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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: October ::
Re: *MV* and Antonio
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0775. Wednesday, 11 October 1995.
 
(1)     From:   David Evett <R0870%
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        Date:   Tuesday,  10 Oct 1995 18:07 ET
        Subj:   MV and the Law
 
(2)     From:   John Boni <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Oct 1995 17:05:36 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0771 Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
(3)     From:   Shirley Kagan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Oct 1995 13:54:11 -1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0776 Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
(4)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Oct 1995 21:56:39 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0771  Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
(5)     From:   Naomi Liebler <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Oct 95 01:01:00 EST
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0771  Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <R0870%
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Date:           Tuesday,  10 Oct 1995 18:07 ET
Subject:        MV and the Law
 
Not wishing to oversimplify anything, let me nevertheless suggest that there
are generic as well as local reasons why the Duke cannot abrogate the law. It's
a general feature of comic plots to spring from situations where law or custom
restrain life-giving or life-seeking desire from achieving its goal, even when
the law or custom is manifestly irrational or irrelevant.  At the beginning of
_Err_, the Duke must deny his expressed sympathy for Egeus and condemn him do
death if he cannot find his bail.  At the beginning of _MND_ Theseus must pass
sentence on Hermione at her father's insistence: death or the convent if she
refuses to marry Demetrius.  The irrationality of the feud supplies the ground
in which _Rom_'s initial comic movements have their roots. At the beginning of
_Mer_ Portia is constrained by the terms of her father's world. (Tragedies, by
contrast, are likely to take off from acts--of those in authority, not those
subjected--that deny or violate law or custom, such as Titus's effective denial
of the responsibilities of fathers or Lear's division of the kingdom.) Under
the circumstances it is predictable that the Duke will plead helplessness. The
development of comic plots, to be sure, leads by processes that on close
inspection almost always look arbitrary to the abandonment of legal or
customary rigidity.  Theseus decides that he can override Egeus after all.  The
Duke of Ephesus rescinds the fine.  The implication here is that in the comic
world actions do not necessarily have their normal consequences.  By the same
token, in the tragic world causality is remorseless. Somebody in the current
discussion (it's not a thread, it's a frigging hawser!) suggests that Shylock
is a tragic character (sorry, representation) trapped in a comic plot--where,
indeed, he escapes the strictest letter of the law on which he has, of course,
insisted--that is, is obliged to accept the consequences of life in a world of
inescapable linear causality.
 
Dave Evett
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Boni <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Oct 1995 17:05:36 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0771 Re: Antonio and *MV*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0771 Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
I agree with Terry Ross' call for decorum in our discourse.
 
Regarding Antonio & Shylock, perhaps it has all been said, but then, perhaps
about Shakespeare it has all been said.  Years ago, I reached the conclusion
that Shakespeare had painted himself into an artistic corner with Shylock,
allowing a character (or an element of the overall design) to become too large
for the play (the design).  A novelist friend told me she was having trouble
with a work in progress because she had become too interested in a major
character.
 
The remarks about the interplay of the conventions of tragedy and comedy in
*MV* seem to the point.  And there is another way to look at it, Shakespeare's
wonderful, maddening tendency to give with one hand and take away with the
other.  In *Shakespeare and the Common Understanding* Norman Rabkin treats that
idea, the presence of unresolved opposites, very thoroughly.  I tell my
students to think while reading Shakespeare of a continual process of
"yes/but."  So here.  No, the Venetian Christians aren't all that forgiving.
But, then, perhaps what Shylock has attempted would stretch any human's creed
of forgiveness.  And, yes, Shylock has been horrible to Antonio, but then no
one appreciates being rated and spat upon in public.
 
Is a play about anti-Semitism necessarily an anti-Semitic play?, asks David
Richman.  Not necessarily.  (Witness, say, *The Deputy*.)  But, it is likely,
isn't it, that a liberal-minded Shakespeare writing for a mostly educated
twentieth-century, mostly liberal audience might have drawn his Jew slightly
less fanged.  He was "of an age."
 
Recently, I viewed *The King of Comedy*, a favorite film.  My viewing companion
described it as a film in which no character is likeable.  Is that the case
with *MV*?
 
John Boni
Northeastern Illinois University
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Shirley Kagan <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Oct 1995 13:54:11 -1000
Subject: 6.0776 Re: Antonio and *MV*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0776 Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
In a recent post John Owen remarked that Shylock's business dealings are
unscrupulous enough that he "will commit murder to remove a hated business
rival."  I would just like to point out that in normal cases of murder, the
victim does not have much of a choice.  Antonio does.  I am not trying to take
anything away from Shylock's general nastiness, but I am shocked at the amount
of Antonio apologia and justifications for his clear anti-semitism that is
coming over this line.  Antonio goes into the bargain with Shylock against the
protests of his friend Bassanio and with so much macho bravura that it is a
REAL stretch to refer to it as generosity.
 
Shirley Kagan
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Oct 1995 21:56:39 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0771  Re: Antonio and *MV*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0771  Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
My apologies to John Owen for misquoting him. John wrote: "Nor does Antonio try
to skin Shylock alive in public." Actually, Shylock is to have "A pound of
flesh . . . /Nearest the merchant's heart" (Riverside 4.1.232-3).  I perhaps
was objecting to John's allusion to flaying -- which is not in the text.
 
And, yes, I agree that we should try to be civil.  My communications may sound
angry, and, if so, I apologize.  I obviously like to argue a point (any point
will do!), and I may get carried away.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Naomi Liebler <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Oct 95 01:01:00 EST
Subject: 6.0771  Re: Antonio and *MV*
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0771  Re: Antonio and *MV*
 
Regarding Bill Godshalk's most recent spewing: "Antisemiticism [sic] is in the
eye of the beholder." This time you've gone too far, Bill. Whom have you been
talking to? Louis Farrakhan? Leonard Jeffries? What's next? The holocaust never
happened? This latest in your seemingly endless string of thoughtless,
undisciplined, downright ignorant abuses of this list is finally intolerable.
I'm not sure whether I am more offended by your antisemitic vomit or by the
fact that absolutely no one on this list has called you out on it. I had to
wait 24 hours before I could calm down enough even to write this. And don't
bother to offer your usual "Gee, I guess I was wrong; I didn't really mean
THAT." I won't accept it. If you "didn't mean it," then you are only an
irresponsible jerk; if you did mean it, then there are a few other things I can
think of to call you, perhaps most notably neo-nazi racist. And let's have no
whimpering about how we should all be too professional to "call names." If you
think antisemitism is "in the eye of the beholder," I can send you a list of
the names of my relatives whose ashes never left Auschwitz. Their eyes beheld
altogether too much of what you deny.
 
"Quo usque tandem abutere, Catalina, patientia nostra?"--Cicero.
"Never again."--The survivors and the remnant, and we  mean it.
 
--Naomi Liebler
 

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