ABSTRACT

This chapter interrogates Shakespeare's attention to Marian themes and female intercession in The Merchant of Venice and Measure for Measure to show how he negotiates both religious and gendered identity in plays rife with religious and gendered anxiety. The chapter demonstrates how the polemical backlash against Mariolatry reveals a lingering anxiety not only about the enduring popularity of Marian intercession in post-Reformation England, but also about the threat Mary poses to a masculine culture. It illustrates Portia's efficacy not only underscores the inefficacy of male intercession, but it also establishes a reconceived system of intercession where the Marian-like figure comes to one's aid without supplication. The chapter explores the play consistently glances at the cultural desire for, and belief in, the potency of feminine intercession in the seeming absence of masculine mercy. It also explains Isabella's willingness to intercede is not only showcased, but is also rendered acutely efficacious where perceptions of the power of mercy are concerned.