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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: March ::
Re: The Will; R2 Audio; Editions; Anti-Semitism
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0242  Monday, 23 March 1998.

[1]     From:   Steve Sohmer <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 18 Mar 1998 09:44:26 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0225  Re: Caesar's Will

[2]     From:   Alan Somerset <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 18 Mar 1998 10:44:21 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Richard II Audio Recording

[3]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 18 Mar 1998 08:44:13 -0800
        Subj:   SHK 9.0235  Re: Editions

[4]     From:   Ira Abrams <
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        Date:   Friday, 20 Mar 1998 13:21:08 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 9.0228  Re: Anti-Semitism

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Sohmer <
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Date:           Wednesday, 18 Mar 1998 09:44:26 EST
Subject: 9.0225  Re: Caesar's Will
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0225  Re: Caesar's Will

I think Karen Kross is quite correct when she suggests Antony does not
have Caesar's will in hand when he delivers his eulogy based on Antony's
instructions to Lepidus in 41.: "go you to Caesars house:  Fetch the
Will hither, and we shall determine How to cut off some charge in
Legacies." The new triumvirs did misdirect Caesar's estates.
Intriguingly, Lepidus appears at the table as the Pontifex Maximus of
Rome ... perhaps in the regalia Caesar wore when he entered on the
Lupercal in 1.2. Lepidus as chief priest explains what Antony means when
he characterizes him as "A barren spirited Fellow; one that feeds On
Objects, Arts, and Imitations. Which out of use, and stal'de by other
men Begin his fashion."

Steve Sohmer

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alan Somerset <
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Date:           Wednesday, 18 Mar 1998 10:44:21 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Richard II Audio Recording

I have a three-record long-play vinyl recording of the play, issued by
Caedmon Records for the Shakespeare Recording Society.  Features John
Geilgud, Keith Michell and Leo McKern.  There is no date to be found
anywhere in the package, but the Caedmon catalogue number is SRS M-216;
on each record occurs the note, "Performance and reproduction rights
information available from the Shakespeare Recording Society, Inc., 461
8th Ave, New York.

Alan Somerset

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Wednesday, 18 Mar 1998 08:44:13 -0800
Subject: Re: Editions
Comment:        SHK 9.0235  Re: Editions

Well, I'm wrong again.  I thought Christine Gilmore would be deluged
with responses recommending the review of the three textbook
Shakespeare's in the most recent Shakespeare Quarterly.  That is why I
didn't write sooner, so please forgive this tardy response.  For all who
missed it, the winter 1997 issue, vol. 48, #4, has a lengthy and
informative consideration of the relative merits and demerits of the
Bevington, Riverside and Norton texts.  It was written by Martha Tuck
Rozett who did a fine job.

Cheers,
Mike Jensen

[Editor's Note: For the Table of Contents column of *The Shakespeare
Newsletter*, I reviewed the Riverside in 46.3: 67 (Fall 1996) and the
Bevington and Norton in 47.1: 21-22 (Spring 1997).  HMC]

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ira Abrams <
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Date:           Friday, 20 Mar 1998 13:21:08 -0500
Subject: Re: Anti-Semitism
Comment:        SHK 9.0228  Re: Anti-Semitism

Stevie Simkin writes, responding to me on MV:

>I am not arguing that MV is a play
>about anti-Semitism.  I never said that I would wish to reduce the play
>to "the persecution of Shylock", in Ben Schneider's words.  I simply
>drew attention to the fact that we have to recognise the difficulties
>inherent in reviving a text that emerges from an anti-Semitic society
>such as Elizabethan England.

Suppose that MV is, as you acknowledge, <<not...a play about
anti-semitism>>... then it would seem to follow that to focus upon the
anti-semitism of the play is from the outset to preclude figuring out
what it REALLY IS about (leaving aside the possibly prohibitive problem
of whether plays can be said to be <<about>> anything).  You cannot have
it both ways.  Either you acknowledge that you are interposing  your
post-Holocaust idea of anti-semitism (not an Elizabethan term, mind you)
between yourself (or your audience) and the play, or you acknowledge
that you believe the play is really about anti-semitism.  Marilyn
Bonomi's offensive "bemusement" aside, it is clear that Shakespeare
could imagine villains who were not Jews-just as he could imagine Jews
who were not villains (i.e., Jessica).  To blind oneself to the general,
non-essentially-Jewish aspects of Shylock's character in order to be
able to talk about anti-semitism via the play is neither to talk about
the play nor about Elizabethan anti-semitism.  Moreover, once we try to
separate out the particularly Jewish from the generally villainous in
Shylock-or, for that matter, in the Christians in the play-then our
anti-semtism-oriented readings fall apart.

James Shapiro's book does not clarify the problem because it proceeds
from the same faulty assumption-that establishing some links between
Shakespeare's Jew and the Jew of the Elizabethan mindset (a phrase I am
glad to see you have dropped) is enough of a basis for approaching MV as
Shakespeare's Jew-play.  If we can assume that people such as Marilyn
Bonomi represent a somewhat aggressive form of the common opinion
concerning this play, then it seems to me high time to raise the
question whether we are not heading in the wrong direction, whether it
might not be worth trying-perhaps it could not succeed in the US or
UK-to produce MV as if it were not primarily a reflection,
refraction-whatever optical term you wish to use here-of attitudes
toward Jews.  I realize the apparent preposterousness of this suggestion
at this time, but it seems to me that MV is in the deadly grip of a
narrow set of concerns circling around the anti-semitism hypothesis and
it is only a matter of time before the play breaks free of these
constraints.

On another point:

>we have to acknowledge the sensitivity of the issue of
>its anti-Semitism - many Jews do find the play offensive; an article in
>the UK national newspaper today reveals results of a survey that
>indicates teachers across the globe are dropping it from their curricula
>because they believe it to be anti-Semitic.

Having read the material concerning the Globe survey in Chantal Schutz's
very handy message, I think you have made an incorrect interpretation of
the results.  Nothing in the survey that I could see suggests that
"teachers across the globe are dropping [MV] from their curricula.  All
we know is that there are a lot of people who think it should be taught
and a lot fewer who do not teach it.  But I think Sophocles should be
taught in the original Greek, only I do not teach it myself because I do
not read Greek.  There is no marginally scientific basis (as they say in
sociology) for concluding what you say.  The survey was clearly not
designed to produce results regarding this question.  There is no
historical comparison-to determine whether it was once taught more-there
is no direct question as to whether one would be willing to teach MV...
altogether an uninformative survey for our purposes.

Ira Abrams
 

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