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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: October ::
Re: *MV*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0794.  Monday, 16 October 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Chris Stroffolino <
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        Date:   Sunday, 15 Oct 1995 16:23:03 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0792  Re: *MV* and Antonio
 
(2)     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Monday, 16 Oct 1995 08:27:34 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0792  Re: *MV* and Antonio
 
(3)     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Monday, 16 Oct 1995 08:34:24 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0792  Re: *MV* and Antonio
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Stroffolino <
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Date:           Sunday, 15 Oct 1995 16:23:03 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0792  Re: *MV* and Antonio
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0792  Re: *MV* and Antonio
 
I am reading John Lyon's book-length study of MV now and he says something to
the effect that every time we think we are presented with a character whose
"interiority" or psychological depth we can identify with, that sure enough
Shakespeare (or the play) will take that away from us. I think there is
something to be said for that (re Shylock, Portia, Antonio, etc.)... I also saw
recently an offhand quote (not pursued) by W.T. McCrary that claims that
Antonio is like Timon of Athens in the first half of his play-- and Shylock is
like Timon in the second half. I find this worth exploring in terms of the
relation between these two characters, whether viewed psychologically or
functionally ("politically"). cs.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Monday, 16 Oct 1995 08:27:34 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0792  Re: *MV* and Antonio
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0792  Re: *MV* and Antonio
 
Jesus Cora;
 
I agree that Shakespeare's target with Shylock was more puritanism than
anything relating to the jews,( but there is no question about his
anti-semitism as well). We see the same issues involved in his outburst about
the value of music in the same play, showing in vivid terms his scorn of those
who deride music. Who would do such a thing? The puritans were doing just that,
from pulpit and bookstall, blasting music, poetry, musicians and poets as tools
of the Devil. I believe that in Sir Toby's remark to Malvolio, "Dost think
because thou art virtuous there will be no more cakes and ale?" (not sure I
remember it right) we have the playwright's statement to the rising tide of
Puritanism that was threatening even then to engulf the theater, and all the
arts in England. I see Shakespeare's work as in great part an effort to save
what he saw as golden in the culture, encapsulate it in works of theater that
would survive the cultural holocaust to come, to gladden a less ideological
time at some future date. An unconscious effort probably, although he did have
his eye on posterity in the sonnets.
 
The antisemitism is all too real however, as is the sexism in Shrew and the
racism in Titus Andronicus. These should not be seen as personal flaws in the
author's character, but an expression of the feelings of the time. Shakespeare
felt himself on firm ground comparing the Puritan moneylender to a Venetian
jew, because he could count on his audience's antisemitism to get his point.
Earlier I suggested that teachers of Shakespeare to minority students might
tackle Shakespeare's racism by discussing it right at the start, explaining it
in cultural and historical terms, and enrolling the class in discovering
instances of it. I still feel that this is a very beneficial approach, both to
making Shakespeare relevant to their personal experience, and to healing the
social wounds that remain open due to a cultural bias so deep that it is
embedded in the language itself, dark still a synonym for evil or danger, fair
still a synonym for goodness.
 
Stephanie Hughes
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Monday, 16 Oct 1995 08:34:24 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0792  Re: *MV* and Antonio
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0792  Re: *MV* and Antonio
 
Joe Nathan;
 
I believe that someone else a little earlier expressed the same thought, that
Shakespeare lost control of Shylock. I agree, but would take it further. I
believe that this loss of control was part of Shakespeare's method and to some
extent a measure of his greatness. I believe that he would start with a
combination of persons known to him and historical or classical or folk
characters he knew from reading and form his characters by combining them into
one character, but that at some point the character would come to life, and he
would simply follow. The measure of his greatness is that he was usually able
to manage these powerful and independent personas sufficiently to create a
balanced drama.
 
Stephanie Hughes
 

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