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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: October ::
Re: Antonio and *MV*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0753.  Thursday, 5 October 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Joseph M Green <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 4 Oct 1995 11:39:57 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0749  Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
(2)     From:   Chris Stroffolino <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 04 Oct 1995 14:44:12 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0749  Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
(3)     From:   Bruce Young <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 04 Oct 1995 14:20:26 -0700 (MST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0743  Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
(4)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 04 Oct 1995 16:28:32 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0749  Antonio and *MV*
 
(5)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 04 Oct 1995 17:07:39 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0749 Antonio and *MV*
 
(6)     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Thursday, 5 Oct 1995 08:08:49 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0749  Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph M Green <
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Date:           Wednesday, 4 Oct 1995 11:39:57 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0749  Re: Antonio and *MV*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0749  Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
The effort to turn Antoinio into a money -grubber seems perverse, yet typical.
There is no evidence in the play that this is so. We see, in the first act,
that he has taken the kind of risk that he will take again.  He initially
denies this to the courtiers -- and I still think that this is because they are
not quite the folks he wants to reveal himself to -- but he does reveal the
true nature of his actions to Bassanio and to the audience. The effort to
convict him of this and that pettiness seems so obviously of an age -- our age
-- that I would think that it would be suspect at once.  We have our doubts
about merchants and bankers and other fine cankers but there are no doubts
about Antonio in the play.
 
I contributed a brief note about some ideas/attitudes the audience might have
held about the Merchant Adventurers.  My point was that Antonio was not like
this.  If the audience had plenty of reasons to resent merchants, they have no
reasons to suspect that Antonio is like these merchants.  Suspicions are
overcome, for many reasons, including, of course, the fact that Antonio makes
the bargain he does.  He is lighting a candle in a naughty world etc.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Stroffolino <
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Date:           Wednesday, 04 Oct 1995 14:44:12 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0749  Re: Antonio and *MV*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0749  Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
I'd like to respond to John Owen's comment about the "either/or"
VENICE---Granted, Owen is not the only one who argues that we can't accept both
Antonio as a hero and everyone else-- and it hardly matters "which side you're
on"--pro Christian or pro-Jew or pro-Portia 9as woman). I mean these debates
are getting tired (not just on the list either). There are some crittics who
seem to acknoweldge that it is not just an either/or debate-- and it seems this
MUST be the way to deal with this play in which Shakespeare is trying to put
certain conventions of tragedy into dialogue with certain conventions of
comedy-- The formal brilliance of this dialogue in the play is obviously still
maddening to those who demand a "moral"---chris stroffolino
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bruce Young <
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Date:           Wednesday, 04 Oct 1995 14:20:26 -0700 (MST)
Subject: 6.0743  Re: Antonio and *MV*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0743  Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
One more thing (from me) on *MV*: Bill Godshalk, whose frequent postings are
for me one of the delights of SHAKSPER, claims that "Shylock does not spit on
Antonio, neither does he kick him. As far as we know, Shylock does not try to
undermine Antonio's business ventures."  It's hard not to agree with the first
two claims, but I must disagree with the last one.
 
Shylock obviously tries to undermine Antonio's business ventures. That's one of
his motives for insisting on the pound of flesh: "for were he [Antonio] out of
Venice I can make what merchandise I will"  (3.1.127-29).  That's the only
point I can think of where Shylock contemplates specific action against Antonio
and his business activities, but it fits with his attitude throughout the play
("I hate him for he is a Christian, / But more, for that in low simplicity / He
lends out money gratis, and brings down / The rate of usance here with us in
Venice. / If I can catch him once upon the hip [i.e., bring him down], / I will
feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him" [1.3.42-47]).
 
In pointing out what I think is a clear instance of Shylock's hostile behavior
toward Antonio, I don't mean to be taking a stand on whether this (or his
treatment of his daughter) is justified or on whether he's better or worse than
Antonio.  But even if you think Shylock is the hero of the play, totally
justified in everything he does, and as nice a person as you could possibly
expect him to be, you have to acknowledge that he's trying to improve his
business operation by killing Antonio.
 
Bruce Young
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 04 Oct 1995 16:28:32 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0749  Antonio and *MV*
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0749  Antonio and *MV*
 
John Owen seems to suggest that Shylock skins Antonio "alive in public," and
that Shylock is "a ruthless loan shark." As far as I can see neither assertion
is undoubtedly true.  Shylock doesn't get his pound of flesh, so we don't
really know if he would cut into Antonio's flesh.  Shylock is never called a
ruthless loan shark in the play, and all we know is that he lends money at
interest -- a banker's function.
 
But let's try to empathize with the revenger, Shylock, for a minute.  Let's
imagine that a privileged member of society -- one whom we cannot with impunity
oppose -- spits on us and kicks us recurrently, calls us names in the
marketplace (Riverside ed., 1.3.48-51, 111-118), promises to do it again
(130-135), and is a bigot to boot (48).  And further it appears that his
plutocrat wishes to put us out of business (44-45). How would we respond to
such treatment at the hands of a wealthy merchant who apparently has no sense
of civility?
 
I honestly do not think it was (or is) Shakespeare's obvious intention that the
audience admire Antonio unquestioningly.  I rarely find Shakespeare's
intentions obvious.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 04 Oct 1995 17:07:39 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0749 Antonio and *MV*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0749 Antonio and *MV*
 
Bruce Young suggests that *MV* would be "more interesting if we didn't turn all
the characters into self-seeking controllers."  But wouldn't a play in which
all the central characters were self-seeking controllers -- of different kinds
and types -- be filled with tension? I think a case could be (probably has
been) made that Antonio, Bassanio, Shylock, and Portia are all looking for some
kind of personal gain, and each of them tries -- in different ways -- to gain
control of situations that appear to be beyond his or her control. As Bruce
suggests, these characters are complicated, not all of a piece.  Portia's
struggle for control is far different from, say, Shylock's.
 
And I'm not convinced that there's a simple contrast between
venture/risk/hazard/openness/generosity and control/safety/enclosure/ hoarding
in the play.  For example, Portia begins the play "enclosed" in Belmont.  She
(apparently) has no control over her fate (but look at 1.2.95 where she talks
with Nerissa about controlling the choice of the Duke of Saxony's nephew). When
Portia comes to Venice, she comes in disguise (not openly), nor is she open
about her intentions. How much does Portia venture or hazard?  When she comes
as judge to the trial, she already has her legal trick in mind.
 
I think the apparent contrast seems less strong after a close consideration.
 
Yours,  Bill Godshalk
 
(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Thursday, 5 Oct 1995 08:08:49 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0749  Re: Antonio and *MV*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0749  Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
I applaud Bruce Young's comments on Shakespeare's magical ability to create
characters that are combinations of good and bad, attracting our interest with
the eternally tantalizing nature of the ambiguous. As for Portia's attraction
to Bassanio, surely he was a "hunk", as witness Antonio's attraction, so
powerful he was willing to risk everything, "hunkiness" being a quality not
transmitted explicitly through play texts, but here, certainly implicitly.
 
Stephanie Hughes
 

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