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. 0017. Thursday, 12 January, 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Richard J Kennedy <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Jan 1995 14:19:54 -0800
        Subj:   Religion
 
(2)     From:   Thomas Hall <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Jan 1995 16:34:33 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0006 *MV* and Anti-Semitism
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard J Kennedy <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 11 Jan 1995 14:19:54 -0800
Subject:        Religion
 
Shakespeare didn't have any good to say of Jews. Aside from MV, when characters
in the other plays speak of them at all, it is to curse them or take out a mild
oath on Jewry: "If I do not love her, I am a Jew." (Much Ado ii,3,272) Which
reminds me of Goering: "If they bomb Berlin, you can call me Meyer." But that
comment by Benedick is mild. Shakespeare says worse than that, and not to
condemn usury merely, but speaks badly toward Jews just because they are Jews,
and not Christians.
 
In those times, to be anti-Semitic was common and thoughtless. You might say
that Shakespeare himself was not this way, and lay the blame entirely on his
characters, but a playwright's characters often speak speak his own mind, and
Shakespeare's comments on Jews is often gratuitous.
 
So was Shakespeare anti-Semitic or not, aside from the feelings of his
characters?  And here's another religious question.  Was Shakespeare Church of
England, Catholic, or Puritan?
 
Schoenbaum reports that Davies wrote "He died a Papist."  But Davies is an
unreliable source, and Shoenbaum ventures no opinion, and leaves Shakespeare's
faith an open question.  Sidney Lee says of the Bard's religious opinions that
we have "niether the means nor the warrent for discussing."  The "means" seem
to be plenty, all the poems and plays. But "warrent" is a strange thing to say.
Lee seems to mean that we haven't any business asking the question in the first
place.
 
A man's faith is an important part of himself, and are there clues to his
belief in what he writes?  How might it be, if we may deduce from the works?
Was Shakespeare Church of England, Catholic, or--God help us--a Puritan?
 
    Kennedy
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Hall <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 10 Jan 1995 16:34:33 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 6.0006 *MV* and Anti-Semitism
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0006 *MV* and Anti-Semitism
 
Aaron:  I spent some time working on Merchant last semester.  I even wrote a
paper sympathizing with the plight of Shylock.  It isn't hard to come up with
reasons with all the anti-semitic comments made.  However about two thirds of
the way through the course I had a revelation. Shylock is not a sympathetic
character, he's a bad man and a greedy man to whom money holds more importance
than his daughter.  What if you took out all of the offensive Jew comments and
inserted something like "Crack head" or "Loan shark."  Then you get a different
picture of Shylock.
 
Shakespeare didn't create a portrait of a Jew in Shylock, he created a comic
blocking character to be laughed at.  Making him a Jew made the character seem
exotic to a heterogenous Elizabethan audience. Merchant is a troubling play in
many ways.  Don't dwell on it too much I'm sure he meant no offence to you.
 
                                        Thomas Hall
 

Other Messages In This Thread

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.