Stolen Daughters and Stolen Idols

Sara Coodin

in Is Shylock Jewish?

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print January 2017 | ISBN: 9781474418386
Published online January 2018 | e-ISBN: 9781474434492 | DOI:

Series: Edinburgh Critical Studies in Shakespeare and Philosophy

Stolen Daughters and Stolen Idols

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Chapter 3 continues the discussion of the Genesis Jacob cycle’s intertextual relationship to The Merchant of Venice, focusing intently on Shylock’s daughter Jessica. This chapter examines how Jessica’s character is informed by two key biblical figures from that cycle of stories: Dinah and Rachel. The story of Dinah’s abduction by a non-Jewish prince contains several notable ambiguities on the question of her consent, which is sometimes figured as rape, other times as a love affair. By examining a series of different translations of Genesis 34, this chapter discusses how our understanding of Jessica’s motivations can be developed and explored through contemporary Renaissance renditions of Dinah’s story. Then, through a discussion of the biblical Rachel who, like Jessica, steals valuables belonging to her father, the chapter discusses how Renaissance writers used Rachel’s story to address women’s moral education in 16th and 17th century English conduct manuals. By examining ways in which Rachel was figured as an agent of liminality and transgression, this chapter offers new contexts for interpreting Jessica’s absconsion from her father’s Jewish household, her romance and marriage to Lorenzo, and her longed-for conversion to Christianity.

Keywords: Jessica; Dinah (biblical); Rachel (biblical); Theft; Biblical intertexts; Genesis Jacob cycle; Biblical translations; Religious conversion

Chapter.  17929 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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