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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: June ::
Re: Chooseth
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0929  Wednesday, 2 June 1999.

[1]     From:   Brian Haylett <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 1 Jun 1999 16:27:11 +0100
        Subj:   Re: Chooseth

[2]     From:   Lawrence Manley <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 1 Jun 1999 15:03:36 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0926 Responses

[3]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 1 Jun 1999 17:10:51 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0912 Various Responses

[4]     From:   John Drakakis <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 2 Jun 1999 10:08:49 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 10.0926 Responses


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Haylett <
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Date:           Tuesday, 1 Jun 1999 16:27:11 +0100
Subject:        Re: Chooseth

Ed Taft says: 'In my view, Brian Haylett idealizes Portia in much the
same way that an earlier generation of critics idealized Henry V and the
Duke in Measure for Measure.'

It is just as well then that I scuffled briefly with Ed a few weeks back
when I was on the side of those who regard Henry as a highly dubious
character. I am not going to slot into any one-answer-fits-all category,
and I am not going to follow Ed into the New Cynicical approach to
Portia, which seems to me an attempt to direct 'Shakespeare Meets
Frasier and Friends'.

What is needed now, I feel, is a revival of Jungian criticism, because
The Merchant is a textbook example. Being a dabbler, I do not know if
Jung ever tackled it himself, but it hardly requires a genius. Antonio
is Ego, and Shylock is his Shadow - the dark possibilities within
Antonio's trade.  Bassanio is his Inferior Function, his risk-taking
aspect, who ventures forth to contact Antonio's Anima, Portia (whose
hidden identification with Antonio was signaled in their near-identical
opening lines). Portia - surrounded by units of three, as Jung predicts
- is won by Bassanio, just as Jung says the Inferior Function is often
the saviour of the Ego. The winning consists of choosing base lead, the
alchemical symbol of the unregenerate self, which allows healing to
begin.

Thus won, Portia/Anima descends into Antonio's world to rescue his body
and subdue his Shadow. Antonio/Ego can then ascend into Portia's
'Belmont' and there begin the final move towards Selfhood by
acknowledging the union of Inferior Function and Anima - by settling
their quarrel - and, in doing so, recognise his own soul. This is
performed by night, which traditionally precedes the moment of
illumination. 'Fair ladies, you drop manna in the way Of starved
people,' says Lorenzo. 'It is almost morning,' responds Portia.

All of which will sound like gibberish to those who do not know
something about Jung, but one cannot compromise. I tried to put it a
different way in my first letter to the group last November or December,
and clearly failed.  Clifford Stetner and I differ greatly about our
readings of this play, but we each offer an integrated approach. Can
someone who prefers Portia as calculating minx please explicate the rest
of their interpretation of the play?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lawrence Manley <
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Date:           Tuesday, 1 Jun 1999 15:03:36 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 10.0926 Responses
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0926 Responses

On Tuesday, 1 Jun 1999, Bill Godshalk wrote:

>Portia lives in Belmont with no
>visible means of support, so we may assume that she has money, and does
>not worry about making it.  But do we assume that her money comes from
>capitalist ventures, or that Belmont is an aristoratic great house and
>her wealth comes from traditional rents and obligations?  Is she buying
>her way into the peerage, or is she already there?

Not an answer to your good question, Bill, and in any case I may have
missed enough of the earlier conversation to be repeating what others
may have observed, but I find it interesting to note the order (and
emphasis?) of the information Bassanio gives to Antonio about Portia:

"In Belmont..."  [great address!]
           "...is a lady..." [right pedigree]
                        "...richly left" [she's got money and it's
HERS!]
"And she is fair..." [fortunately, she's good-looking, too]
                "...and fairer than that word,
Of wondrous virtues."

Thank goodness he includes the last, and perhaps that's where the real
emphasis lies, but certainly in tension with the other principle of
priority in the list.  I take this to be a comment on Bassanio rather
than Portia.  The most damaging reading of Portia I've seen is in Lars
Engle's Shakespeare's Pragamatism.  Following Lenin's advice, Engle (is
there a pattern here?) follows the money in the play and shows Portia to
be its most astute manager.

Larry Manley
Yale University

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Tuesday, 1 Jun 1999 17:10:51 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 10.0912 Various Responses
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0912 Various Responses

Brian Haylett wrote,

<snip>Portia was conceived as something rather
>spiritual ('He that hath ears to hear'), a 'genius' in the Elizabethan
>sense, while fully admitting there are very different sides to her. To
>make her into a racist seems to me more than a little crass, I regret to
>say. OED finds 'complexion' to refer to the humours, disposition, and
>physical constitution in its earliest references. Colour of skin had
>just begun to appear - and does appear in Merchant, 'the shadowed livery
>of the burnished sun'. It does not follow that every Shakespearean usage
>ignores the earlier meanings (which were none of them extinct). Cf
>Winter's Tale I.ii: 'Your changed complexions are to me a mirror Which
>shows me mine changed.'

But wouldn't the meaning of complexion be colored (I couldn't resist) by
the person being alluded to?  A Moroccan prince might be expected to
evoke the newer definition.  I've always taken this comment to be a
reciprocation of Morocco's bad choice of caskets.  As he has chosen on
the basis of complexion (i.e. outward hue (similarly ambiguous, but I
mean the color of gold)) Portia rejects him on the same grounds.

Clifford Stetner
CUNY
www.columbia.edu/~fs10/cds.htm

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Drakakis <
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Date:           Wednesday, 2 Jun 1999 10:08:49 +0100
Subject: 10.0926 Responses
Comment:        RE: SHK 10.0926 Responses

On the Lord Bassanio question you might like to have a look at
Alessandra Marzola's excellent essay in the ESSE journal volume for
December 1998 entitled "Current Shakespeare".

She draws a fascinating distinction between Bassanio as a member of the
aristocracy (hence "Lord") and Antonio who is a "merchant".

Cheers,
John Drakakis
 

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