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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: October ::
Re: Re: *MV* and Antonio
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0777.  Thursday, 12 October 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Sam Schimek <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Oct 1995 09:11:48 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0775  Re: *MV* and Antonio
 
(2)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Oct 1995 12:56:40 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0775  Re: *MV* and Antonio
 
(3)     From:   John Owen <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Oct 1995 13:59:30 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0775  Re: *MV* and Antonio
 
(4)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Oct 1995 16:01:11 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0775  Re: *MV* and Antonio
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sam Schimek <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Oct 1995 09:11:48 -0700
Subject: 6.0775  Re: *MV* and Antonio
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0775  Re: *MV* and Antonio
 
First of all, thank you to all Shakespeareans for the lively debate.
 
Unfortunately it is now a little too lively for my tastes. Now that the
discssion has reached exactly the point that I wished to avoid (i.e. Ms.
Lieber's posting), I would like to attempt to return the question to those
raised in my orginal posting. Namely, the presentation of Antonio in
*performance*.
 
1) Antonio & Bassanio's potential homosexuality: Was this mined on stage? Did
it undermine of help the performance? Did it give Antonio more dramatic power
as an outsider a la Shylock?
 
2) Antonio's Anti-Semitism: How was this presented to the audience? How was it
received? Was it glossed over in order to compliment the numerous "good
Antonio" speeches?
 
3) Antonio as Christ-figure: Was this addressed overtly, left as an
undercurrent or ignored? Was any stage-symbolism milked from this?
 
4) In general, what was the final opinion of the play? Worthy of production or
racist script that offends? While my opinion is of the former, one cannot
overlook the large body of opinion leaning towards the latter. Then again,
being offensive never alone makes a play unworthy of production.
 
As is obvious by the discussion, this script is difficult to present with
emotions overtaking intellectual considerations. Mr. Godshalk can defend
himself, but I think we must raise our defenses and thicken our skins a little
more in this debate. Offense was not intended, it was placed there.
 
As I am sure the error of my ways will be pointed out, please send them to my
e-mail address, personal criticism of other people is tedious to read.
 
Thanks to all,
Sam Schimek
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Oct 1995 12:56:40 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0775  Re: *MV* and Antonio
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0775  Re: *MV* and Antonio
 
Naomi Liebler writes:
 
>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?
 
Sorry for the misspelling. (I'll take twenty points from my grade for the
misspelling and for spewing in public.  Always bad form,. my ma said.)  What I
meant was that -- in regard to this play -- anti-Semitism seems to be a matter
of individual reading.  We do not ALL agree that this play is anti-Semitic.
The play is not transparently a barb aimed at all or even some or one Jew -- so
I read. I don't feel threatened by this play.  (I do feel threatened by Nazis,
Auschwitz {see Oswiecim}, the KKK, bad drivers, etc.)
 
To my way of thinking, the play may be anti-Christian or even anti-human. I
find a very dark underside to this play, reading against genre imperatives. I
find the cynical "conversion" of Shylock especially distressing.  Antonio
reveals no deeply religious side to his "dramatic figure." He has no priest at
his side as he prepares to die; he wants Bassanio instead.  BUT he insists that
Shylock become a Christian.  Why?
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Owen <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Oct 1995 13:59:30 -0700
Subject: 6.0775  Re: *MV* and Antonio
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0775  Re: *MV* and Antonio
 
"I would just like to point out that in normal cases of murder, the victim does
not have much of a choice."
 
Recall, Shirley, that Shylock represents the penalty as a joke and that Antonio
treats it that way, calling it a "merry bond".  He would certainly not do this
if he had any idea that he would have to pay this insane penalty, or that
Shylock would insist on it.  Yes, Antonio is stupid above and beyond the call
of the plot for not recognizing the level of hatred he has provoked in Shylock,
but murder is not justified by the foolishness of the victim.
 
"I am not trying to take anything away from Shylock's general nastiness,"
 
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."
 
As far as I know, no one has attempted to justify anti-semitism in Antonio or
in anyone else. If you have a specific example, produce it. Perhaps there is a
misunderstanding at the root of this which can only be dispelled through
discussion. If you intended to accuse anyone here of anti-semitism and then
retire from the accusation under the cloak of vagueness, I challenge the
statement and request that you either clarify or retract your remark.
 
Unfortunately, there can be little doubt that Shakespeare shared some of the
anti-semitism of his environment and that this attitude has crept into his
plays. Attempts to deny that Shylock is drawn as a primarily villainous
character may spring from an unwillingness to believe that the most celebrated
author in the English language possessed a serious and extraordinarily
repellent character flaw. But it serves no one's interest to deny that flaw,
even if it seems mitigated by Shylock's virtues and Shakespeare's rather
enlightened awareness of his sufferings.
 
The sensible course is to admit the problem, discuss its implications on
teaching MOV in the classroom and performing it in public, and exploit whatever
shadow of a consensus we can arrive at. The irrational course is . . . .well,
we're living that, aren't we?
 
Can an anti-semitic play be about anti-semitism?
 
John Owen
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Oct 1995 16:01:11 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0775  Re: *MV* and Antonio
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0775  Re: *MV* and Antonio
 
I find myself more disturbed by Naomi Liebler's attack than I, perhaps, should
be. In any case, I am driven to point out the specific context of my remark:
"(2) Anti-Semiticism is in the mind of the beholder."
 
My generalization is aimed precisely and only at John Drakakis's comment. This
is the context:
 
"It is interesting to see those of a liberal humanist persuasion (but whose
liberalism becomes a rather red-necked conservatism (and violently so) bending
over backwards to deny that The Merchant of Venice is, in very large part
manifestly anti-semeitic.
 
Have some valium on me Bill,
 
John Drakakis"
 
(Apparently neither of us can spell anti-Semitic or anti-Semitism.)  But my
point is (and was) that the reader or the auditor of *MV* determines whether or
not the play is anti-Semitic.  I was not thinking of (or denying the existence
of) anti-Semiticism in Nazi Germany.  Perhaps Naomi's evaluation of my thought
processes is correct,  but I'm not stupid enough to doubt the Holocaust.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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