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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: February ::
*MV* and Usury
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 98.  Monday, 22 February 1993.
 
From:           Tom Loughlin <LOUGHLIN@FREDONIA.BITNET>
Date:           Sunday, 21 Feb 1993 8:07 pm EST
Subject:        MOV AND USURY
 
Speaking as one who has played the role of Shylock, there is one point
I would like to make regarding the anti-semitism of the play.  Without
lessening in the least the fact that all the characters in the play
dislike Shylock because he is Jewish, the central antagonism between
Shylock and Antonio is far more focused on the question of usury that it
is on simple Jew- or gentile-hating.  Antonio is quite ready to be friends
with Shylock the minute Shylock makes his (false) offer to lend money
without interest ("...and say there is much kindness in the Jew").  Shylock
himself, in the same scene (i.iii), states readily that he hates Antonio
"because he is a Christian, *but more*, for that he lends out money
gratis, and brings the rate of usance down with us here in Venice."  These
two men are clearly business enemies.  True, the usury argument does split
down religious lines, but by Shakespeare's day gaining interest from money
lended out was a recognized practice.  It's a point in playing the play
that is hard to get audiences to focus on because of all the religious
baggage attached to it.
 
And of course, why would an anti-semite even bother to write that
beautiful monologue "Hath not a Jew eyes?"?
 
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