Much Ado About Gerontus, or The Three Ladies of London and the Jews

Brett D. Hirsch

In the history of portraying Jews on the early modern stage, critics frequently cite Robert Wilson’s The Three Ladies of London as an anomaly. The play’s first modern editor, H.S.D. Mithal, went so far as to describe Gerontus as ‘a character sui generis’, quite unlike Marlowe’s porridge-poisoning Machiavel, Shakespeare’s knife-whetting usurer, and the devilish doctor in Selimus. This essay explores the questions raised by Wilson’s portrayal of Gerontus, paying particular attention to their critical and theatrical implications.

Not yet discredited as a forger, John Payne Collier’s important 1851 collection, Five Old Plays, included an edition of The Three Ladies of London, the first to appear in over 250 years.1 A year earlier, Collier sent a letter to The Athenaeum, dated 28 April 1850 and subsequently published in their 4 May issue, in which he describes how, having ‘met with [the play] only recently’, he discovered an earlier instance of the phrase ‘to turn Turk’ than hitherto had been noted. After touching briefly on the play’s authorship, Collier outlines the Gerontus-Mercadorus subplot and describes the trial scene in detail, before offering the following remarks:

Here, we see the earliest known Jew on our stage […] displaying the most disinterested generosity, and setting a most admirable example of Christian forbearance. It is not true, therefore, that the professors of the Hebrew faith were always exhibited on our early stage as monsters of unfeelingness and brutality.2

Since then, critics have followed Collier in treating The Three Ladies of London as an anomaly in the history of portraying Jews on the early modern stage.3 The play’s first modern editor, H.S.D. Mithal, went so far as to describe Gerontus as ‘a character sui generis’,4 quite unlike other Elizabethan stage Jews – Marlowe’s porridge-poisoning Machiavel, Shakespeare’s knife-whetting usurer, the devilish doctor in the anonymous Selimus. Emma Smith has recently drawn attention to the paucity of historical evidence supporting a number of long-held critical assumptions about Elizabethan attitudes toward Jews in general, and the portrayal of Shakespeare’s Shylock in particular.5 In the same spirit, the present essay seeks to reassess Wilson’s portrayal of Gerontus afresh, and to explore the various Jewish questions Three Ladies raises.

Staging a/the Jew in 1581

With the exception of Stephen Gosson’s description of a now lost alternative ending to Three Ladies,6 no accounts of the play in performance survive, leaving only the extant playbooks, printed in 1584 (Q1) and 1592 (Q2), as the basis for speculation. Unlike the early printed editions of both The Jew of Malta (Q 1633) and The Merchant of Venice (Q 1600; F1 1623), in which a number of speech headings for Barabas and Shylock respectively are replaced with the identity ‘Jew’ instead,7 both Q1 and Q2 of The Three Ladies consistently mark Gerontus’s speeches with the abbreviated form ‘Geron.’ The name ‘Gerontus’ itself is not demonstrably Jewish,8 though its similarity to ‘Gernutus’, a Jewish usurer bearing little further resemblance and the subject of a broadside ballad – printed in the 1620s but of uncertain date of composition and relationship to The Merchant of Venice – has been noted.9 In fact, the word ‘Jew’ and its derivatives ‘Jews’, ‘Jewry’, and ‘Jewishness’ occur a total of ten times throughout the play: eight times in dialogue (1.14, 9.7, 12.19, 12.22, 12.24, 14.49, 14.49, 14.59) and twice in stage directions (9.0 sd, 12.0 sd). The first of these instances appears in the stage direction opening scene 9, ‘Enter Mercadorus, the Merchant, and Gerontus, a Jew’ (9.0 s.d.), a scene in which Gerontus identifies himself as a Jew when he admonishes Mercadorus to be more ethical in his business dealings: ‘Surely, if we that be Jews should deal so one with another, / We should not be trusted again of our own brother’ (7-8).

