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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: April ::
Re: the Merchant and Allegory
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0655  Sunday, 11 April 1999.

From:           Brian Haylett <
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Date:           Saturday, 10 Apr 1999 11:54:08 +0100
Subject:        Re: the Merchant and Allegory

Clifford Stetner writes: 'My interpretation asserts that, in this play
at least, Shakespeare followed the four level scheme of medieval
exegesis, and that the traditional device of combining folk tales into
coherent narratives is here imbued with literal, allegorical,
tropological, and anagogical meanings. '

Although Clifford refers us to the casket sequence, I still find his
argument that all four levels are relevant to be a bit arid without
detailed illustration. This list probably does not have room for such an
explanation,but it would be convincing if the claim should be shown to
solve something.

I have just been rereading, after many years, Harold Goddard on this
play and, although his explication does not convince me as his excellent
chapters on the Henry plays do, he does keep up a consistent
illustration from the text throughout. As far as the caskets go, he
feels they are metaphors of characters in the play, and matches them as
follows:

Gold casket: Bassanio (all outward appearance with no substance), but
also Portia!

Silver casket: Antonio

Lead casket: Shylock (he believes him to have been trying to make
friends with these Venetians who so mistreat him, and to have been
dreadfully treated by Portia. Getting close to Moira Russell here?)

One does not have to agree in detail to find the principle of a
casket-character parallel worth pursuing. I am not personally worried
what label is put on any kind of criticism as long as it can say 'In
this scene, X is to be explained by Y and relates to the overall
structure thus ...'
 

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