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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: September ::
Re: Antonio and *MV*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0724. Tuesday, 26 September 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Cary Mazer <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 26 Sep 1995 09:15:05 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0716  Re; *WT*; *Cor.*; *MV*
 
(2)     From:   Joseph M Green <
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        Date:   Tue, 26 Sep 1995 10:47:25 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0712  Re: Antonio
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Cary Mazer <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 26 Sep 1995 09:15:05 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0716  Re; *WT*; *Cor.*; *MV*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0716  Re; *WT*; *Cor.*; *MV*
 
Re: Stuart Rice's posting:
 
> I think that casting the relationship of Bassanio and Antonio as "homosexual"
> misses the point.  I think that there is a valid argument for a "homoerotic"
> interpretation, especially if you choose to see the play as being a Christian
> allegory.  Under this interpretation, Antonio becomes associated with Christ
> (so his opening scene becomes an allusion to Gethsemane [is that the correct
> spelling?]) and Shylock expands to encompass the "Christ-Slaughterer."
> Bassanio, therefore, becomes the disciple/friend.  As such, his love becomes a
> material expression of a deep rooted spiritual faith.  Examples of this in
> medieval art include the sculpture of John resting his head on the bosom of
> Christ.
 
I knew it was a mistake to read my e-mail on Rosh Hashanah.
 
Cary M. Mazer
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph M Green <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tue, 26 Sep 1995 10:47:25 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0712  Re: Antonio
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0712  Re: Antonio
 
Readings that see the Antonio/Shylock relationship in terms of "The Other"
seem, naturally, to overlook this and that complexity.  The reading is almost
automatic, isn't it?  Combining this with a reading that sees the
Antonio/Bassanio relationship as a homosexual relationship is equally
automatic.  I can't imagine a duller combination -- of an age, for sure.
 
It seems to me that Antonio is, in the opening scene, shown to be himself quite
alien to the world of Venice -- where every relationship is assessed as a
financial relationship. Money is especially corrupting to the ideal of male
frien dship -- an ideal taken seriously, of course. If Antonio and Shylock are
both outsideres, they are outsiders for different reasons.  Antonio is
alienated from Venice's materialism. Shylock is an outsider because he is a Jew
-- and if he is anyone's other, he others all those junk bond types who despise
him but are not unlike him.  Antonia despises Shylock because he is a Jew and
because it is convenient to do so -- more or less Shylock represents that which
he despises in his friends.  This is not entirely clear to him, of course, and
maybe never becomes so.
 
Reading the Antonio/Bassanio relationship as romantic elides (that awful word)
the "politics" of the play -- its critique of materialism. A very typical move
since, as is our wont, we return politics to the private realm.
 
There is no uncomplex contrast between the world of Venice and the world of
Christian generosity at Belmont.  Portia is shown to be quite self-regarding as
she uses this and that person as a foil for her wit.
 
Both Portia and Antonio look to Bassanio for love.  They believe that he can
make them happy.  Antonio need not require a homosexual relationship with
Bassanio.  He might just like a friend who doesn't use him -- another fellow
who doesn't buy into the values of Venice.  Antonio's listlessness and despair
could be occasioned by the perception that this kind of friendship is
impossible and the world becomes weary. stale etc. This means that the play
doesn't just become a story (partially) of how Antonio's crush on Bassanio is
frustrated when Bassanio gets the girl -- instead it becomes an exploration of
the values of Venice and Antonio becomes a victim as well as Shylock -- tho the
reasons for their victimization differ.
 
The production is which all the courtiers were presented as homosexual seems
especially insulting to homosexuals.  The world of Venice becomes a place for
the display of homosexual selfishness, shallowness. The corrupting influence of
money is replaced by the putative corrupting influence of the "gay" lifestyle.
This is not justified by the text -- and the only justification seems to be the
usual inane desire to make Shakespeare our contemporary in the most fatuous
ways.
 
A gay relationship between Antonio and Bassanio does seem plausible. However,
it has the unfortunate effect of overwhelming the critique of the values of
Venice that the Bard intends (and I do mean intends). Simply seeing Antonio and
Shylock in terms of "The Other" is easy -- this illumination steps from its
coach bearing a lemon meringue pie to undergraduates taught by the
"well-trained" everyday.  Sadly, it misses very very much.
 

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