Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0766. Sunday, 2 October 1994.
Date: Friday, 30 Sep 1994 21:40:50 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Two questions about Shylock
I don't know how to ask this question in a way that will pay obeisance to those
who argue that fictive personae don't have characters, intentions, or actions.
So be it. The first question is simple (said the spider to the fly): why does
Shylock concoct the "pound of flesh" bond? Surely he, like everyone else,
expects Antonio to be able to fulfill the terms of the bond. So why pass up
the opportunity to make a few ducats on the deal? To one-up Antonio by
ostentatiously offering a deal *without* usance? On the off chance that he
might actually collect? As a rather perverse joke? Because the slightest
chance of revenge overwhelms business sense?
And why, other than expediting the plot, does he make a big deal out of not
eating with Antonio and Bassanio (I.iii.31 ff.) and then proceed to do exactly
what he said he wouldn't (II.v), oh-so-conveniently leaving Jessica by herself?