"The Merchant of Venice" and the Paschal Moon

The Merchant of Venice contains a puzzling passage by Lancelot Gobbo that refers to Ash Wednesday and Easter Monday, two dates in the Christian religious calendar. The passage is nonsensical, yet it is a commonplace that the utterances of Shakespeare’s clowns are often noteworthy. This paper notes that Lancelot refers to an unusual four-fold coincidence of Passover with Easter Monday, the former on the correct Gregorian calendar, the latter on the outdated Julian calendar. The interpretation is tested and leads to the determination of the dramatic time of the play which with other evidence from the script suggests that the paschal moon of 14 Nisan 5357 (2 April 1597) is a crux of the play. The resulting timeline is consistent with events in the script and leads to a new interpretation for Old Gobbo’s dish of doves. The timeline leads also to a solution for a question on equity and the law.



Work Title "The Merchant of Venice" and the Paschal Moon
Open Access
  1. Peter D. Usher
  1. Easter
  2. Merchant of Venice
  3. Paschal Moon
  4. Passover
  5. Shakespeare
  6. Calendars
License CC BY 4.0 (Attribution)
Work Type Article
  1. de Gruyter
Publication Date May 2020
  1. Shakespeare and Science
  1. English
Publisher Identifier (DOI)
  1. https://doi.org/10.1515/pol-2020-2011
Deposited June 03, 2020




Work History

Version 1

  • Created
  • Added MoV_PaschalMoon_Polemos.pdf
  • Added Creator Peter Denis Usher
  • Published
  • Updated Publication Date Show Changes
    Publication Date
    • May 2020
    • 2020-05
  • Renamed Creator Peter D. Usher Show Changes
    • Peter Denis Usher
    • Peter D. Usher
  • Updated
  • Updated