History, Department of


Date of this Version

Winter 1995


Published in The Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 26, No. 4 (Winter, 1995), pp. 1005-1006 Copyright © 1995 The Sixteenth Century Journal. Used by permission.


Hutson's study of the impact of humanism on male friendship and the anxieties in the changing nature of friendship expressed in literature and Shakespearean drama is brilliant and thought provoking, a work that stands at the intersection of economic, cultural, and literary history. Hutson's writing style is dense and rather difficult, and her thesis will certainly provoke debate, especially as she takes on feminist and new historicist critics. Hutson's title is provocative, and a reader would probably pick up her study thinking it was about Jessica, the most famous usurer's daughter, and The Merchant of Venice. Though one would have indeed felt that Merchant would have been the ideal play for Hutson to analyze in her discussion of economics or on male friendship and the anxiety it provokes, she saves that play for her conclusion. The conclusion, in fact, is the strongest chapter of the book, and one comes away wishing she had focused more of her attention there. But Hutson is using the metaphor of the usurer's daughter not to discuss Jews in Renaissance England, but rather the part all women played as objects of exchange for men making a bid for success in the Renaissance.

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