Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: January ::
Re: *MV* and Anti-Semitism
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0009.  Friday, 6 January, 1995.
 
(1)     From:   John Owens <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 5 Jan 1995 17:51:48 -0800
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0006  *MV* and Anti-Semitism
 
(2)     From:   E. L. Epstein <epstein@QCVAXA.BITNET>
        Date:   Friday, 06 Jan 1995 00:00:36 EDT
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0006  *MV* and Anti-Semitism
 
(3)     From:   Takako Nagumo <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   FriDAY, 06 Jan 95 01:09 PST
        Subj:   Re: Merchant of Venice
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Owens <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 5 Jan 1995 17:51:48 -0800
Subject: 6.0006  *MV* and Anti-Semitism
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0006  *MV* and Anti-Semitism
 
I am aware that a large body of discussion already exists on this subject, but
there are a few points in Mr. Tornberg's post I wanted to address directly.
While I agree that Shakespeare definitely displays anti-Semitism in MV, I
disagree about the source of the offense. The Christian characters clearly
deride and insult Shylock, but the offensive element is Shakespeare's
engineering of Shylock's character so that he is presumed to merit contempt. He
quite clearly seeks to ruin Antonio financially and personally for primarily
commercial reasons. In his speeches to the Christian characters he assumes a
tone of self-righteousness that has misled many well-meaning critics to the
conclusion that he is sincerely out for justified revenge against personal
injuries - but in his soliloquy in the Bargain Scene, he clearly subordinates
this motive to that of removing a business rival, and the soliloquy must take
precedence (regard also Antonio's corroborating testimony that Shylock has
sought his life for rescuing the moneylenders "victims"). Thus, the offending
element is not that are expected to joy in the destruction of a victimized
human being, but that the author uses a repellent and untrue stereotype to
reinforce his supposed villainy.
 
John Owen
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           E. L. Epstein <epstein@QCVAXA.BITNET>
Date:           Friday, 06 Jan 1995 00:00:36 EDT
Subject: 6.0006  *MV* and Anti-Semitism
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0006  *MV* and Anti-Semitism
 
I also, as a Jew, have trouble approving of MV. However, for what it is worth I
find that I must conscientiously dissaprove of MV, rather than hating it
immediately like poison. I have had, for a number of years, a sneaking
suspicion that Shylock has not made anti-Semites out of people who were not
already anti-Semites. If anything, I suspect that MV may have tempered the
anti-Semitism of viewers of the play, since a real person appears on the stage.
Or at least, so my suspicions go. One of these days I must write something
about Shylock, Fagin, and Chaucer's Prioresse, which would also include a
comparison between Pound's flailing abuse of Jews, which I find less dangerous
than Hilaire Belloc's cold hatred, and even Eliot's systematic anti-Semitism
bolstered with political hatred. This is a long excursion on a vital topic, and
I do not know how much help it is to Mr Tornberg. As I say, all that I have now
are suspicions, which could certainly be blown away by a few facts.
 
E.L.Epstein
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Takako Nagumo <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           FriDAY, 06 Jan 95 01:09 PST
Subject:        Re: Merchant of Venice
 
I had the opportunity to play Shylock's daughter, Jessica, this past summer in
a student production.  I knew that I had problems in reconciling her running
away with Lorenzo with her father's money and her conversion to Christianity,
which is supposed to be a "good" thing.  As an actor, I felt that I could not
play a character with whom I could not sympathize, and so I looked for a
perspective from which I could see her sympathetically.
 
One key article I read that helped me shape my portrayal of Jessica was "In
Defense of Jessica: The Runaway Daughter in _The Merchant of Venice_," by
Camille Slights.  It appeared in _Shakespeare Quarterly_ (I can't find the
original date of publication).  You could probably tell what position Slights
takes, but she also cites articles which she refutes, which you might be
interested in for the sake of balance.
 
Takako Nagumo
From: epstein@QCVAXA.BITNET
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.