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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: February ::
New on the SHAKSPER Fileserver
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0133.  Tuesday, 20 February 1996.

From:           Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:           Tuesday, February 20, 1996
Subject:        New on the SHAKSPER Fileserver: ROLE CLOWN & SHYLOCK REVIEW

As of today, SHAKSPEReans may retrieve Lori M. Culwell's "The Role of the Clown
in Shakespeare's Theatre" (ROLE CLOWN) from the SHAKSPER Fileserver and Jack
M. Kamen's Review of John Gross's *Shylock* (SHYLOCK REVIEW).

To retrieve "ROLE CLOWN", send a one-line mail message (without a subject line)
to 
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 , reading "GET ROLE CLOWN".

To retrieve "SHYLOCK REVIEW", send a one-line mail message (without a subject
line) to 
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 , reading "GET SHYLOCK REVIEW".

Should you have difficulty receiving this or any of the files on the SHAKSPER
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PS: On January 4, 1996, SHAKSPER moved from the University of Toronto, where it
was founded in July 1990 to Bowie State University.  There is one problem that
affects some addresses -- my own included -- that causes mail sent to

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  addresses to "loop" and be rejected because an
excess of "hops."  Should your request for the either of these files generate
such an error, please use the following address until I announce that the
problem has finally been solved, which I hope will be the case in the very near
future: 
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"The Role of the Clown in Shakespeare's Theatre"

During the Renaissance, dramatic forms were subject to a variety of changes.
As audiences changed in composition and education, the theatre necessarily
changed as well.  The Renaissance began at different times in different areas
of Europe, and was a slow process rather than a sudden ideological shift.
Though the change was to be dramatic, the past could never be entirely
forgotten.  In London, the people had the task of incorporating completely new
schools of thought, as well as people from all over Europe, into their culture.
The question stands:  what happens to a cultural symbol (i.e., the theatre)
when an ideological shift, however gradual, occurs?  Moreover, how was the
drama of the previous century integrated into the new, more sophisticated drama
that followed the hundred-or-so years of significant change and its effects on
England? What follows is an attempt to approach an answer to these questions
through an exploration of physicality and clowning in the early modern period.

*******************************************************************************
Review of Shylock: A Legend & Its Legacy by John Gross

There is not a proper name that  does not evoke emotion. It may be bland (Jane,
as in 'plain Jane'),    to loathing and disgust (Adolf, as in Adolf XXXXXX).
Hearing 'Shylock' raises a spectre that is more than ethereal. It is near
palpable. To a Jew it is a name that is ever linked  to that stereotype that
anti-Jews invoke in their hatreds. When not used in the context of discussion
of the word itself, the word is venomous . To anathematize a Jew  one need do
no more than speak "Shylock". This book does not directly ask or answer the
always asked question re: The Merchant of Venice. Is it 'anti-Semitic' as many
Jews and especially Jewish critics and commentators believe, and if so, did
Shakespeare intend it to be so? Instead, the  London theatre critic John Gross,
gives us the information and insights to form opinions and re-form biases.
Shylock is not  the merchant of the title. That appelation falls to Antonio,
the (?anti)hero of this  "Romantic Comedy". (Yes, it was originally presented
to the public as such), although its first title page (circa 1600), describes
the play, in part, as "The most excellent historie of the Merchant of Venice,
with the extreame crueltie of Shylocke the Jewe towards the sayd merchant, in
cutting a just pound of his flesh:....." This blurb was probably not penned by
W.S. but, rather, the printer, who was after what all commercialists
seek--sales. Nevertheless,  with that the stage is verily set. First off, was
Shakespeare an anti-Jew?  Hard to say but probably not, or better yet, since
most  judgements are on a comparative basis, not when he's put up against such
as Christopher Marlowe who wrote the 'Jew of Malta'.  Now this play was
downright mean spirited and would please any Nazi skinhead. Shakespeare was not
an original dramatist in the sense that he conceived the plots of his plays.
All of his works, 'cept two or three, are reworks of other playwright(s). So it
was with the 'Merchant'. It was derived from a fourteenth century Italian story
and came already equipped with the  Jew. With his genius, however, he molded
this crude clump of a drama  into a product, a presentation, that would sell
tickets. Since he was a major shareholder in his theatre group it was paramount
that the play  have  wide audience appeal, his audience consisting of all
social classes, from lowly trade apprentices to the high and mighty lords and
ladies. But what did appeal to the early seventeenth century theatregoers? They
certainly had no contact with Jews for they were butchered or expelled from
England three hundred years prior. On the other hand, they sure heard of Jews
through the Church, and myths, and fables, and rumors. Yes, if  he needed
another Iago, an archvillian simply to be part of a plot, why then a Jew would
do nicely. What the original trifle did not have was the name of  this
Jew--Shylock. This was purely Shakespeare's invention. From whence it entered
his brain remains to this day a mystery. He could have chosen Moses, Isaac, or
Irving (all right, maybe not Irving), and all would know this was a Jew.
Instead____ Shylock. From the book: .......the name is not only distinctive, it
feels right. It is the right name for the man who locks up his money and tells
his daughter to lock up his door.
 

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