Whereas Mercadorus’ appearance is prescribed as ‘like an Italian Merchant’ (3.0 sd), ‘the Merchant’ (9.0 sd) and later described as ‘in Turkish weeds’ (14.13), the text provides no descriptions of Gerontus – that is, unless the words ‘a Jew’ (9.0 sd) and ‘the Jew’ (12.0 sd) following his name in the stage directions are intended to convey membership of a stock character type.10 The existence of such a traditional character type in the Elizabethan drama – in which Jews were costumed with prosthetic hooked noses, red hair, beards, and gabardines – has become axiomatic in modern scholarship, and Smith, like Charles Edelman before her, is prudent to advise that this is perhaps an ‘invented tradition’ with ‘very little archival or historical basis’.11 The lack of evidence cuts both ways, however, and absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The dialogue has already established Gerontus is a Jew, so why else is this detail necessary to repeat in the stage directions? There are later instances in the early modern drama where the word ‘Jew’ is used to indicate costuming in this way. Two Christian characters in John Webster’s The Devil’s Law-Case are disguised ‘in the habit of a Jew’ (3.2.0 sd) and ‘like a Jew’ (5.3.32 sd) respectively, prompting the play’s most recent editors to suggest that the directions call for ‘an immediately recognizable stage costume’, one that likely drew upon ‘other stage Jews’ to provide ‘a model (and theatrical stock) of clothing and other features’.12

Neither Edelman nor Smith considers The Devil’s Law-Case in their analysis. Webster’s play post-dates the appearance of Gerontus, Barabas, and Shylock – as well as other Elizabethan and early Jacobean stage Jews – and therefore cannot be cited as evidence for any tradition that may have informed Three Ladies. Nevertheless, it is not implausible to concede that insistence on Gerontus’s Jewishness in the stage directions may suggest reliance upon an existing convention of costuming and perhaps also served as an actors’ prompt.13 As Jean MacIntyre observes, Three Ladies ‘calls for multiple changes not only for doubling but also to show the characters’ changing moral states as their social status changes’, employing ‘exotic attire’ in the form of ‘loose overgarments, headgear, and hand properties’ to indicate the ‘foreignness’ of the Italian merchant, the Jew, and the Turkish judge – so-called ‘“occupational” roles’ – and to allow ‘the rapidly doubling actors to change’.14

Unless new evidence is forthcoming, we may never know for sure how Jews were costumed on the early modern stage, whether a recognizable convention existed, or what ‘loose overgarments, headgear, and hand properties’ were necessary to distinguish Gerontus from non-Jewish characters in Three Ladies. Biblical Jews aside,15 Gerontus is the earliest extant Jewish role in the Elizabethan drama. Gosson describes an earlier play, The Jew, ‘representing the greedinesse of worldly chusers, and bloody minds of Usurers’ and staged at the Bull in or before 1579,16 but nothing is known about the identity of the titular character or how (presumably) he was costumed. A clean theatrical history such as this allows for much speculation: how might Robert Wilson, Leicester’s Men, or indeed, their Elizabethan audiences expect a Jewish merchant in Turkey to look?

By the time Three Ladies was first staged in 1581, Nicolas de Nicolay’s richly illustrated travel narrative was already a bestseller: first printed in French (Lyon, 1567-8; second edition Antwerp, 1576), two Italian editions followed (Antwerp, 1577; Venice, 1580), before an English translation was published as The Nauigations, peregrinations and voyages, made into Turkie (London, 1585).17 Nicolay dedicates a chapter to ‘the Merchant Iewes dwelling in Constantinople and other places of Turkie and Grecia’, in which he describes their number and wealth as ‘a thing marueilous and incredible’, multiplying at rates to rival the monetary interest gained through usury, with the result that ‘at this present day they haue in their handes the most and greatest trafique of merchandize and readie money’ in the Levant.18 After rehearsing the standard litany of charges against ‘this detestable nation of the Iewes’, as ‘men ful of all malice, fraude, deceit, and subtill dealing, exercising execrable vsuries amongst the Christians and other nations without any consciences or reprehention’, Nicolay then describes their appearance:

