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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: February ::
Re: Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism; Pseudonym?
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 95.  Friday, 19 February 1993.
 
(1)     From:   Rick Jones <
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        Date:   Friday, 19 Feb 1993 13:14:23 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 4.0092  Re: Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism
 
(2)     From:   Tad Davis <
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        Date:   Friday, 19 Feb 93 08:58:01 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 4.0093  Pseudonym?
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rick Jones <
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Date:           Friday, 19 Feb 1993 13:14:23 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 4.0092  Re: Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism
Comment:        RE: SHK 4.0092  Re: Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism
 
Two thoughts on the Shylock/anti-Semitism theme:
 
First, if Macklin's 18th century performance was revolutionary (as I,
at least, have been led to believe) because it presented a sympathetic
Shylock, it seems reasonable to conjecture that many/most/all previous
portrayals took a more negative view of his character -- he was either
villain or fool.  Presumably Shakespeare had something to say about
the way the role was played -- so it was not his intent to create a
particularly sympathetic character (that he may have done so despite
his intentions is of course a different matter).
 
Second, OF COURSE, judged by the standards of the late 20th century,
Shakespeare was anti-Semitic, sexist, racist, anti-democratic, and a
whole lot of other nasty things.  So was everyone else.  So are we
all, though the list might be different.  I am often reminded of Ogden
Nash's comments on looking at a hippopotamus:
 
     "But then, in moments dark and grim,
      Imagine how WE look to HIM."
 
Shakespeare transcended his age in many ways, but he was still a
product of it.  The question, then, is not whether he had this or that
prejudice, but whether these prejudices (relative to our own
mythologies) so interfere with our understanding of the work(s) as a
whole that we can see nothing else.  Sometimes the answer is going to
be yes -- there is some Jacobean tragedy that is so offensively sexist
that I can't bring myself to re-read it, let alone assign it to my
students with a clear conscience.  But there is little in Shakespeare
_per se_ that crosses over that line for me.
 
-- Rick Jones
Cornell College
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tad Davis <
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Date:           Friday, 19 Feb 93 08:58:01 -0500
Subject: 4.0093  Pseudonym?
Comment:        RE: SHK 4.0093  Pseudonym?
 
To which I would add that several years later, a faction within the
Heralds' College challenged the Shakespeare grant. Over a rough sketch of
the Shakespeare coat of arms, someone wrote, apparently contemptuously,
"Shakespeare ye player."
 
Tad Davis

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