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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: September ::
Re: Review of Shylock's Daughter
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1685  Monday, 4 September 2000.

[1]     From:   Sophie Masson <
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        Date:   Sunday, 3 Sep 2000 07:36:15 +1000
        Subj:   Other Reviews of Shylock's Daughter

[2]     From:   Florence Amit <
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        Date:   Sunday, 3 Sep 2000 02:42:33 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re. Review of Shylock's Daughter


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sophie Masson <
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Date:           Sunday, 3 Sep 2000 07:36:15 +1000
Subject:        Other Reviews of Shylock's Daughter

As well as my review, there are others of this book now up at Achuka's
site. The address is http://www.achuka.co.uk/special/shylockind.htm

Sophie Masson
Author site: http://members.xoom.com/sophiecastel/default.htm

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Florence Amit <
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Date:           Sunday, 3 Sep 2000 02:42:33 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        Re. Review of Shylock's Daughter

E.M. Forster in a little booklet about the structure of the novel
describes how he became attached, in his early youth to what later he
could assess to be a novel of comparative inferiority. I think it was by
Walter Scott. He confesses that nothing can attack that early union of
exposure with innocence, that later, a more reasoned understanding of
great art, would have placed at a much lower rank. I must deal with
something similar when I say to Sophie Masson (and most of you) that
despite her real sensitivity to the character, her comprehension is
still short of the reality. She again opens the silver casket of
interpretation for "The Merchant of Venice" and has gotten what had been
prepared for her there, a bogeyman fantasy that is far less than the art
to be seen and employed if she could have but opted for the lead
interpretation.

I wrote this originally for the defunct "Shakespeare Web" in answer to
Iago (Richard Perloff). Here it is somewhat amended.

There are just four Shylocks to choose from: No.1, [described by
research into the stereotype] is the invention of religious bigots and
its predecessor became an embarrassment to Marlowe's memory. For No. 2
we have the romantically, evolved Shylock whose animosity critics
'understand'. The problem here which is precisely what those
true-to-life critics would have wanted to avoid, is that by  witnessing
how Shylock must act out such feelings they lose the essence of a real,
believing Jew living at a perilous [but not lethal] time. It becomes a
hopeless fiction and we have moved further away from the truth even than
in the first characterization. There at least, no one is kidding
himself. Number 3 is to consider Shylock as something shocking , a real
Satan come from hell. (It is how Yehuda Schoenfeld defended researches
he made into Shakespeare's Hebrew. He supposed that Shakespeare had
copied out an ancient story.) This has the advantage of taking the onus
away from a Jewish man and allowing all of us to regard the bond as it
is without apology, as something cruel and unnatural. The problem here
is that not only is it a very untypical characterization for
Shakespeare, it does seem like a variation of No 1 which it could easily
become. Also there are too many details that do not correspond to Satan.
Such as where has the real Shylock disappeared to, the one who had
raised Jessica ? Or how is it that Satan remembers Shylock's wife so
fondly? Or why did Launcelet stay with Satan for such a long time? There
remains No.4, the Shylock that I am proposing, the one of deception
where Shylock takes on the Satanic role of absurd expectations,  so that
he may make a move and gain an admission,  where he will naturally fail.
Thus he just may avert an immediate calamity over which, under ordinary
circumstances, he would have had no control. That is the Shylock I
choose because it is the only one that can be a Jew and yet be seen to
act as no Jew would.  Also you will agree, a play within a play is not
unusual Shakespeare.

I had thought that I had actually covered all possibilities until I saw
an interview of the Israeli director Efrati on Israeli television ("A
New Evening" moderated by Dan Margolit) and then another one of Anthony
Sher on the "BBC" by Tim Sebastion. Later there was a literary
discussion on Holocaust Day in Hebrew conducted by an Israeli author,
using the same perspective. All these show a radicalization of type two
Shylock They take up the cause of Shylock no 2 with an added element of
violence and hysteria that 'removes the play forever from its comical
conclusion' comments Richard Perloff. In other words Jewish artists try
to justify a crazy Shylock, according to recollections of the Shoah. I
wish to tell them that Shylock need not be crazy. He is not revengeful,
not blood thirsty, not anything that the Gentile majority culture thinks
he should or can be. A Jew should concentrate on finding out what is
authentic to him in the play instead of reacting to libels and
falsities.  Shylock  is very sane and good, using his dying moments, all
alone to face the mob in a guise that is bound to insight them. He does
this in order to guarantee continuity for his progeny.

Of course it is true that even in a correct reading Shylock remains
important - but his importance is of a very particular kind. He is
catalyst, sphinx and touchstone. Through him you will know yourself. As
my friend, Victor Ferreira  assesses according to the physical reality
speech of Shylock, (who finishes off with a return to unreality and his
role, by saying, "May not a Jew revenge? The answer of course being,
NO.) that Shylock underneath his masquerade is a real person, while the
others who have a social presence, are playing a part. It is something
like the condition of Oedipus at Colonus. Such is Shakespeare's
capability. However Antonio is the receiver of the action. Shakespeare
choose the right title for his play.

Recently I answered queries about my reading to Bruce Small by e-mail.
Hardy Cook still has part one of an essay I wrote for the forum. Part
two needs Hebrew characters. I now recall the essay and ask a very
respected member of the forum, John Drakakis to bear with me until I
make a home page.  I no longer feel that I can slug it out on line. If
there are any who would like to take part in this endeavor with me -
please contact me. In particularly I welcome Hebrew speakers to check on
me for some crucial transcriptions in the play.

I still look forward to the time that when a Jew is invoked in
literature, even if he be unpleasant, that it be a true to life
character and not the continuance of an absurd libel. The same let it be
true for his daughter. I think that the book as described is naughty.

Florence Amit
 

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