The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare wrote The Merchant of Venice around 1596-1598,
during the Elizabethan Era. Many Elizabethans held a number of
prejudices about Jewish people which were widely accepted/tolerated.
Read the following statements and try to decide whether they are true or false.
Ensure that you have the correct answers before answering the questions that
During Medieval times Jews developed the reputation of being ‘scheming money
lenders’. However usury (lending money for interest) was one of the few jobs
that Jews were allowed to undertake; Christians were forbidden to do so under
In 1594 Rodrigo Lopez (A Spanish Jew) was accused of trying to poison Queen
Elizabeth I. He was hung, drawn and quartered even though he protested his
innocence. As a result, there was a surge of anti-Semitism (suspicion/hatred of
Jewish people) in England.
1290, King Edward I issued an edict expelling all Jews from England. This lasted
over 350 years until it was formally overturned in 1656. The edict was the
culmination of over 200 years of conflict on matters of usury.
Most Elizabethans would have met a Jew.
In 1516, the doges, Venice’s ruling council, forced the Jews to live Ghetto
Nuova, a small, dirty island: the world’s first ghetto.
In many places in Europe, Christians would show their own piety by spitting
upon a Jew if they passed one in the street.
Venice was not a powerful commercial city in the late 1500s when the play was
In certain places in Europe, adult Jewish males were forced to wear a Jewish
hat (in Venice this was often a red circle or scarf) while outside a ghetto in
order to distinguish Jews from others.
Jews were only allowed to leave the Ghetto during the day and were locked
inside at night.
Christians believed that Jews possessed magical powers which they had
obtained by making a pact with the Devil. Jews were therefore...