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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: November ::
Re: Anti-Semitism; Arden MV
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1185.  Friday, 21 November 1997.

[1]     From:   Stevie Simkin <
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        Date:   Thursday, 20 Nov 1997 14:55:07 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1177  Re: Anti-Semitism; Arden MV

[2]     From:   Frank Whigham <
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        Date:   Thursday, 20 Nov 1997 09:34:47 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1177  Re: Anti-Semitism

[3]     From:   Cary Mazer <
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        Date:   Thursday, 20 Nov 1997 12:27:22 -0500
        Subj:    Re: SHK 8.1177  Re: Anti-Semitism; Arden MV


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stevie Simkin <
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Date:           Thursday, 20 Nov 1997 14:55:07 -0000
Subject: 8.1177  Re: Anti-Semitism; Arden MV
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1177  Re: Anti-Semitism; Arden MV

Further reflctions on MofV, Marlowe's Jew of Malta and anti-Semitism...

In response to Tom Clayton's point, I was merely drawing attention to
the limitations of Brown's introduction to the Arden2 MofV.  I don't
think Cohen, in commenting on the cursory treatment of the anti-Semitism
issue in that introduction, is implying Brown is anti-Semitic.  I was
certainly not meaning to imply any such thing.  And I would endorse
Tom's recommendation of Jay L. Halio's Oxford edition, which I used when
teaching the play on a Shakespeare and Ideology module.  (The A3 Othello
came just too late for the same module - I haven't caught up on this new
one yet myself, so any thoughts, anyone, on the discussion of
race/ethnicity in this edition?).

I agree that the full historical context (or as full as we can be,
always recognizing that we can never fully recover history) is vital to
an understanding of the way Shylock is represented in the play.  And
this includes the Puritanism angle that Jesus Cora helpfully pinpoints.

On the case of "adapting" Marlowe's play,  there is far too much to deal
with to attempt anything like a full reply on-list.

Briefly -

a) By setting JofM as we have, I would contend that we are still doing
Marlowe's play, but doing it inside a second context (the "1939 play"
with its Nazi-occupied Poland setting), so that the original resonates
to us through two contexts (from 1590ish, through 1939, to 1997).  This
is not the same as setting the Marlowe play in 1939.  What is crucial is
the performative aspect:  the anti-Semitism can be challenged by having
actors playing the parts of 1939 Jews, who are in turn playing (and by
various means subverting) the anti-Semitic stereotypes.
b) What do we mean by showing the play "as it is"?  This is the old
argument, isn't it, about "doing the play straight" (or not).  If
audiences are unable to watch a play immune to their context (and the
gap between their context and the play's original context), how can
performers perform it immune from same?
c) Is the play  anti-Semitic or anti-Machiavellian?  The fact I was able
to extract a good number of uncompromisingly anti-Semitic insults,
asides, comments, etc. to help create prologue and epilogue suggests the
former.
d)  All the options on different (and more immediately contemporary)
settings Jesus Cora suggests are thought-provoking, too:  they bring to
mind Charles Marowitz's 1946 Palestine setting for his adaptation of the
play, "Variations on The MofV". One of the greatest challenges for our
version has been to keep the Marlowe text pretty much intact (very, very
minor actual alterations of text, apart from cuts for running time) but
to turn the play "inside-out". Or (if the analogy isn't too
clever-clever!) to spring a trap for the play using the text's own
anti-Semitism as bait. Interesting implications for signifier/signified
debates, apart from anything else.

Stevie Simkin

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[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frank Whigham <
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Date:           Thursday, 20 Nov 1997 09:34:47 -0600
Subject: 8.1177  Re: Anti-Semitism
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1177  Re: Anti-Semitism

For useful material see Siegel, Paul N. "Shylock the Puritan." Columbia
University Forum 5.4 (1962): 14-19.

Whether this partial element falsifies the presence of anti-Semitism,
enacted or interrogated, is another matter entirely.

>1) We must not consider Shylock only as a Jew. He is a composite
>character. He shows strains of the Senex archetype in _fabula palliata_
>and his negative aspects, especially those of being a usurer and a miser
>spring from this archetype, not his being a Jew. Besides, Shylock's
>jewish-ness is, to my mind, a way of concealing the true object of
>Shakespeare's criticisms: the Puritans, who in many cases, were also
>usurers and certain-ly hated music and profane entertainments and were
>quite strict with the interpretation of the law (the Bible). The
>association between Puritans and Jews is explicated in Jonson's
>_Bartholomew Fair_, where Zeal-of-the-land Busy is called "Rabbi" by
>Littlewit.

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Cary Mazer <
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Date:           Thursday, 20 Nov 1997 12:27:22 -0500
Subject: 8.1177  Re: Anti-Semitism; Arden MV
Comment:         Re: SHK 8.1177  Re: Anti-Semitism; Arden MV

Jesus Cora  wrote:

>It is a good idea to add a frame to Marlowe's
>play, but in that case, it is no longer Marlowe's play. It is something
>different, Marlowe's text and historical context are affected by the
>relationship with the later events and figures. Would it not be
>appropriate to call that a new play, and find a new title accordingly?

As I've written to the list before, the sooner we think of *every*
theatrical performance as "a new play" and "something different" the
better, for then we will no longer judge a performance on its fidelity
to an original text, but can celebrate it on its own merits, as an
independent work of art built upon the raw material of a pre-existing
script (along with lots of other materials).

Cary

P.S.  The production ideas for JofM sound *wonderful*!
 

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