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Christian Ducats and Jewish Scales: Religious Currency in the Merchant of Venice

Now available in CLR Volume 4: “Christian Ducats and Jewish Scales: Religious Currency in The Merchant of Venice by Joshua Fullman.

Abstract: A significant amount of contemporary scholarship of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice has read the text strictly in Marxist economic terms. One disadvantage to this approach is that it treats religion as merely a support to Venetian society rather than as its base, presuming a cynical, and consequently tragic, view of the text. This paper reverses that analysis, viewing the conflict between religions as foundational to understanding the play. Interpreting Merchant through the genre of romance, the text becomes less a problem play and more a moral exemplum in how to live rightly. Through the tripartite tests of casket, court, and ring, Shakespeare emphasizes not the inequities and oppressive structure of a market economy but how the freedom inherent in such a system promotes love and redemption at all levels of society.

Download the full paper here. See more from Volume 4 here.

Joshua S. Fullman (Ph.D. English, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale) is the Director of the University Writing Center at California Baptist University.

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