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Religion in The Merchant of Venice

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on 4 November 2014

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Transcript of Religion in The Merchant of Venice

Religion in The Merchant of Venice
Time Period: end of the 16th Century

Question to Ponder: Is Shakespeare's play,
The Merchant of Venice
, about the conflict between Jews and Christians, or is it showing the conflict between Protestants and Catholics in a new light?
Catholics vs. Protestants
Religion became a Political matter

-Catholics were being forced to convert to Anglicanism
-Pope Pius V excommunicated Queen Elizabeth of England
-English uneasy about whether or not the Catholics would rise up against her because they didn’t see her as a legitimate queen
Jews as Other
Imagine Christians and Jews as rivals. One doesn’t survive without the other.
Christians used Jews as a means to separate themselves as an alternative and autonomous religion
Paul says Christians view Jewish observance of the law as ignorant and a completely rejection of God’s will and mercy.

Jews in England
There weren't many Jews actually living in England
Usque tells how 2,000-3,000 Jews were expelled in 1290 because Parliment didn't like that the king could go to the Jews for money instead of them
After that there were only a few left
Very biased against them
Rules forbid Christians to associate with them
Any cruelty the Jews suffered was rationalized/justified by the historians of the time.
Wild tales told about the horrible things Jews would do to mock Christians
They were still seen as responsible for Christ's death
These biases can be seen in the treatment of Shylock by the other characters
Is the play more about the conflict between Jews and Christians or the conflict between Protestants and Catholics?
By: Bernadette, Sam, and Jules
Jewish law and Christian mercy is showed through Shylock with justice and Portia with mercy
Both Protestants and Catholics attempt to undermine the other by equating the opponent as a Jew.
Political vs. Religious realm between Protestant leaders and Catholic leaders and their converts
Not the same for the clerics of these two religions
“An arousal of the will under the influence of grace” and not by force

Since religious beliefs are not explicitly at stake for Shylock in Act 4 is Shylock only forced to conform to the mere observance of Catholicism?
Historically Jews have been the victims of forced conversions
*1492 expulsion of Jews from Spain

View from Jewish perspective
Was act 4 the forcing of conscience or a free embracing of Christian beliefs and how would other Jews view this?

From Acts and Monuments
by John Foxe
-Foxe was an active Protestant refused to conform to the church

-Why are Catholics persecuting protestants in England?
-Understandable for church to discriminate against Jews and infidels and otherwise horrible people, but not between Protestants and Catholics because they are so similar
-Creed, baptized in same belief, have same God and Christ and savior, Protestants are open to all kinds of Christian doctrine

From A Brief Discourse Containing Certain Reasons Why Catholics Refuse to Go to Church
By Robert Parsons
Parsons was a Jesuit missionary, sent to England with the mission to convert Protestants

Addressing Queen Elizabeth
-You are torturing people for not going against their consciences. This has never been done before on such a large scale (pg 261)
-Idea of going against your conscience is a sin
(in terms of conversion)
-Act 4 Trial Scene
-Shylock goes through psychological and emotional torture to convert

At the time of the play, there was much turmoil in England between the Protestants and Catholics
Jews were seen as lesser than both groups even though they would not exist without Judaism
Eventhough there weren't many Jews living in England, there was a strong fear and bias against them.
Any Questions?
Have a Good Day!
Everyone seemed to agree that conversion by force was invalid, yet it still occurred and conversion of the Jews was seen as a good thing.
Queen Elizabeth I
Full transcript