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Merchant of Venice, C4v

Editorial note

This transcription focuses on the anti-Semetic language in the text and the difference between its effect on Shylocke, a male character, and his daughter Jessica, a female character. The primary textual aspect we looked at was the ways in which Shylocke and Jessica are referred to by the Christian characters in contrast to how Shylocke refers to himself and his daughter. Descriptions referencing Jessica are highlighted in pink while ones referring to Shylocke are highlighted blue.

Additional editorial decisions include, modernizing the spelling within the page, including adding apostrophes to contractions, bolding and using full character names in the speaker labels, and keeping the stage directions italicized. All of these changes aimed for ease of reading and understanding so that one's attention could be focused on the analysis.

Lorenzo. To furnish us; friend Launcelet what's the news. Enter Launcelet.
Launcelet. And it shall please you to break up this, it shall seem
to signify.
Lorenzo. I know the hand, in faith 'tis a fair1 hand,
And whiter then the paper it writ on
Is the fair hand that writ.
Gratiano. Love, news in faith.
Launcelet. By your leave sir.
Lorenzo. Whither goest thou.
Launcelet. Marry sir to bid my old Master2 the Jew to sup tonight
with my new Master the Christian.
Lorenzo. Hold here take this, tell gentle3 Jessica
I will not fail her, speak it privately,
Go Gentlemen, will you prepare you for this masque tonight,
I am provided of a Torch-bearer.  Exit Clown.
Salarino. I marry, I'll be gone about it straight.
Solanio. And so will I.
Lorenzo. Meet me and Gratiano at Gratiano's lodging
Some hour hence.
Salarino. 'Tis good we do so.  Exit.
Gratiano. Was not that Letter from fair Jessica.
Lorenzo. I must needs tell thee all, she hath directed
How I shall take her from her Father's house,
What gold and jewels she is furnished with,
What Page's suit she hath in readiness,4
If ere 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,5
That she is issue to a faithless6 Jew:
Come go with me, peruse this as thou goest,
Fair Jessica shall be my Torch-bearer. Exit.


Enter Jew and his man that was the Clown.
Jew. Well, thou shalt see, thy eyes shall be thy judge,
The difference of old Shylocke and Bassanio;7
What Jessica8, thou shalt not gourmandize9

Image credit: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library, copy G.176.16. The most excellent historie of the merchant of Venice. First Quarto. London: 1600.

Citing this page: Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice, C4v. London: 1600. Cacodemon Digital Shakespeare. Edited by Kenna Cheverie & Julia Lee. Source edition: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library (copy G.176.16).


  1. One of the primary adjectives used to describe Jessica is "fair," connecting to the evolving Early Modern idea of whiteness, and removing Jessica from Shylocke's Jewishness, as Jews are often characterized by dark eyes and hair. The full phrase "in faith 'tis a fair hand" also directly connects the idea of whiteness to Christianity.
  2. The capitalization of "Master," which appears twice in the line, serves to highlight the class difference between Launcelet and the other characters of the play. Additionally, "Master" comes before either Shylocke or Bassanio's religion showing that for Launcelet, his place as a servant is lower than the other characters' regardless of their religion.
  3. "Gentle" is the other main adjective used for Jessica, and links her additionally to the words "gentry" and "gentile." Gentry brings to mind class and the greater privilege Jessica would enjoy as Lorenzo's wife rather than Shylocke's daughter. Of course, that gap in privilege is inherently tied to religion, and referring to Jessica as "gentile" or "not Jewish" creates further distance from her Jewish heritage and more emphasis on her future with Lorenzo.
  4. While the impulse might be to end the thought here, the use of a comma implies a continuation to the next line using modern grammatical conventions. This potentially implicates Jessica herself as being the one to say her only misfortunes relate to having a Jewish father.
  5. Lorenzo postulates that the only reason for misfortune to befall Jessica, is if it has to do with her father Shylocke being Jewish.
  6. "Faithless" negates Shylocke being called "Jew" as a religious descriptor and instead focuses on "Jew" as a racial identity. This contrasts to earlier where Launcelet calls Shylocke "my old Master the Jew" which is meant in the religious sense, as Launcelet goes on to call Bassanio "my new Master the Christian."
  7. Like Launcelet earlier on the page, Shylocke also compares himself and Bassanio, except he calls on observation to determine the difference between the two men, while the previous comparison relied on religion as the divisive factor. Additionally, Shylocke insinuates that Launcelet's treatment as a servant will be stricter than he is used to with "thou shalt not gourmandize" further implying that Launcelet's change in employers has more to do with their religion than his treatment.
  8. Both the other characters and the script itself in the stage directions and speaker labels do Shylocke the distinct disservice of not referring to him by name, unlike how they treat every other person of importance in the play. Shylocke is the one who has to call his own name on the page. He also calls for Jessica without attaching any modifier to her name, another distinction from the previous scene. Shylocke sees and acknowledges a familial and religious connection between himself and his daughter that the other characters are eager to dismantle.
  9. Directed to Launcelet, although the context within the page may seem otherwise.