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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: March ::
Re: Anti-Semitism
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0258  Thursday, 26 March 1998.

[1]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Mar 1998 07:36:10 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0254  Re: Anti-Semitism

[2]     From:   Geralyn Horton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Mar 1998 11:54:52 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0254  Re: Anti-Semitism

[3]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Mar 1998 15:22:33 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0254 Anti-Semitism


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 Mar 1998 07:36:10 EST
Subject: 9.0254  Re: Anti-Semitism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0254  Re: Anti-Semitism

I agree with Jacob, and see Jessica as a foil for Shylock, veiled,
perhaps, because, like Huck Finn, she follows the prevailing "party
line."  But Huck believes differently, no matter what he says, and his
actions show it.  (Yes, of course Shakespeare could be demonstrating the
lack of "real" faith among the Jews, but I don't think that is the
point.  Shylock is nothing if not sincere, and he is contemned by the
very people who do not hesitate to ask his help while they ridicule him
for being what they have made him: a money-lender, the only occupation a
Jew was legally entitled to pursue during Shakespeare's lifetime.)  That
the Christians who preach "love thy neighbor as thyself" rob him of
everything, not only his daughter, his ducats, but his human dignity and
even his wife's ring, is a telling fact, in my estimation, and goes
toward demonstrating their hypocrisy, no matter how good or noble they
otherwise are-"white Sepulchres," to use Milton's terminology.  They are
at least as much at fault as he is for what there is about him that they
despise: had he not demanded the pound of flesh (overreaching in his
torment), he would be a much more problematic "villain," and the
polyvocalities of this play would be much easier to perceive.  This
would not have been the kind of thing Shakespeare could say overtly, but
it's perceptibly there.  I have always seen MofV as another one of the
problem plays, accordingly.

Carol Barton
Department of English
Averett College - Northern Virginia Campus

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Geralyn Horton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 Mar 1998 11:54:52 -0500
Subject: 9.0254  Re: Anti-Semitism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0254  Re: Anti-Semitism

What evidence do you see that Shylock loved his daughter? He seems to
have treated her as a possession/prisoner, and in romances daughters who
are treated so are generally allowed to escape to a handsome husband and
live happily ever after.

We do have reason to believe that Shylock loved his wife Leah, but
obviously he never communicated those tender feelings to her daughter.
Isn't Tubal a virtuous and dignified character?

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 Mar 1998 15:22:33 -0500
Subject: 9.0254 Anti-Semitism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0254 Anti-Semitism

>It may be <clear> that Shakespeare could imagine Jews who were not
>villains, but, surely, Jessica is not an example of that.  Consider, she
>lies to her father who has loved her and raised her since her mother's
>death - and she robs him with great glee.

Alfred Harbage used to identify Shylock as a "heavy father," and say
that in Shakespeare's comedies heavy fathers may be disobeyed with
impunity.  Egeus is an example.  I realize that it is now the custom to
see Jessica as a villain.  But perhaps we can cut her some slack.
Antonio has given Shylock very good reason for not welcoming a Christian
suitor for his daughter, and if Jessica wants to marry Lorenzo, perhaps
she does have to take matters into her own hands. And, yes, the two kids
(I take them as very young lovers) are improvident and blow all the
money on their honeymoon.  I realize that they should have considered
investing wisely in blue chip stocks, but they're young and they don't.
And, yes, Jessica and Lorenzo are dirty, rotten scoundrels.  But maybe
some auditors really don't mind when the scoundrels get away with the
cash, and maybe some auditors don't think that the marriage of Jessica
and Lorenzo is doomed to failure.

Leah may not be Shylock's wife.  She is not so identified in the text,
only in the footnotes.

Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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