Usury and the Ideology of Adventure: Rewriting the Golden Fleece Myth in The Merchant of Venice

Yehrim HAN/한예림

2018, vol.28, no.3, pp. 331-359

This paper examines how the issue of usury in The Merchant of Venice revisits the notion of adventure ideology. While Bassanio’s Belmont venture is compared to Jason’s Golden Fleece expedition, his victory in winning Portia over other competitors operates within the narrative of economic nationalism. Bassanio-Jason’s nationalist narrative is constructed upon the ideology of adventure that associates the merchant Antonio with the poor gentleman Bassanio by identifying both as prodigals against usurious Shylock. However, the play deploys another narrative from Medea’s angle through Portia to reveal the limit of the same ideology. The Medean narrative translates the economic notion of risk into the matter of sexual infidelity and supports lawful usury. Meanwhile, Medea as a murderess is dramatized through Shylock’s mental usury, his murderous intention underlying the flesh bond. As Portia-Medea executes Shylock-Medea, the play turns down mental usury on the way to accept the premise of lawful usury.