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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: January ::
Re: *MV* and Anti-Semitism
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0020. Saturday, 14 January, 1995.
 
(1)     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Friday, 13 Jan 95 12:11:19 EST
        Subj:   *MV* and Anti-Semitism
 
(2)     From:   Ben Schneider <
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        Date:   Friday, 13 Jan 1995 12:19:29 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0017  Re: *MV and Anti-Semitism
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Friday, 13 Jan 95 12:11:19 EST
Subject:        *MV* and Anti-Semitism
 
SHAKSPEReans engaged by the ethnic relations aspects of <Merchant> can profit
from the video production directed by Jonathan Miller, with Laurence Olivier as
Shylock, Jeremy Brett as Bassanio, and Joan Plowright as a distinctly
middle-aged and plain Portia.  The production takes its tone from Antonio's
initial melancholy; Brett is the gloomiest Bassanio anybody ever saw, Plowright
somewhat livelier but still mostly grave, Lancelot cut down to a callow youth.
Only in richly comic presentations of Morocco and Aragon (immensely old--a
delicious invention) are the late Victorian inhibitions of the production's
settings relaxed.  Olivier (another bravura interpretation, in line with his
Othello and Richard III), in impeccable turn-of-the-century business clothes,
with nothing visibly Jewish about him except his yarmulke, gives Shylock a good
deal of predatory ferocity--literally, bared fangs--but mostly under wraps;
he's about equally sinned against and sinning.  The last thing we hear from
him, after his exit following a choked, "I am content," is an animal howl of
anguish; the last thing we hear in the performance, over a shot of the
alienated and excluded Jessica left alone even by her husband on the
neo-classical porch of Portia's house, are the strains of the Kol Nidre.  It's
all very well-bred, veddy British--as though produced for Masterpiece Theatre--
(all the settings and costumes and voices are beautiful), and probably more
resonant for British than American viewers, with their rather different history
of Christian-Jewish relations.  But at times strikingly, even shockingly
moving.
 
Melancholically,
Dave Evett
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ben Schneider <
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Date:           Friday, 13 Jan 1995 12:19:29 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 6.0017  Re: *MV and Anti-Semitism
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0017  Re: *MV and Anti-Semitism
 
As Hardy pointed out at the beinning, this topic has been much discussed
already here, and (I think) with somewhat more rigor.  Joan Ozark Holmer in
fall 1993 published a very nitty gritty article on anti-money-lending
literature in Shakespeare's time, showing it to be a considerable threat to
English life (Shakespeare Studies 21).  I deposited an article on the moral
issues in MV which has now appeared in Restoration 17(fall 1993).  Both argue
that Shylock looked a lot different in his own time from the way he does now.
 
Yours ever
BEN SCHNEIDER
Lawrence U, Wisconsin
 

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