Incising Antonio

Janet Adelman

in Blood Relations

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2008 | ISBN: 9780226006819
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226006833 | DOI:
Incising Antonio

More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • Shakespeare Studies and Criticism


Show Summary Details


This chapter argues that in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, anxiety about the status of circumcision as a reliable marker of difference plays itself out in the incision that Shylock would make on Antonio's body. It argues that Jessica cannot make the transition from Jew to Christian without undergoing a symbolic circumcision of sorts: as though she must be marked as a member of the circumcised race before she can be allowed to leave Shylock's house. The play takes pains to transform Jessica into a boy even as it insists that her transformation is quite gratuitous from the point of view of the plot. Jessica appears to be made into a boy as she attempts to leave her father's house just so that she can be returned to his body, firmly (if only momentarily) under the sign of circumcision. But from one point of view, her “gelding” is perfectly superfluous. Lorenzo courts the punishment of Shechem; that punishment is anticipated in the second story of intermarriage and conversion for love that seems to haunt the edges of Merchant.

Keywords: The Merchant of Venice; William Shakespeare; conversion; race; circumcision; intermarriage; gelding; punishment; Jew; Christian

Chapter.  16495 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.