This essay explores the penitential structure of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice in the context of the Reformation reorientation of human agency in matters of atonement. It suggests that the Protestant attack on the Roman sacrament of penance resulted, for both sides of the confessional divide, in a deep suspicion of, as well as a longing for, the possibilities of satisfacere, making or feeling “enough” in matters of spiritual restitution. In The Merchant of Venice, this fraught understanding of penitential experience takes special shape around the Jew Shylock. Shylock's treatment of Antonio depends on his commitment to the idea of “enough” in penitential encounters, while his humiliation at the hands of the Venetian Christians involves eliminating his sense of compensatory satisfaction.
Research Article|January 01 2010
Heather Hirschfeld; “And he hath enough”: The Penitential Economies of The Merchant of Venice. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 January 2010; 40 (1): 89–117. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-2009-015
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