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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: June ::
Rhetoric of the SHAKSPER List; Fahrenheit *Merchant*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0421.  Thursday, 6 June 1996.

(1)     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 5 Jun 1996 13:18:25 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 7.0415  The Rhetoric of the SHAKSPER List

(2)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 05 Jun 1996 16:39:24 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0418  Re: Fahrenheit *Merchant of Venice*


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Wednesday, 5 Jun 1996 13:18:25 -0400
Subject: The Rhetoric of the SHAKSPER List
Comment:        SHK 7.0415  The Rhetoric of the SHAKSPER List

Michael Best's wondrous pieties contain lessons for us all. Perhaps they could
be stuffed and presented to the Folger Library? But why equate intemperance
with irony?  These are opposites, surely? I too will miss the astounding
Florence Amit. Own up, whoever it was.

T. Hawkes

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 05 Jun 1996 16:39:24 -0400
Subject: 7.0418  Re: Fahrenheit *Merchant of Venice*
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0418  Re: Fahrenheit *Merchant of Venice*

Dan Lowenstein writes:

>Godshalk lavishes praise on a production of "Merchant of Venice" that appears
>to be a rather trite example of a contemporary director who finds Shakespeare's
>play inadequate and prefers to substitute his own.

The night I saw the show I sat with a noted Shakespeare scholar, two
dramatists, and a dramaturg.  We all enjoyed the production, and did not find
it "trite."  I would be happier if you called my review and my perceptions
trite.  The production was a well acted, imaginative recreation.

Dan Lowenstein concludes:

 To give a single example,
>Godshalk says the production "emphasizes that Shylock turns vicious only after
>the elopement of Jessica."  He should have said "pretends" rather than
>"emphasizes." Otherwise, what is the point of the lines, "If I can catch him
>once upon the hip, / I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him"?

William Sweeney (Fahrenheit's Shylock) does speak these lines, but my
impression was that this particular Shylock would not have insisted on the
pound of flesh penalty IF Jessica had not eloped with a Christian AND if the
Christians had made a good faith effort to apprehend the runaways. In this
particular production, Shylock does not appear to be driven by revenge until
after he loses his daughter.  This is not to say that Sweeney's Shylock likes
to be spit on and kicked, but that he's not totally unreasonable in 1.3.  I
think this is one way -- and only one way -- to read the script.

And what if you take the pound of flesh ("taken/In what part of your body
pleaseth me" {150-1]) is really an allusion to circumcision?  (Thanks to James
Shapiro, *Shakespeare and the Jews* -- excellent book.)  What if he's really
contemplating a ritual circumcision that will, in effect, turn Antonio into a
Jew?  Shapiro's chapter on the pound of flesh is well worth contemplating.  If
this cutting of the flesh is an allusion to circumcision, perhaps Shylock at
this point in the play is being quite open in his desires.

Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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