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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: October ::
Re: Gay Merchant
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1084.  Tuesday, 28 October 1997.

[1]     From:   Troy A. Swartz <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Oct 1997 14:21:07 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 8.1074  Re: Gay Merchant

[2]     From:   Andrew Murphy <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 28 Oct 97 13:28:06 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1070 Q: Gay Merchant


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Troy A. Swartz <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 27 Oct 1997 14:21:07 -0500
Subject: 8.1074  Re: Gay Merchant
Comment:        RE: SHK 8.1074  Re: Gay Merchant

Dear SHAKSPERians,

Louis Swilley recently questioned whether or not it is important to
differentiate between homosexual and homoerotic content in regard to
Bassanio and Antonio.  He also mentioned interpreting the relationship
between Portia and Bassanio as heterosexual or heteroerotic.
Interestingly enough, I tend to wonder if there is even a relationship
between Portia and Bassanio.  Firstly, Bassanio has really no idea who
this woman is, except for the fact that she's rich.  Bassanio does not
necessarily want to be hetero- sexual or erotic, with Portia.  In his
mind, he sees this as an economic relationship...a way to get out of
debt.  If it means he happens to get a little sexual fun on the side, so
be it.  His main priority, though, is to marry this woman not for sexual
or emotional fulfillment as marriages often do, but to secure himself
financially.  His wife becomes his property; ergo, her property becomes
his.  Now, of course, we can't completely rule out the relationship
between Portia and Bassanio.  After all, I think the contempt Antonio
carries for Portia is rather blatant.  Antonio describes Bassanio's
desire for 'marriage' as "ripe wants".  During the 15th-16th centuries
'ripe' was used to refer to river banks, oftentimes where brothels
existed.  Portia, a princess, in Antonio's perspective, is nothing more
than a whore.  (See Frankie Rubenstein, "A Dict. of Shake's Sexual Puns
and Their Sig."  ISBN: 0-312-12677-8)

The relationship between Antonio and Bassanio is, by far, a very
necessary question.  A homoerotic relationship, particularly in comedy,
can be used as jesting, for instance.  It allows something for the
audience to laugh at.  ("Look at that guy!  He wants Bassanio and
Bassanio's so ignorant to it all!)  But if there is some sexual
gratification between the two men, then Antonio's melancholy and
eventual disgust for Portia is easily understandable-Antonio's upset
because he's going to lose a lover (as many people do).

Well, I guess I'll stop for now.  Although I know I can't change
people's opinions on the significance of the relationships in
"Merchant", I do hope that this does shed some light on why I feel it's
important.  Sometimes I wonder if now in the 20th century we are seeing
Shakespeare's plays performed as they were 400 years ago.  Although this
is a completely different question, let's throw this one out on the
floor:  Could it be possible that theatre has taken steps backwards
rather than forwards concerning Shakespeare since his plays were first
performed?

Much thanks,
Troy

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Murphy <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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Date:           Tuesday, 28 Oct 97 13:28:06 GMT
Subject: 8.1070 Q: Gay Merchant
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1070 Q: Gay Merchant

Troy --

Alan Sinfield has a very interesting piece on _Merchant_ and issues of
same-sex desire in _Alternative Shakespeares 2_. See also recent work by
Jonathan Goldberg, Jonathan Dollimore and Jeffrey Masten.

Andrew
 

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