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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: August ::
Re: Shylock and *MV*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0685.  Thursday, 18 August 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Al Cacicedo <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 17 Aug 1994 14:37:00 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 5.0683  Re: Shylock
 
(2)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 17 Aug 1994 17:46:54 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   MERCHANT and Rule of Thumb
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Al Cacicedo <
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Date:           Wednesday, 17 Aug 1994 14:37:00 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 5.0683  Re: Shylock
Comment:        RE: SHK 5.0683  Re: Shylock
 
The last production of *Merchant* that I saw was the RSC production with
Anthony Sher as Shylock.  In general, I think, the production was not well
received, but I found its treatment of the "racist" issue positively enlight-
ening.  In particular, the way that Portia (I forget who played the part)
treated Jessica when she first shows up at Belmont, and the way that Lorenzo
disses (a technical term, which many of you may know) his bride as soon as it
becomes clear to him that she's run out of money, made the Christians even more
unpalatable than I had ever suspected them to be. In any case, I think it not
very useful to say that the racism or potential racism of a work of art makes
it unususable.  If indeed there is racism in *Merchant* or in *Jew of Malta*,
or if Eliot's Bleistein or Hemingway's Cohn indicate the racist assumptions of
Euro-America just before WW II, then I think it incumbent on me to have my
students read those works specifically to see the racism that Eliot and
Hemingway, and perhaps Shakespeare and Marlowe, take so easily for granted.  If
we excise those works from our collective syllabus, we are falsifying history.
 
On a different note, someone who is near and dear to me assures me that when
her mother went to a priest (of the Catholic persuasion) to ask what she could
do about her physically abusive husband, the priest told her that she had no
recourse but to go back to him and endure, because God would not have given her
a burden too heavy for her to bear.  And she did in fact go back to the man and
continued to be abused until she died of cancer.  An anecdote, to be sure, but
certainly in keeping with comments made about *Shrew*.
 
Tropically depressed in Penna.,
Al Cacicedo (
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Albright College
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 17 Aug 1994 17:46:54 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        MERCHANT and Rule of Thumb
 
In response to Tom Dale Keever, I think that MERCHANT is anti-Christian rather
than anti-Semitic. Antonio drives Shylock to seek revenge by kicking him and
spitting on him, as well as trying to disrupt his business deals. If Shylock
doesn't act like a good Jew, Antonio hardly acts like a good Christian. Has
MERCHANT ever been stage with the Christians as Nazis? Harbage used to claim
that the "Hath not a Jew" speech was never spoken in Nazi Germany.
 
And in reponse to Tom Ellis's plea, let me say again that the rule of thumb has
been discussed at length on other networks (I think the History of Ideas group
was one), and most, if not all,  of the relevant material was made available
there. We really don't need to repeat it here -- or do we? The phrase can be
found in the OED.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
[Editor's Note:  Regarding Bill's Mention of Harbage's Claim: I cannot but
be reminded of Ernst Lubitsch's 1942 *To Be or Not to Be*, in which "Hath
not a Jew," while spoken in Hollywood occupied Poland, significantly has a
role in the unraveling of the plot and in the outwitting of the Nazis present.
--HMC]
 

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