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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: April ::
Re: Callous Cash Payment Values
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0816  Tuesday, 10 April 2001

[1]     From:   Florence Amit <
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        Date:   Monday, 9 Apr 2001 12:28:56 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0765 Re: Callous Cash Payment Values

[2]     From:   Florence Amit <
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        Date:   Monday, 9 Apr 2001 22:36:22 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0765 Re: Callous Cash Payment Values


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Florence Amit <
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Date:           Monday, 9 Apr 2001 12:28:56 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.0765 Re: Callous Cash Payment Values
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0765 Re: Callous Cash Payment Values

Unlike another thread that is running with this, I do not see Shylock as
a figure of tragedy but rather as Shakespeare indicated: he features in
a comedy - specifically a satire. His condition is sad - for death is
not happy, but regarding the outcome of his endeavors: he will die
"content". For it was not to win the absurd  suit which spectators are
all too willing to believe in, but to have the value of his out of
ghetto property settled upon his heirs - that was his aim. By means of a
limited deception and with the help of his friends he gains access to
the state court, where ordinarily he would not have been admitted. He
knew that only by its' authority could he contravene the tax bureaucrats
whom he calls "thieves" that were constantly stalking him and waiting
for the moment of his last breath - as in "Volpone".

By use of a "good man"- of Antonio ,  a condition is created that the
court may not ignore. Antonio must be rescued. But the means employed is
not as anticipated -It is not  the common law against attempted murder,
but a law specific to aliens, that was usually unearthed, surely, as a
means to expropriate their property. It is this which is suggested by
Balathasar.  Thus, she argues, for the benefit of the Duke, undesirable
commercial precedents will not ensue.  However what interests Shylock
and his friends is that the property clause, under the Dukes'
determination will be a basis for a settlement. This is not the place to
describe all of the pressures that are brought to bear on the Duke. He
does not capitulate easily.

Far be it from me to under- rate the intelligence of those Venetians
that Shylock had to deceive .He did not under- rate them and he uses
intellectual powers that he developed by continuous Torah study. The
example describing "Property" that Marcus Dahl quotes mirrors the
weakest of the thirteen hermeneutical rules of Rabbi Ishmael.

You have among you many a purchased slave,
Which like your asses and your dogs and mules,
You use in abject and in slavish parts,
Because you bought them: shall I say to you
Let them be free, marry them to your heirs?
Why sweat under burdens? Let their beds
Be made as soft as yours, and let their palates
Be seasoned with such viands? You will answer,
The slaves are ours: so do I answer you:
The pound of flesh, which I demand of him,
Is dearly bought; 'tis mine and I will have it.

GEZERAH SHAVAH
"Originally, gezerah shavah meant the analogy and comparison of two
equal or similar matters, but later this rule came to refer "not to
analogy of content but to identity of words" (i.e., verbal congruities
in the text, Lieberman, ibid., p. 61), even in the absence of any
connection in content between the two matters.  Some scholars held that
an analogy was not to be drawn from one matter to another by way of a
gezerah shavah unless the term in question was mufneh ("vacant," empty
of content) in either of the matters (Nid. 22b;
Sif. Deut. 249). This mode of interpretation-involving the deduction of
halakhic inferences from analogous words only without regard for
similarity of content between two separate matters-was likely to lead to
comparisons for which there were no logical foundations and to strange
and unusual halakhic conclusions (e.g., TJ, Pes. 6:1). However, this was
avoided by the determination in talmudic tradition of the rule that "no
one may infer by gezerah shavah on his own authority," i.e., this
exegetical rule was to be applied only in cases where a scholar received
a tradition from his teacher that the particular word or phrase might be
interpreted by that method (TJ, Pes. 6:1; Nid. 19b and Rashi thereto;
see also Nahmanides Commentary to Sefer ha-Mitzvot, 2nd
horesh)."[Menachem Elon],"Encyclopedia Judaica"

Shylock knew that the analogy would not stand up to reason from a Jewish
point of view. Indeed the whole matter of the bond is a contradiction to
the fundamental division in Jewish law that exists between monetary and
criminal proceedings and their appropriate penalties. But he allows
these words to prove his deviltry in the matter of the application for
his bond.

When Shylock employs rhetoric that "will catch a fish withal" -the fish
who is the Christian Judge, he may include a long description to which
there can be a consensus and then finishes it off with an absurdity.  So
it is here so it is in the "Hath not a Jew eyes speech that ends with
"and if you wrong us shall we not revenge?" The answer of course is an
emphatic, 'no'. Never can a member of a persecuted minority revenge.

Florence Amit

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Florence Amit <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 9 Apr 2001 22:36:22 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.0765 Re: Callous Cash Payment Values
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0765 Re: Callous Cash Payment Values

Because of Shylock's general outlook for his day in court, I did not
refer to the less practical level of interpretation, that concerns
Marcus Dahl. Shylock could not have overlooked that the body of Antonio
belongs to God and that no one, not even Antonio himself has a right to
any piece of it. Therefore we see that the chief absurdity of the play,
as it parodies the blood libel against Jews, insults their religious
sensibilities. Shakespeare has Shylock say something devilish to his own
ears.

That said, there is the comparison, more valid than I had thought, to
the use put to purchased slaves - whose souls, like that of Antonio's
body, cannot belong to their earthly owner. Shylock is describing the
well known theme of Passover: "Slaves were we in Egypt" that parallels
the condition of Marrano conversos whom the church had purchased yet
would not accept as true Christians. For just as the Jews had to be
removed into Ghettos under the influence of Pope Paul IV, Marranos were
banished from Venice. That is the reason for Lorenzo's "elopement" and
why Shylock describes how he clothed that "purchased slave" and had him
marry his "heir". Jessica is married to a Marrano - a man previously
enslaved by the church, and now in an Ottoman sanctuary where he will
have religious freedom, as mirrored by historical events.

Florence Amit

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