The Iewes which dwell in Constanstinople [sic], Andrinpole, Bursia, Salonica, Gallipoli, & other places of the dominion of the great Turke, are all apparrelled with long garments, like vnto the Gretians, and other nations of Leuant, but for their mark and token to be knowen fro[m] others, they weare a yealow Tulbant.19

This description is accompanied by an illustration, captioned ‘Marchant Juif’, ‘Mercante Giudeo’, or ‘A Merchant Iewe’ in the French, Italian, and English editions respectively (see figure 1), and referred to in the text as ‘one of those [Jews] that carie cloath to sell through the citie of Constantinople’.20

A merchant Jew, from Nicolas de Nicolay.
Fig. 1 A merchant Jew, from Nicolas de Nicolay, Les quatre premiers livres des navigations et pérégrinations orientales (Lyon, 1567–68). Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans, GE DD-2002 (RES).

Fig. 1 A merchant Jew, from Nicolas de Nicolay. Les quatre premiers livres des navigations et pérégrinations orientales (Lyon, 1567–68). Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans, GE DD-2002 (RES).

If Wilson and/or Leicester’s Men were concerned with verisimilitude, a yellow turban as Nicolay describes may have provided suitably distinctive headgear for the actor playing Gerontus to don. After Nicolay – and possibly, as argued here, Three Ladies – the description of Barabas’s hat as a gift from the ‘Great Cham’ in The Jew of Malta, which strongly suggests it is a turban,21 and the frontispiece to Thomas Coryate’s travel narrative, Coryate’s Crudities (London, 1611), which ‘includes a picture of a Jew in a turban’ chasing a Christian with a knife, provide further pictorial evidence to ‘support the notion that Jews were known in England to wear turbans’.22

A Jew spitting at Christ. Stained glass at Great Malvern Priory, Malvern.
Fig. 2 A Jew spitting at Christ. Stained glass at Great Malvern Priory, Malvern. Photo by Rev. Gordon Plumb, Barton upon Humber.

Fig. 2 A Jew spitting at Christ. Stained glass at Great Malvern Priory, Malvern. Photo by Rev. Gordon Plumb, Barton upon Humber.

If not a turban, yellow garb of some kind was just as likely to signal Jewishness to an Elizabethan audience – even those unfamiliar with the restrictions in the Ottoman Empire – because the colour had become associated with the Jews ever since the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 compelled them to wear yellow badges throughout Christendom. After the Council of Vienna in 1267, Jews in Christian lands were also required to wear distinctive horned hats or ‘pileum cornutum’. Representations of Jews, marked by yellow apparel and characteristic headgear, were readily available in early modern England: for example, a fragment of a fifteenth-century stained-glass shield at Great Malvern Priory Church in Malvern, Worcestershire, depicts a Jew wearing contemporary (that is, medieval) yellow garb spitting at Christ (figure 2).23

Argument, Counter-argument, and Conclusions

The case for the play’s antisemitism requires establishing its deployment of derogatory Jewish stereotypes and beliefs. Though the terms were synonymous in Elizabethan England, casting Gerontus as both a usurer and a Jew is perhaps evidence enough, because his Jewish identity is rendered unnecessary by the historical practice of moneylending at interest by Christians and Ottoman Muslims,24 as referenced in the play itself: ‘interest is allowed amongst you Christians, as well as in Turkey’ (14.32). As detailed in the previous section, Gerontus’s costume – about which we may never be certain – may also have relied upon established conventions used to distinguish Jews from non-Jews, of which many derive from antisemitic legal restrictions, such as the prescription of particular clothing. We may also infer that his name – from the Greek gerōn, or ‘old man’ – suggests Gerontus was bearded; however, as Elliott Horowitz has shown, changing fashions in Christendom and the emergence of a new cultural ‘other’ in the beard-less peoples of the New World began to displace the medieval association between beards and non-Christians.25

