The seminar will focus on the way crisis is represented in The Merchant of Venice and Othello, with special reference to the issue of religious conversion and the verbal aspects of expressing crisis. We will discuss how religious conversion is explored in the plays in relation to the wider religious crises of Shakespeare’s day, including the Protestant Reformation, the position of Jews in early modern Europe, and the renegade crisis, which involved European Christians converting to Islam in the Ottoman empire. The key question that will be addressed is how conversion can be seen as both a cause of and an answer to crisis. The seminar will explore the verbal forms of conflict that can arise from these crises. It will especially focus on the use of insult and slander in the two plays and on their destructive potential.