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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: March ::
Re: Lancelot GOBBO; Anti-Semitism
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0204  Tuesday, 10 March 1998.

[1]     From:   Chris Stroffolino <
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        Date:   Monday, 9 Mar 1998 11:30:30 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0200  Re: Lancelot GOBBO

[2]     From:   Stevie Simkin <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Mar 1998 09:42:49 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0200  Re: Anti-Semitism


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Stroffolino <
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Date:           Monday, 9 Mar 1998 11:30:30 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 9.0200  Re: Lancelot GOBBO
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0200  Re: Lancelot GOBBO

I would like to reply to Clifford Stetner's comments about Launce Gobbo.

I cannot accept the reading that young Gobbo is to be taken seriously
and un-ironically as siding with Bassanio over Shylock. Rather, the
conflict he expresses (and perhaps 'embodies") is so clearly set in less
anti-Semitic terms and is expressed in terms of practical, pragmatic
rather than moral terms. His psychomachia in which he claims the "fiend
gives the more friendly" advice contrasts the words "good" and "honest".
Shylock is "honest" but Bassanio is "good" (for gobbo) and considering
the earlier play on "good" in this play (Shylock's "Antonio is a GOOD
man"), and the way the word "good" also has economic and pragmatic
meanings (whereas the word honest does not), it clearly suggests that
Gobbo is not MORAL, and perhaps this reflects on other, "more serious"
characters deflection from Shylock (Jessica, for instance), and can
comment on the actions of Bassanio and Antonio in negative ways that
Portia, I believe, is able to expose in the ring trick (but I'm getting
ahead of myself here). I've written a 50 page chapter of my dissertation
on this, and though I have no website if anybody wants to send me a 8
X11 SASE I would be glad to send
it.-------------------------------------------------------------

Anyway, Gobbo's defection to Bassanio hilariously comments on Bassanio,
and later on Lorenzo ("will raise the price of hogs" but in more complex
ways too). Chris Stroffolino

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stevie Simkin <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 10 Mar 1998 09:42:49 -0000
Subject: 9.0200  Re: Anti-Semitism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0200  Re: Anti-Semitism

Thanks to Ira Abrams for an enlightening contribution to the
anti-Semitism debate

I agree that the desire to "make some sort of absolute statement about
Merchant and Jews, or about Shakespeare's Shrew and Women ... may not be
possible," since it is so difficult to recover an early modern mindset,
so different from our own.  The one point I wold take issue with is the
idea that to advance  the "idealist's position that everything should
promote the progress of universal non-discrimination and other values we
cherish"  means necessarily " ignor[ing] the particular conditions in
which works of art originate, are reproduced and are received."  I think
we can take account of the latter while recognizing that part of the
task in hand when reviving the plays today (or reading and discussing
them)  is to confront (and not ignore and so often by default celebrate)
those aspects of the texts we would today find repugnant.

On this long-running but I think still good-humoured debate with Larry
Weiss,  I'm not sure what the objection to the apparently loaded word[s]
"post-colonial" is, since this is a familiar  term in the academy (n'est
ce pas?).  And on subjecting work by minorities to "the same rigorous
analyses which he [i.e. me!] would be the first to apply to DWEM
authors", I'd continue to play devil's advocate here and ask what is the
basis of that rigorous analysis, and who invents the terms in which the
analysis is framed?  Unless we understand who is determining the
criteria (after all, we're not assuming they are imparted from on high
on tablets of stone), we cannot judge the rigour (or lack of it) of said
analysis.

And on Olivier's Othello, it would seem to me that addressing the
portrayal via (post-) colonialism,  is an appropriate approach rather
than a " particularly loaded and unfair concept in this context",
particularly in the light of Olivier's discourse:  I am actually more
interested in the way he, as Hodgson writes, "confirms an absolute
fidelity to white stereotypes of blackness and to the fantasies,
cultural as well as theatrical, that such stereotypes engender".  Look
again at my previous post quoting Hodgson quoting Olivier (!) and you
will see what she means, I think.

"Suggesting that Olivier was disqualified by his race from playing
Othello" is a point of view that some would maintain. I would be
interested to know if there is anyone out there who thinks he should
have been.  For myself I will be honest and say the little men and women
of the jury in my head are still out on this one.  If that seems like a
cop out, maybe it is, but I am genuinely interested in this, still
working it through,  and would welcome some perspectives from someone
who doesn't have my WEM background.

Stevie Simkin

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