The Three Ladies contains echoes of other antisemitic narratives: when Mercadorus curses Gerontus as a ‘sitten, scald, drunken Jew!’ (12.19), this epithet recalls an association between Jews and excrement – ‘sitten’ is an aphetic form of ‘beshitten’ – still current in early modern England, evidenced in the belief that Jews emitted a noxious scent and in the tale of the Jew of Tewkesbury, an event reported to have occurred in 1257 but frequently retold.26 This notion of the ‘excremental’ Jew, as Jonathan Gil Harris has argued, informs a number of literary, dramatic, and anecdotal materials linking the fear of Jewish infiltration with enemas and sodomy, such as Barabas’s betrayal of Malta by ‘gain[ing] entry to the body politic through apertures that are subtly coded as its anus’ and leading the Ottoman troops through the sewers.27 Another antisemitic aspect of the play may be found in Gerontus’s invocation of Mohammed when he threatens Mercadorus with legal action: ‘Truly pay me my money, and that even now presently, / Or by mighty Mahomet I swear I will forthwith arrest ye’ (3-4). Late-medieval and early modern Christian polemics routinely conflated Jews with other ‘infidels’ and ‘enemies of Christ’ in general, and with Muslims in particular. One of the symptoms of this conflation, as Michael Mark Chemers has shown, is that Jewish characters in early English drama ‘seem to take a particular delight in the invocation of Mohammed specifically as a curse or to throw weight behind a threat’.28

The argument that The Three Ladies of London is not antisemitic and is perhaps even philosemitic in its treatment of Jews rests upon interpreting Gerontus as a virtuous character. To do so, critics typically draw attention to his apparent generosity in forgiving Mercadorus his debt, an act variously characterized as ‘wildly unrealistic’,29 ‘an example of moneylending conducted in an ethical manner’,30 and one driven by a desire not to witness him ‘forsak[ing] his faith’.31 Gerontus has even been described as taking Mercadorus to court ‘reluctantly’.32 But how selfless, generous, and reluctant is this act? When Gerontus first threatens Mercadorus with legal action, he dismisses the merchant’s initial plea for an extension of ‘tree or four days’ to conduct ‘much business in hand’ (6) with ‘Tush, this is not my matter; I have nothing therewith to do. / Pay me my money, or I’ll make you’ (7-8), promising to post officers outside his lodgings ‘so that you cannot pass by’ and to take him to ‘prison’ should the debt remain unpaid (9-10). It is only after this exchange that Mercadorus announces his plan to turn Turk to avoid repayment of the loan – since ‘if any man forsake his faith, king, country, and become a Mahomet, / All debts are paid’ (14.15-16) – to which Gerontus reacts with disbelief: ‘This is but your words, because you would defeat me; / I cannot think you will forsake your faith so lightly’ (12.15-16). This disbelief spurs Gerontus to take his leave to ‘try [Mercadorus’] honesty’ (17), arguably forcing Mercadorus’s hand. Only after this point is the audience made aware of Lady Lucre’s letter, requesting that Mercadorus ‘cozen de Jew for love a her’ (22), but this information is irrelevant – can Gerontus’s actions in this scene be said to be those of a patient, generous, reluctant, or ethical character?

Gerontus’s motivation in forgiving the debt is equally questionable. He is not necessarily ‘horrified at the thought that he has caused a man to repudiate the faith to which he was born’,33 or ‘revealed to be more ethical and merciful than the Christian merchant’,34 but releases Mercadorus from the bond because he ‘would be loath to hear the people say, it was ’long of me / Thou forsakes thy faith’ (14.38-9). Conversion to one faith means apostasy from another, and, as Nabil Matar reports, ‘the punishment for apostasy in Islam, as it was in Christianity, was death’.35 Death – even the threat of death – is not good for business, and, given that his clientele include Christian merchants, Gerontus’s fears of being blamed for Mercadorus’s apostasy may easily be read in an economic light. Gerontus’s final admonishment to Mercadorus bears this reading out: rather than denounce Mercadorus’s feigned conversion, he advises only that the merchant ‘Seek to pay, and keep day with men, so a good name on you will go’ (53). In other words, Gerontus is less concerned for Mercadorus’s soul than for his ‘good name’, that is, his credit.36

