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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: August ::
Re: Shylock
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1587  Friday, 25 August 2000.

From:           Florence Amit <
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Date:           Friday, 25 Aug 2000 01:16:55 +0000
Subject: 11.1582 Re: Shylock
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1582 Re: Shylock

Mr. Setner provides historical precedents for English drama, and for
Satire, Rightly he cites the example of Ben Jonson.  But much more
specifically there is another source for satire indicated in the
Merchant of Venice.  The surprising reason why it is not mentioned is
simply because we read the play wrongly failing to notice what is before
our eyes. We concentrate upon a Jewish villain, who is the descendant of
a more primitive tradition instead of permitting this lively satire. The
buffoon and butt of the story is not a Jew, but used by Jews. Our
Volpone, our English Pantalone is Antonio the traditional MERCHANT of a
VENETIAN proscribed drama, which is the drama of the Theatre Della Arte.
Thus as the Casket says, we get what we deserve.

When Sophia Masson advertised the book, "Shylock's Daughter", as a
feature for a children's' magazine I read the synopsis in Amazon and
became depressed. I know that only some of you are aware of my corrected
reading for the play. So perhaps it is irrational of me to expect
anything different. But when I thought that yet another generation would
grow up thinking that the remarkably self sacrificing father who is
Shylock would be considered as everything vile and that Jessica, who
takes pains to inform her father of every phase of her journey would yet
be considered a rebellious daughter, escaping from her "infected" home,
I wept. The following is copied from my review in Amazon.

"Shylock's Daughter" by Mirjam Pressler

                        Synopsis
Jessica, the 16-year old daughter of miserly pawnbroker Shylock, feels
trapped by the endless rules of the 16th-century Venetian ghetto, until
she falls for Lorenzo, a handsome and charming aristocrat. But Jessica
is a Jew and Lorenzo a Christian - it is a doomed passion.
                        My Comment
The source is libelous though the story is a tear-jerker

Shakespeare's Jessica is not as she is understood to be by the mundane
public. She is made to be ashamed, not by his father's undisclosed
values, but by the sin of crucifixion that Jews were made to inherit
until Vatican II. The true story of Jessica is not a basis for this
book. If she would have married a Christian there would have been no
reason for the couple to leave Venice. Civil and religious institutions
would have protected them.  Shylock would have had to defend his
position and not they, theirs. Nor would he have prevailed. Further he
had cautioned Jessica to lock the door 'behind' her, when she was to
leave the parental home - with his blessings, like Rachel, daughter of
the mentioned Laban, to a land of refuge, away from the inquisition.
There is much more - but my conclusion is that though there may be a
daughter living under oppression who will elope to escape, the need to
call such an unfortunate girl Shylock's daughter is misleading and
perpetuates a shameful and even disastrous libel. It maintains the
stereotype saying: 'the daughter for conversion the father for the
flames'.  Shakespeare never wanted his purposeful absurdities to be
instilled forever.

Florence Amit
 

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