a "Jew's daughter" but you got a Moor pregnant." What the heck is going on here? Although the play seems to endorse Jessica's marriage to Lorenzo and her conversion to Christianity, it also seems to stress the fact that Jessica, like Lancelot's black girlfriend, is an outsider in the play. 

Quote #11

Make room, and let him stand before our face.—
Shylock, the world thinks, and I think so too,
That thou but leadest this fashion of thy malice
To the last hour of act, and then, 'tis thought,
Thou wilt show thy mercy and remorse more strange
Than is thy strange apparent cruelty;
And where thou now exacts the penalty,
Which is a pound of this poor merchant's flesh,
Thou wilt not only loose the forfeiture,
But, touched with human gentleness and love,
Forgive a moi'ty of the principal,
We all expect a gentle answer, Jew. (4.1.17-27; 35)

The Duke's speech illustrates the extent to which Christians are oblivious of their prejudice. They expect Shylock to show mercy, as if they deserve it, but fail to acknowledge that they never showed any mercy to him. We also notice the repetitive use of the term "gentle" in this passage, which suggests that the Duke thinks of mercy as a Christian, or "gentile," characteristic, which he wants Shylock to emulate.

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