Critics also typically interpret the Judge’s closing remark, ‘Jews seek to excel in Christianity, and Christians in Jewishness’ (49), as praise for Gerontus’s morality set against Mercadorus’s chicanery. To do so not only ignores the fact that the Judge ‘reassuringly keeps the categories of Jew and Christian intact while scrambling their occupants’,37 but by equating Jewishness with falseness and economic trickery, the Judge also re-inscribes antisemitic beliefs in the impossibility of sincere Jewish conversion and the economic threat Jews posed to Christendom through deceit.38

What conclusions, if any, might be drawn from all this? If the preceding arguments and counter-arguments suggest anything, it is that Three Ladies poses more Jewish questions than it answers. This is partly due to an absence of evidence – a critical lacunae too tantalizing to leave unfilled – and partly, I think, because on some level we want the play to stand as an exception to the antisemitism overwhelmingly present elsewhere in the early modern drama. The paucity of historical and theatrical evidence that, as Edelman and Smith have shown, has enabled critical assumptions about Elizabethan antisemitism in The Merchant of Venice to become axiomatic is the same that has allowed philosemitism to dominate scholarly assessment of Three Ladies, ignoring the ambiguities and exaggerating the available evidence – scant though it may be – in both plays.


[1] John Payne Collier (ed.), Five Old Plays, Illustrating the Early Progress of the English Drama (London, 1851), 157-244.

[2] John Payne Collier, ‘“To Turn Turk.” – Jews in Our Early Plays’, The Athenaeum 1175 (1850), 476.

[3] One notable exception is Matthew Biberman, who holds ‘it is wrong to read Gerontus in a straight (nonironic) way as a good character’, and argues that, as ‘a satire of a morality play’, Three Ladies ‘rests on a strategy of inversion that here extends to include the absurdity of the charitable Jew’ (Masculinity, Anti-Semitism, and Early Modern England Literature: From the Satanic to the Effeminate Jew [Burlington, 2004], 23, 201 n 39).

[4] H.S.D. Mithal (ed.), An Edition of Robert Wilson’s ‘Three Ladies of London’ and ‘Three Lords and Three Ladies of London’ (New York, 1988), xix.

[5] Emma Smith, ‘Was Shylock Jewish?’ Shakespeare Quarterly 64.2 (2013), 188-219.

[6] Stephen Gosson, Plays Confuted in Fiue Actions (London, 1582), D1v–D2v. The alternate ending Gosson describes makes no mention of the Mercadorus-Gerontus subplot.

[7] On the implications of these interchangeable speech headings, see my ‘Counterfeit Professions: Jewish Daughters and the Drama of Failed Conversion in Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice’, Early Modern Literary Studies, Special Issue 19 (2009), 4.33-4,; and, John Drakakis, ‘“Jew. Shylock is My Name”: Speech Prefixes in The Merchant of Venice as Symptoms of the Early Modern’, Hugh Grady (ed.), Shakespeare and Modernity: Early Modern to Millennium (New York, 2000), 105-21, though Drakakis’s bibliographical argument – and the earlier scholarship on which it rests – are certainly flawed: see Gabriel Egan, ‘Shakespeare: Editions and Textual Matters’, Year’s Work in English Studies 91 (2012), 328-42.

[8] As Kermode suggests, the name ‘probably indicates an old man, from the Greek gerōn’ (Three Ladies of London, ‘The Actors’ Names’, 18 n). The similarity of ‘Gerontus’ to ‘Gerontius’ or ‘Gerontios’ (a fourth-century British-born Roman general) or its Welsh derivations ‘Geraint’ or ‘Gereint’ (names for a character in the Welsh Arthurian tradition) do not warrant further investigation. Except where otherwise indicated, references to the play throughout this essay refer to Kermode’s edition of the play in Three Renaissance Usury Plays (Manchester, 2009), 79-163.

