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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: September ::
Re: Globe Merchant
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0820  Wednesday, 9 September 1998.

[1]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 8 Sep 1998 15:11:22 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0815  Globe Merchant

[2]     From:   Penelope Rixon <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 8 Sep 1998 16:48:55 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0815  Globe Merchant

[3]     From:   Mike Sirofchuck <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 8 Sep 1998 09:21:44 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0815  Globe Merchant

[4]     From:   Frances K. Barasch <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 8 Sep 1998 18:38:25 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0815  Globe Merchant

[5]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 08 Sep 1998 19:58:26 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0815  Globe Merchant


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Tuesday, 8 Sep 1998 15:11:22 -0400
Subject: 9.0815  Globe Merchant
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0815  Globe Merchant

Harvey Roy Greenberg writes

> Despite what some critics have said in mitigation, perceiving a
> tenderness or depth  of spirit that I submit is totally lacking this
> time around, the Globe's Shylock is thoroughly repellant, portrayed as a
> hooknosed vengeful materialist, and the famous "Hath not a Jew...."
> speech is spoken in the spirit of justifying his monomaniacal lust for
> revenge. The audience, by no means all British, many tourists from a
> variety of countries, hooted him, and applauded the Venetians in general
> and "The quality of mercy is not strained..." in particular. They got
> thoroughly in the spirit of the thing- which reportedly is par for the
> course in other Globe villain/hero scenarios.

Exactly. For several years the Globe's has had spokespersons telling
people to come and cheer or hiss during the performance. The binary
responses to H5 were bad enough, but in MV this treatment clearly rides
roughshod over the subtlety of the thing.

That said, I don't think Northrup Kentrup intends his Shylock to seem
like a "hooknosed vengeful materialist". Wasn't the problem really that
the subtlety of the show was lost on the pre-conditioned audience?

Gabriel Egan

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Penelope Rixon <
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Date:           Tuesday, 8 Sep 1998 16:48:55 -0000
Subject: 9.0815  Globe Merchant
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0815  Globe Merchant

Harvey:

I found the performance very disturbing, for precisely the reasons you
mention.  In fact, I left at the interval, not only because of the tinge
of anti-Semitism, but because I found the whole production depressingly
vulgar and crude.  As some of the postings during the summer have
lamented, the relentless we-must-involve-the-audience ethic that reigns
at the Globe is flattening and simplifying much of the work done there.
I suspect also that the management failed to realise that the booing &
hissing which was merely irritating in last year's Henry V had far more
sinister overtones in the case of a play as sensitive as The Merchant.

Penny Rixon

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Sirofchuck <
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Date:           Tuesday, 8 Sep 1998 09:21:44 -0800
Subject: 9.0815  Globe Merchant
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0815  Globe Merchant

I agree with Harvey Roy Greenberg's assessment of the Globe production
of TMOV this past summer. The Globe's Shylock is thoroughly repellant,
portrayed as a "hooknosed vengeful materialist." I was one of those
tourists hooting, hollering, cheering and booing - it is, after all, a
"comedy".  It was clear to me that this Shylock was meant to be a
caricatured, stereotypical Jew from the physical features (big nose,
etc) to his accent.  Does this diminish the anti-Semitism?  No - in fact
it may make it even more subversive.  But, I enjoyed the hell out of the
show (the Globe experience was not a "play" - it was a show in the sense
of continuous and varied entertainments) and I do not find myself
thinking anti-Semitic thoughts or any more or less prejudiced against
Jews than before I went into the theatre.  It's always a shock when we
discover that writers we revere have human frailties.

Mike Sirofchuck
Kodiak High School

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frances K. Barasch <
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Date:           Tuesday, 8 Sep 1998 18:38:25 EDT
Subject: 9.0815  Globe Merchant
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0815  Globe Merchant

For H.R. Greenberg: the last Shylock I saw in London was Dustin
Hoffman's who took a lot of spit in his face in the course of the play.
This among other cruelties of Christians mitigated Shylock's villainy by
showing his enemies as not much better.  That may be a way to go.  At
any rate, Hoffman's interpretation didn't rankle me as much as
Shakespeare's text itself.

Frances K. Barasch

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Tuesday, 08 Sep 1998 19:58:26 -0700
Subject: 9.0815  Globe Merchant
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0815  Globe Merchant

> Again, I would appreciate reactions, opinions, et cetera. I know this is
> very old territory, and we have heard all the arguments pro and con the
> status of Shylock's goodness or badness before, but this was a very new
> and fresh experience.
>
> Thanks
> Harvey Roy Greenberg, MD

Dear Harvey Greenberg,

I am one who agrees with A.L. Rowse that the Dark Lady of the Sonnets
was Amelia Bassano Lanier, daughter of one of Elizabeth's Court
musicians. There has been a good deal of research done on the Bassano
family by music historians, as they were the largest single group of
Court musicians, occupying well over half the seats in Elizabeth's
consorts. Recent work by David Lasocki, Roger Prior and others shows
that the Bassanos came to England to work at the Court of Henry VIII,
stayed, multiplied, and prospered at the English Court until the Civil
War.

The Bassanos came to London from the town of Basano not far from Venice,
where they worked at the Courts of the Doges as players and quality
instrument makers.  Early in the fifteenth century the family had moved
to Venice from Sicily, where they had gone along with so many other Jews
after the banishment from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella. That the
Bassanos were Sephardic Jews is shown, not only by their movements from
place to place, following the general route of migration of many
banished Jews, but also by their crest, three moths and a mulberry tree,
signifying the production of silk, the chief occupation of the Jews in
Sicily after they left Spain. The Jews faced a good deal of persecution
in Venice (where the first "ghetto" was built, both to contain them and
to protect them from the Venetians), which is no doubt partly why the
Bassanos took up the English King's offer of a place at his Court. No
doubt they had to convert to Protestantism, as Jews were not allowed
into England otherwise.

Amelia Lanier is known today as the first woman to publish a book of
poems of her own composition under her own name in England, and it's
pretty darned good poetry, too. She shows a delightful awareness of
herself, as a poet, a person, and a woman. After the death of her father
she was raised in an aristocratic household, and at some point in her
teenage years, became the mistress of Henry Hunsdon, the Lord
Chamberlain, the patron of Shakespeare's acting company. References to
her in the notebooks of Simon Forman, the astrologer, reveal a person of
great physical attractions.

I believe that the frequent use of the name Antonio and Amelia in
Shakespeare's plays shows Shakespeare's strong connection with this
undoubtedly highly educated and cultured family. Antonio Bassano was
Amelia's uncle, clearly during his maturity the patriarch of the family,
as he had seven children, five or so becoming court musicians.

I believe that Merchant of Venice was Shakespeare's way of dealing with
his conflicted feelings about Jews. There was the prejudice bred into
his entire culture by centuries of Christian anti-Semitism, and there
was the reality of the cultured, Italianate, musically gifted,
physically attractive people that were his friends and with whom he
worked to produce his plays. MOV also includes a passionate defense of
music. There's more to the story. If you're interested, you can post me
privately.

Stephanie Hughes
 

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