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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: October ::
Re: Antonio and *MV*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0756.  Friday, 6 October 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Joseph M Green <
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        Date:   Thursday, 5 Oct 1995 14:07:32 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0753  Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
(2)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 05 Oct 1995 16:25:14 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0753  Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
(3)     From:   Stanley Holberg <
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        Date:   Thursday, 05 Oct 1995 20:56:09 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Antonio et al
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph M Green <
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Date:           Thursday, 5 Oct 1995 14:07:32 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0753  Re: Antonio and *MV*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0753  Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
Bill Godshalk asks how "we" would feel if we were spat upon and treated rudely
by a plutocrat.  The question seems odd. If it is an attempt to direct us to
place ourselves within Shylock's perspective, it seems beside the point.  We
know how Shylock feels.  If the question has other purposes, then it seems
equally beside the point.  Isn't the question a question of how Shakespeare's
audience might feel?  They might, first of all, not see Antonio as a plutocrat
-- the word is loaded with a lot of modern connotations.  They might see him,
instead, as a generous merchant of the sort the myth of Venice might lead them
to imagine, of the sort Antonio's actions might suggest. In the same way, they
might think of Shylock as a usurer and a despised Jew -- someone who deserves
Antonio's contempt. Maybe Shakespeare attempts to modify this attitude, but it
seems that, if we are trying to understand the play, loaded and anachronistic
words such as "plutocrat" are not helpful and assume what is to be proved.
 
But concepts such as "usury" are very much to the point.  Antonio enters and
Shylock says:
 
"If I can catch him once upon the hip,
I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him"
 
I don't find it credible that the audience would not have recognized Shylock as
a usurer.  He was not just a "banker."  Audiences would also understand (how
could they not) that Antonio "Lends out money gratis."  Shylock:
 
"How like a fawning publican he looks,
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 at Venice."
 
This is an aside, of course, and is to be believed.  It seems impossible to
conclude from this that Shylock is just a "banker" and that Antonio is a
"plutocrat."
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 05 Oct 1995 16:25:14 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0753  Re: Antonio and *MV*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0753  Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
Okay!  Years ago, as I remember, I told one of my students, "Shylock is not the
nice Jewish man who runs the candy store down the street."  Shylock has not
responded well to the diaspora and to living with mean-minded Christians who
force him to wear gaberdine and to make a living doing essential business
(i.e., banking) that the Christians find objectionable.  He has himself become
as mean-minded as the Christians. (How would you like to be addressed as "Jew,"
the old J word?)
 
My basic point is that Shylock is not unmotivated in his hatred of Christians.
If he has become suspicious, vengeful, angry, and so on, he has just cause.
Were I living next to Antonio (would he really live next door to me?), I would
have beat him up long ago, i.e., after the first time he spit on me.
 
Yours, Violent Bill Godshalk
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stanley Holberg <
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Date:           Thursday, 05 Oct 1995 20:56:09 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Antonio et al
 
It seems to me that Antonio's lines at the end of III.iii reveal something
interesting about him and about the world in which he and Shylock operate:
 
      The Duke cannot deny the course of law;
      For the commodity that strangers have
      With us in Venice, if it be denied,
      Will much impeach the justice of the state,
      Since that the trade and profit of the city
      Consisteth of all nations.
 
But the fact is, the reason why the Duke cannot deny the course of law is that
*it is the law.*  The law does not exist to promote "the trade and profit of
the city."
 
--Stanley Holberg
  
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