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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: February ::
Posting Related to MV
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0167  Friday, 27 February 1998.

[1]     From:   Jenny Lowood-Livingston <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 Feb 1998 10:51:51 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0157  Re: Anti-Semitism

[2]     From:   Lysbeth Benkert-Rasmussen <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 Feb 98 09:09:00 CST
        Subj:   Re: Anti-Semitism

[3]     From:   Jesus Cora <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Feb 1998 19:23:41 +0100
        Subj:   Q: Is Portia racist?

[4]     From:   Barrett Fisher <
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        Date:   Thursday, 26 Feb 1998 09:47:14 -0500
        Subj:   Merchant of Venice Clarification


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jenny Lowood-Livingston <
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Date:           Monday, 23 Feb 1998 10:51:51 EST
Subject: 9.0157  Re: Anti-Semitism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0157  Re: Anti-Semitism

As an avid bardophile who is not as well read (by far) as most of the
subscribers to this list, I wish to throw in a personal observation
regarding MoV and anti-semitism.  It seems to me that Shakespeare
portrays not only anti-semitism but racism and sexism throughout his
plays, as they occurred in his world.  When we get a closer view,
however, of not only Shylock, but, for example, Othello and Kate, we see
the world from their perspective; that is, they become human beings and
we begin to understand why they are as they are and how, at least in
part, they have been mistreated.  Of course, Othello and Kate are
different than Shylock.  In Othello's case, most of the racism which
Shakespeare projects occurs in his other plays (including MoV) and he
doesn't respond to bigotry so much as trickery, but here is a fully
realized human being from a group that is spoken of in cruelly racist
terms elsewhere.  In the case of Kate, while she clearly responds to a
sexism which creates the (seemingly) wimpy "good girl," Bianca, she has
an out which is not available to Shylock, which is to "pretend" to be a
subservient wife without quite losing her soul.  What this all amounts
to is that I don't see Shylock as being all that different from some of
his other "marginalized" (shudder) characters.

Jenny L.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lysbeth Benkert-Rasmussen <
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Date:           Monday, 23 Feb 98 09:09:00 CST
Subject:        Re: Anti-Semitism

On a note related to our discussions of Shylock, I was wondering if
anyone would care to comment on Lancelot.  He has always puzzled me.
Everyone talks about Bottom and Falstaff and Dogberry as reflections of
the main plots (though perhaps this is an old-fashioned way to read the
plays?).  The fools mirror their social "betters" in various  ways,
complementary or not.  Lancelot seems less clear to me.  In some ways he
seems a bit petty and unfeeling as when he tells Jessica there's no way
she'll ever get to heaven, and when he teases his father.  In these
cases, he seems a simple reflection of what is wrong with Venice.  In
other instances, though,  he is very sympathetic in ways that the other
Venetians are not-such as when he weeps when he leaves Shyock as though
genuinely sorry to leave Jessica behind, a touching sympathy we don't
often see among his fellow Venecians (or is he just mocking her?).
Anyway, I wanted to ask how he is handled in performance as well as how
instructors deal with him in class.  (In case you hadn't guessed, I am
currently teaching the play in my Shakespeare course).

Lysbeth Em Benkert
Northern State University

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jesus Cora <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 Feb 1998 19:23:41 +0100
Subject:        Q: Is Portia racist?

Dear SHAKSPEReans,

I'm currently discussing _MoV_ with my fourth-year students and we have
focused on Portia's words on the Prince of Morocco: "if he have the
condition of a saint, and the complexion of a devil, I had rather he
should shrive me than wive me." (1. 2. 123-4). Some students interpret
this remark as downright racist. I have played the devil's advocate and
have told them that she is simply stating her preferences as regards a
mate or husband, that, after all, she admits that the Prince of Morocco
can have very good "inner" characteristics, but his outside will not
please her if he happens to belong to a different race. Thus, I asked
them if she can be considered racist because she does not like the idea
of having a member of another race for a husband or if these words are
part of her self-assertion, part of her will to be independent, but not
a discriminatory remark. We could not really agree on this point.

I'm afraid I need some feedback from, as I guess, a multicultural,
multiracial discussion list. What are your views?

Yours,
J. Cora.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Barrett Fisher <
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Date:           Thursday, 26 Feb 1998 09:47:14 -0500
Subject:        Merchant of Venice Clarification

A very small clarification is requested.  After nearly ten years of
teaching "The Merchant of Venice," I finally paid closer attention to
Solanio's introduction of Bassanio et al.:  "Here comes Bassanio, your
most noble kinsman, Gratiano, and Lorenzo."  I have four questions,
then:

1. To which of the two characters does "your most noble kinsman" refer?

2. Is this reference as ambiguous to Shakespeare (and his audience) as
it is to me?  On a "natural" reading I would assume that Bassanio is
being described, but the play emphasizes his friendship with Antonio; I
don't remember other indications of consanguinity (though I admit I
haven't yet reread the entire play).

3. What kind of relationships does "kinsman" include?  The OED suggests,
logically enough, that this is a relationship by blood and/or marriage.

4. If this relationship doesn't matter (i.e., Shakespeare doesn't seem
to capitalize on it in the rest of the play, though I may be forgetting
other lines), why is it used in introducing the character (with the
attendant ambiguity)?

I hope such nit-picking appeals to a few of you!

Barrett Fisher
Department of English
Bethel College (MN)
 

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