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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: April ::
Re: Anti-Semitism
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0292  Wednesday, 1 April 1998.

[1]     From:   Alan Dessen <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 31 Mar 1998 08:06:38 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0289  Re: Anti-Semitism

[2]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 31 Mar 1998 09:25:32 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   SHK 9.0280  Anti-Semitism


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alan Dessen <
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Date:           Tuesday, 31 Mar 1998 08:06:38 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 9.0289  Re: Anti-Semitism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0289  Re: Anti-Semitism

In *Eastward Ho* (c. 1605) a figure is directed to enter "leading a
Monkey after her" (so someone thought that such a stage effect was
possible).  What would happen to the debate about
Shylock-Leah-Jessica-turquoise if Jessica entered in 3.2 "leading a
monkey" (and also carrying the 1590s equivalent of designer shopping
bags)?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Tuesday, 31 Mar 1998 09:25:32 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Anti-Semitism
Comment:        SHK 9.0280  Anti-Semitism

Frank Whigham writes, "What Renaissance monkey lore is relevant [to the
question of the turquoise in MV]?" I know I read somewhere years ago
that there was in Shakespeare's time a famous performing monkey whose
name was "Gue," probably pronounced as "Jew." I'm sorry I can't pinpoint
the source any longer, but maybe someone else on the net can.

As for how this bit of information might affect the interpretation of
the play: The turquoise ring is all that Shylock has left of Leah, and
so it represents his wife (Sorry, Bill, the context makes it pretty
clear who Leah is.). By selling the ring for a monkey, Jessica
repudiates her Jewishness and defines it as essentially subhuman. She
wants to fit in and will do whatever it takes to do so. Her only saving
grace is that she probably does not suspect that Shylock will ever find
out what she has done. This play is about a ot of things, not just
Jewishness, but Jewishness is one of the things it is about, and it does
no good to try to evade the issue.

Yours,
Ed Taft
 

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