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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: February ::
*MV*: Anti-Semitism and Usury
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 104.  Tuesday, 23 February 1993.
 
(1)     From:   Tad Davis <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Feb 93 10:27:01 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 4.0100  Shakespeare's Anti-Semitism
 
(2)     From:   David A. Bank <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Feb 93 20:52:21 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 4.0095 Re: Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism; Pseudonym?
 
(3)     From:   Jay L Halio <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Feb 1993 14:34:37 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 4.0099 *MV*: Usury and Anti-Semitism
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tad Davis <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Feb 93 10:27:01 -0500
Subject: 4.0100  Shakespeare's Anti-Semitism
Comment:        RE: SHK 4.0100  Shakespeare's Anti-Semitism
 
Herbert S. Donow writes:
 
> During the period of Shakespeare's life, there were a number of
> portrayals, both on the stage and page, of greedy moneylenders. Although
> there were plays or other works in addition to Marlowe's and
> Shakespeare's with Jewish characters, there were plenty whose usurers
> were clearly not Jews...
 
Stage portrayals aside... the nearest usurious moneylender Shakespeare
encountered was his own father. I realize there is no reputable critical
approach that would consider that the least bit relevant. But as a sometime
playwright myself, I find it intensely fascinating.
 
The discussion of antisemitism, either in the play or in Shakespeare
himself, is also endlessly fascinating, and I found Mr. Donow's comments
especially interesting. I'm not sure the issue could ever be resolved. If
Shakespeare includes an unsympathetic Jewish character in one of his plays,
that doesn't necessarily make him antisemitic; if he includes a sympathetic
Jewish character in the same play, it doesn't necessarily free him of
suspicion. (It's not as if the Christians in the play are shown as
sympathetic embodiments of THEIR faith. What an awful crew of yuppies!)
 
Part of the difficulty, I think, is that Shakespeare himself didn't know
what to make of Shylock. (More unjustifiable speculation follows...) I
think he had a conception of the character that lifted him above the
stereotype to something approaching tragic dignity; yet when he needed a
cheap laugh, the stereotype was there and proved irresistable. Mark Twain,
I think, had the same problem with Jim in "Huckleberry Finn."
 
Tad Davis

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David A. Bank <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Feb 93 20:52:21 GMT
Subject: 4.0095 Re: Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism; Pseudonym?
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0095 Re: Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism; Pseudonym?
 
There can't have been too many Jews around in late 16th c. London. They had
been proscribed by Edward II and weren't readmitted until Cromwell's
Protectorate. One that *is* known about is Dr Lopez, who was notorious for a
(supposed) attempt on the life of Queen Elizabeth. There are a few others
kicking around in books, but of *real* Jews in the London of the time who knows
of any others?
 
Isn't the point somewhat more than marginal to the discussion?  -- about
"racism" I mean.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jay L Halio <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Feb 1993 14:34:37 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 4.0099 *MV*: Usury and Anti-Semitism
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0099 *MV*: Usury and Anti-Semitism
 
For R. Jones: The comic Shylock I refer to was way back in the 1950s at
Ashland, OR, with Angus Bowmer in the role. He wore a red wig, red beard, and
putty nose as many eighteenth-century Shylocks did, and spoke with a
"Jewish" accent, i.e. middle-European or Yiddish. He was in every sense a
comic butt, as probably Shakespeare intended him to be initially. I don't
recall much more of the production, I'm afraid, but I'm sure you can find
some account of it in reviews. I suspect the period was 1956-60, or
thereabouts. In any case, it was not the first time Bowmer acted in the
role and, as founding director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, he
usually tried to make his productions as authentically "Elizabethan" as
possible. Ashland now, of course, has somewhat departed from that tradition.
 
Jay Halio
 

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