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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: January ::
Re: *MV*: Jacob/Laban; Margins; NYSF
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0052. Thursday, 26 January, 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Aaron Tornberg <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Jan 1995 10:28:42 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Jacob and Laban's Sheep/Daughters
 
(2)     From:   T. Fred Wharton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Jan 95 14:02:56 EST
        Subj:   *mv*
 
(3)     From:   Joe Nathan <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Jan 1995 18:55:17 -0800
        Subj:   *MV* Inconsistencies
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Aaron Tornberg <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 Jan 1995 10:28:42 -0500
Subject:        Re: Jacob and Laban's Sheep/Daughters
 
I appreciate the discussion which has been going about MV thus far, especially
Don Foster's comments about the "Jacob and Laban" passage which I found
extremely intriguing.
 
One thing I have noticed further is the possible connection between Laban
fooling Jacob with regard to the daughters and MV.  Jacob was forced to marry
the older daughter due to the laws of primogeniture, but had thought he would
be able to marry the younger, Rachel, not the elder, Leah.  (Incidentally, he
had no real problem cohabitating with Leah regardless of the fact she wasn't
Rachel.)
 
Could Shylock's plight not be represented in the story?  After all, Shylock
feels he is "fooling the Christians" at the beginning of the play.  Then,
Shylock himself is fooled by the Christians during the trial.  So Shylock is
Jacob, and Laban is the Christians, who based on the Biblical text should not
be victorious over Shylock/Jacob.  The two parts of this story have direct
connections to MV in my mind, and yet, Shakespeare must let the Christians have
victory over the Jew.  Thus Shakespeare's exclusion of the first part of the
Jacob/Laban story. Jacob's servitude to Laban and Laban's broken promise is
*followed by* the part quoted by Shakespeare regarding the sheep Jacob
appropriates from Laban. (I would argue justifiably given the nature of Laban's
actions.)
 
When dealing with Biblical criticism, I believe it is necessary to look at the
whole picture, and not just a part as Shakespeare tries to do here.
 
Aaron Tornberg, York University,  Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           T. Fred Wharton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 Jan 95 14:02:56 EST
Subject:        *mv*
 
I much enjoyed Sean Lawrence's piece on queerists, marxists and otherness in
*MV*. While Shylock in the theatre is rather hard to cram into any margin,
that's clearly where the play's christians would prefer him to be. When their
prejudice becomes self-fulfilling -"since I am a dog, beware my fangs" - a
little "compulsion" becomes necessary. Tolerance of Antonio comes much more
easily, not only to his hangers-on, but to an entire mercantile community.
That would surely have included Portia, had not Antonio's potential martyrdom
rendered him suddenly much more threatening to her marriage.  At that point,
she has to elminate him as a rival - by rescuing him. I've never been able to
see Act V as sunny, even without the ghost of Shylock. Portia's entry is brisk:
she seems thoroughly "pumped-up" for the "ring" encounter with Bassanio and
Antonio.
 
So, the marxists and queerists have a real point, but part of the entertainment
of the play - perhaps its true central interest - is to watch the contortions
the "christians" go through, to disguise a termination as mercy, cupidity as
contempt of lucre, ruthless exclusion as smiling welcome.
 
Fred Wharton.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joe Nathan <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 Jan 1995 18:55:17 -0800
Subject:        *MV* Inconsistencies
 
So many interesting postings under this heading.  I just attended a preview of
the NYSF production of *MV* at the Joseph Papp Public Theater in New York City
- directed by Barry Edelstein with Ron Liebman as Shylock.  Liebman was
excellent - tho, having seen him in *Angels in America* it was a little bit
like watching Roy Cohn play the part.  The rest of the cast was only so-so and
the direction was uneven.  There were some unecessary homosexual overtones in
the first act between the courtiers featuring some gratuitous male-to-male
kissing. (?????) But there were also some very good touches and the notorious
ACT V which has been the subject of so much discussion in this conference came
over rather well.
 
I wonder whether anyone has actually attended a broadly comic performance of
this play -- all out burlesque including the courtroom scene.  Could
Shakespeare have been serious about an obvious impossibility like excising a
pound of flesh?  I can only think of one part of the anatomy where it could be
obtained in one piece, and the business of Antonio and Shylock preparing for
that would produce a truly ludicrous scene.  It makes me fantasize about
Shylock being played by Jerry Lewis, and wondering when and how this "comedy"
became a vehicle for tragedians.
 
I'm new to this conference, has this been covered previously?
 
Joseph Nathan, Happy Retiree

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