Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Christopher Braider

Second Advisor

David Glimp

Third Advisor

Paul Gordon


Approaching Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice as a critique of the logic of capitalism, my thesis argues that we shouldn't be trying to locate the play's merit in spite of the admittedly anti-Semitic portrait of Shylock. It is through this very portrait that the play succeeds in becoming a radical critique of the ideology of early modern capitalism. Shylock, on the one hand a mythic literary trope of "the Jew", is an "ideological fantasy" (Zizek), who conveniently serves as a scapegoat for exploitation perpetrated by the Venetian mercantile system. Yet Shylock is also an abyss of inwardness, invested with what Philip Roth calls "a Shakespearean reality." Essentially, Shylock excels in the character of a mirror. As the reality at the heart of the fantasy, Shylock not only shows the fantasy its reality, but overwhelms it, forcing the city into collision with the effective conditions of the social reality it is distorting.