[9] The ballad, ‘A new Song, shewing the crueltie of Gernutus a Jew’ (London, 1620?) is available from the English Broadside Ballad Archive (EBBA 20063; Magdalene College – Pepys 1.144-5), A transcription of the ballad is also available in Thomas Percy (ed.), Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (London, 1765), 1.189-98. Although Geoffrey Bullough deemed the ballad to be ‘probably pre-Shakespearian’ (Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, 8 vols [London, 1957-75], 1.449), I am inclined to follow Kenneth Muir who sees it as ‘influenced by Shakespeare’s play, and also by Robert Wilson’s play’ (The Sources of Shakespeare’s Plays [London, 1977], 88). For a lively discussion of the ballad, see Bruce R. Smith, ‘Shakespeare’s Residuals: The Circulation of Ballads in Cultural Memory’, Stuart Gillespie and Neil Rhodes (eds), Shakespeare and Elizabethan Popular Culture (London, 2006), 193-217 at 208-13.

[10] On the existence of such a tradition, see Alan C. Dessen, ‘The Elizabethan Stage Jew and Christian Example: Gerontus, Barabas, and Shylock’, Modern Language Quarterly 35.3 (1974), 231-43; cf. Edelman, ‘Which is the Jew’.

[11] Smith, ‘Was Shylock Jewish?’, 196, 189; see also Edelman, ‘Which is the Jew’.

[12] David Gunby, David Carnegie, and MacDonald P. Jackson (eds), The Devil’s Law-Case, The Works of John Webster (Cambridge, 2003), 2.37, 2.214 n, 2.232 n. References to the play are to act, scene, and line numbers and cited parenthetically.

[13] The status of the text allows for this possibility: according to Martin Wiggins, Q1 of Three Ladies appears to have been printed ‘from an authorial MS or a transcript thereof’ (British Drama, 1533–1642: A Catalogue [Oxford, 2012–], 2.265-9 [no 700]). In her essay for this website, Leslie Thomson also believes that the stage directions ‘are almost certainly authorial, and probably reflect Robert Wilson’s practical experience as a player’ (‘“As it hath been publiquely played”: The Stage Directions and Original Staging of The Three Ladies of London’). However, the enterprise of determining the nature of an underlying manuscript from a printed playbook has recently come under question; see Paul Werstine, Early Modern Playhouse Manuscripts and the Editing of Shakespeare (Cambridge, 2013).

[14] Jean MacIntyre, Costumes and Scripts in the Elizabethan Theatres (Edmonton, 1992), 35. Likewise, Thomson suggests ‘the costumes of the lawyer, judge, constable, beadle, and other court figures would have been recognizable, as probably would that of “Gerontus, a Iewe”’; see Thomson, ‘“As it hath been publiquely played”’.

[15] These include characters in The Story of Samson (1567), The Repentance of the Ninevites (1569), Dives and Lazarus (1570), the Sherborne Corpus Christi Play (1571), Herodes (1572), Abraham’s Sacrifice (1575), and All for Money (1577). All dates of first performance are taken from Wiggins’ Catalogue.

[16] Stephen Gosson, The Schoole of Abuse (London, 1579), C6v.

[17] On the contents and wider significance of Nicolay’s treatise, see the entry for it in David Thomas and John A. Chesworth (eds), Christian-Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History, volume 6, Western Europe (1500–1600) (Leiden, 2014), 754-63.

[18] Nicolas de Nicolay, The Nauigations, peregrinations, and voyages, made into Turkie (London, 1585), R6v.

[19] Nicolay, The Nauigations, R7r-v. Nicolay also describes how the Jews on the isle of Chios are likewise ‘constrayned to weare for a token a great cappe or yealowe colour’ so ‘they should be the better knowen from others’ (F1v).

[20] Nicolay, The Nauigations, R7v; the illustration appears at R8r. A photograph of the illustration from the English edition is available online through the Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection:

[21] Randall Nakayama, ‘“I know she is a courtesan by her attire”: Clothing and Identity in The Jew of Malta’, Sara Munson Deats and Robert A Logan (eds), Marlowe’s Empery: Expanding His Critical Contexts (Newark, 2002), 138.

