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Ecocritical Shakespeare: From the Thames to the Rialto Open Access Deposited

Ecocentrism is the amalgamation of demonstrated attitudes and actions toward environmental sustainability, as well as toward equitable interspecies relationships between humans and other living things. Ecocentrism is a subjective and optional ideology which a society may adopt, as is religion, and the two converge wherein the essence of human spirituality is not only analogous for environmentalism. Rather, spirituality is the tangible basis of ecocentric values in the Renaissance, because physical world-building in the period was a result of religious sense-making. In the Early Modern period, religion affected the type and degree to which people felt theoretically responsible for dominating, protecting, or collaborating with their world. As a result, I argue the attitudes of Christians toward Jews in Shakespeare’s THE MERCHANT OF VENICE supply various implicit and overt linkages between ecocentric attitudes and interhuman division in the Early Modern period. Ultimately, the collusion between religious belief and environmental interaction informed Christians’ understanding of whether non-human species deserve equity, and this extended to the degree of humanity assigned to religious Others. At the same time, Shakespeare does not mention the Jewish Ghetto anywhere in his canon, but both his and other literary accounts describing the physical world of Early Modern Venice suggest the Jews were prosperous because of their simultaneous use of physical land and ability to adapt to restrictive religious spaces. Therefore, the larger importance of critical inquiry into Shakespeare’s Venice is defining how his theatrical representations of Venice comment on the intersecting social complexities of Early Modern ecocritical thought.

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