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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: April ::
Re: Tragic Hero
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0841  Monday, 16 April 2001

[1]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Apr 2001 09:16:01 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0826 Re: Tragic Hero

[2]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Apr 2001 13:12:48 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0826 Re: Tragic Hero

[3]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Apr 2001 09:39:48 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0826 Re: Tragic Hero

[4]     From:   Brian Haylett <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Apr 2001 19:31:54 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0826 Re: Tragic Hero

[5]     From:   Takashi Kozuka <
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Apr 2001 22:39:45
        Subj:   Re: Tragic Hero

[6]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Friday, 13 Apr 2001 15:11:34 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0826 Re: Tragic Hero

[7]     From:   Judith M. Craig <
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        Date:   Monday, 16 Apr 2001 08:38:51 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0826 Re: Tragic Hero


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Apr 2001 09:16:01 -0700
Subject: 12.0826 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0826 Re: Tragic Hero

In considering Shakespeare's attitude towards Shylock and his purposes
in dramatizing him as he did, it might be well to consider that the
Protestant reformers regarded themselves to a great extent as the
inheritors of the legacy of the original Jews of the Old Testament, a
return to basics after the excesses of Rome. This was the beginning of
what would become a sense of connection with the Old Testament Jews
themselves, obdurate, chosen, beleaguered, not at all against lending
money at interest, family centered, fond of wearing black, etc., that
has lasted to the present day. The Protestant Reformers would quote OT
scripture at the drop of a hat. We tend to consider only the imaginative
literature published during that time, but it actually represents a very
small percentage of the books and pamphlets published, both original and
translations, most of which were Protestant sermons.

Despite the fact (or what I see as a fact) that Shakespeare was one of
the ultimate products of the English Protestant Reformation, he did not
like the Puritans, who were, on occasion, likened to Jews by their
enemies. It may be that with Shylock, Shakespeare is not so much bashing
Jews as bashing Puritans by equating them with Jews, the traditional
scapegoats of Christian society, whose putative faults had been imbibed
by his audience with their mother's milk. After all, to the English of
the late sixteenth century, Jews could hardly be seen as any sort of
threat to the stability of their society, whereas Puritans were
frequently seen by defenders of the status quo as a major threat.

Stephanie Hughes

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Apr 2001 13:12:48 -0400
Subject: 12.0826 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0826 Re: Tragic Hero

> I wonder if anyone attending this thread has read the 1936 dissertation
> by Mark Edwin Andrews, "Law versus Equity in 'The Merchant of Venice.'",
> published in 1965. He presents a strong case for the author's intention
> to influence the argument, which was gathering in intensity in the late
> 90s and early 1600s, over which court had precedence over the other,
> Equity or Common Law.

I had a lovely boxed copy of this little book (which I think was
originally a masters thesis) but made the mistake of lending it to an
academic about 25 years ago.  If anyone knows where it is I would love
to have it back.

Actually, I don't recall the thesis as being that M/V was written to
influence the trend of the law. And I do not believe it did or could do
so.  As I recall (perhaps inexactly), the student who wrote the piece
thought that M/V was a rough dramatization of an issue in significant
recent Chancery decision.  However, later scholarship disclosed that the
case in question was decided about two years after the play was written.

> He shows that Lord Chancellor Bacon (to whom the
> question was ultimately sent, by James, I believe) for decision,
> actually quoted MOV.

Do you have the citation.  AER would be best.  I believe, though, that
the case was decided in about 1598, before James (who I do not believe
could have referred a civil dispute to a particular court or judge, even
then)

>According to Andrews, the play has been frequently quoted over the years in
>legal cases as though it were in fact a
>legal document.

That Portia's "mercy" speech has been quoted frequently by judges
attempting to demonstrate erudition I do not doubt; but if it has been
relied on as authority I would like to have the citations.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Apr 2001 09:39:48 -0700
Subject: 12.0826 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0826 Re: Tragic Hero

David Bishop writes:

>Bassanio gives away his ring, under duress, in gratitude for the saving
>of Antonio's life. This most overt moment of tension between the demands
>of his love for his wife and his love for his friend is earlier more
>subliminally reflected in Antonio's sadness, which I take it is sadness
>at losing Bassanio to Portia.

Antonio might be "in love", but he can't be sad about losing Bassanio to
Portia at this point, since he doesn't know about her until some lines
later.

>Under the pressure of Antonio's imminent death, a pressure intensified
>by his gratitude and responsibility for the bond, Bassanio says he'd
>sacrifice his wife--along with "life itself" and "all the world"--to
>save Antonio. Portia takes critical note of this vow.

We might also note that Portia elicits this claim, by first asking
Antonio "You, merchant, have you anything to say?"  This gives Antonio
the chance to make a very self-sacrificial speech, followed by
Bassanio's claim that he would sacrifice his wife.

>Bassanio and Gratiano then have to be stretched on the rack a bit before
>being given back the rings. Sacred as those rings were, and as the bonds
>of marriage are, they don't cancel all other bonds and obligations.
>However sacred, a ring is still only a hoop of metal. To make holding
>onto it an absolute requirement would confuse the human bond of love
>with a material object. To deny Bassanio's feelings for Antonio,
>especially in that situation, would be inhuman to the point of madness.

I don't quite agree.  Bassanio's love for Antonio is reintegrated, but
as a further surety on the ring.  If anything, the ring has been given
even more importance, and the consequences of losing them in terms of
cuckoldry made even more explicit.  The logic of material exchange
comes, in the end, to include love.

Cheers,
Se

 

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