Name of the Jew

Shakespeare has three Jews to name in The Merchant of Venice.

  • Of the three, Shylock’s daughter Jessica has the nearest to a Jewish personal name. In the Bible, Abraham’s brother has a wife named Iscah, which is a root for the modern name of Jessica.
  • While Tubal may sound as if it is Jewish, it is not a personal name. There is a reference in Genesis to Tubal, but it is the name of a nation or region, not of a person.
  • The primary Jew of the work, Shylock does not have a Jewish name, either. There is no record of a Jew named Shylock. It’s a complete fabrication, though it has stood the test of time, becoming a recognized term in the common vernacular, standing for any greedy creditor.Now, while the name is a complete fabrication, it does have a link to a Hebrew word, shalakh. The term is used in the Bible twice (in Leviticus and Deuteronomy) both in reference to a sea-bird that is now recognized as the cormorant, which eats so intensely that it has come be a symbol for greed and voraciousness.

Interesting, no?

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