"How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears. Soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patens of bright gold."
orenzo and essica are the Romeo and Juliet of Merchant. Oh, sure, people aren't killed because of their love, and their story ends happily (for them anyway - Shylock loses everything to them), but think about it. Here we have two people of opposite faiths who somehow surpass all the religious strife we see between Christians and Jews, such as Antonio and Shylock, and who fall in love and get married (although who really knows what happens after the play, right?!). And, like Romeo and Juliet, this couple has some of the prettiest language Shakespeare ever wrote (see above).
But now let's look at differences. First of all, Lorenzo and Jessica's love is, in a way, more seriously forbidden than those other Italian lovers' affair. Sure, everyone knows those Montagues and Capulets hated each other something fierce, but the two families were at least of the same religious background. Romeo and Juliet's affair was seen as treason to those within their family groups, but would probably not be looked on with much disdain by the public at large. Lorenzo and Jessica are a different matter, a more socially unacceptable union. And it's funny, because although their issue is technically graver than R&J's, Shakespeare kind of glosses over it, possibly because he was determined to keep the overall tone as that of a comedy. So, Jessica runs away from her father and her religion and never looks back, and we are told this is ok because she hated him because he was a horrible Jew. Case closed.
Here we find the second difference from R&J: you rarely hear Juliet say she hates her parents. She is just too in love to care about the feud. Jessica admits that, horrible as it is, she is not happy with her father:
"Alack, what heinous sin is it to 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" (II.iii.16-21).
There you have it. Jessica dislikes Shylock so much that she is willing not only to run away from him and take a bunch of his money, but to also convert to Christianity and in doing so completely separate herself from her origins. Of course we are shown many displays of Shylock's cruelty, but it is a matter of opinion as to whether Jessica renounces him for this reason or whether she might also be a bit blinded by love (hmm, just like Juliet!).
On the same tack, we never hear Romeo say, "Well, Juliet's great, especially considering her parents are jerks." But Lorenzo tells his friends:
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 (II.iv.33-37)
In other words, Jessica is so great that she is not like her horrible Jew father at all - she is like a Christian, or gentle. And if she ever did anything wrong, Lorenzo would excuse her because it would be because of her "faithless" Jewish parentage. You've just gotta wonder if Jessica will wake from her love spell one day after the play and realize she married this guy who loved her in spite of who she was and not because of who she was. And she'll realize she could have done better. I don't know, maybe I'm just reading too much into this. Maybe it's just really late at night. ...Food for thought, anyway.
I think that's about enough about that. Now you can go:
or see Lorenzo and Jessica's Links
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