[22] Robert Lublin, Costuming the Shakespearean Stage: Visual Codes of Representation in Early Modern Theatre and Culture (Farnham, 2011), 158.

[23] On the association between Jews and spitting, see my ‘The Taming of the Jew: Spit and the Civilizing Process in The Merchant of Venice’, Rory Lougnane and Edel Semple (eds), Staged Transgression in Shakespeare’s England (New York, 2013), 136-52; on early modern English perceptions of Jewish garments and appearance more generally, see Lublin, Costuming the Shakespearean Stage, 142-61, and Eva Johanna Holmberg, Jews in the Early Modern English Imagination: A Scattered Nation (Farnham, 2011), chapter 4.

[24] On the Ottoman practice of usurious piety or waqf al-nuqūd (from the Arabic, literally ‘detention of money’), see Jon E. Mandaville, ‘Usurious Piety: The Cash Waqf Controversy in the Ottoman Empire’, International Journal of Middle East Studies 10.3 (1979), 289-308.

[25] Elliott Horowitz, ‘The New World and the Changing Face of Europe’, Sixteenth Century Journal 28.4 (1997), 1181-201.

[26] John Foxe, Actes and Monuments (London, 1570), N1v.

[27] Jonathan Gil Harris, Foreign Bodies and the Body Politic: Discourses of Social Pathology in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 1998), 80.

[28] Michael Mark Chemers, ‘Anti-Semitism, Surrogacy, and the Invocation of Mohammed in the Play of the Sacrament’, Comparative Drama 41.1 (2007), 29; see also Paula Blank, Shakespeare and the Mismeasure of Renaissance Man (Ithaca, 2006), 80-117; Hirsch, ‘Judaism and Jews’; and David Bevington’s essay for this website, ‘The Ideals of Christian Charity and Forgiveness in Robert Wilson’s Three Ladies of London and in the Anonymous The Play of the Sacrament’.

[29] G.K. Hunter, ‘Elizabethan and Foreigners’, Shakespeare Survey 17 (1964), 50.

[30] Teresa Lanpher Nugent, ‘Usury and Counterfeiting in Wilson’s The Three Ladies of London and The Three Lords and Three Ladies of London, and in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure’, Linda Woodbridge (ed.), Money and the Age of Shakespeare: Essays in New Economic Criticism (New York, 2003), 203.

[31] Chloe Preedy, Marlowe’s Literary Scepticism: Politic Religion and Post-Reformation Polemic (London, 2012), 72.

[32] Jonathan Burton, Traffic and Turning: Islam and English Drama, 1579–1624 (Newark, 2005), 220.

[33] M.M. Mahood (ed.), The Merchant of Venice (Cambridge, 1987), 22.

[34] Claire Jowitt, ‘Robert Wilson’s The Three Ladies of London’, Thomas Betteridge and Greg Walker (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Drama (Oxford, 2012), 311.

[35] Nabil Matar, Islam in Britain, 1558–1685 (Cambridge, 1998), 60.

[36] This fear reflected a growing concern amongst Christian states: Eric R. Dursteler reports that ‘the regularity of such conversions’ to Islam by Venetian merchants ‘to avoid paying debts and returning goods … led the baili [= Venetian ambassador] to obtain a firman [= Islamic royal mandate] stating that if Venetian agents turned to Islam, their goods were to be returned to their principals’ (Venetians in Constantinople: Nation, Identity, and Coexistence in the Early Modern Mediterranean [Baltimore, 2006], 114).

[37] Adelman, Blood Relations, 17.

[38] On the perceived impossibility of Jewish conversion in early modern England, see my ‘Counterfeit Professions’; cf. M. Lindsay Kaplan, ‘Jessica’s Mother: Medieval Constructions of Jewish Race and Gender in The Merchant of Venice’, Shakespeare Quarterly 58.1 (2007), 1-30.