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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Tragic Hero
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1070  Wednesday, 9 May 2001

[1]     From:   Florence Amit <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 8 May 2001 06:47:12 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1045 Re: Tragic Hero

[2]     From:   Stevie Gamble <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 8 May 2001 19:23:23 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1056 Re: Tragic Hero


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Florence Amit <
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Date:           Tuesday, 8 May 2001 06:47:12 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1045 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1045 Re: Tragic Hero

Please excuse my late intrusion into the discussion on usury. The
comparison of the behavior to any local English money lender real or
presumed, to Shylock is misleading from a knowledgeable person, even if
the thought would have been present in the minds of some boorish members
of the audience. Scholarship should know better. Unlike any locally
generated or foreign, Christian moneylender, Shylock was an unprotected,
stateless person making a livelihood in one of the few occupations
allowed him. Any oversight in his dealings - or dishonesty could lead to
dreadful consequences.  There is the case of the punishment dealt out to
English Jewry that occurred after Jewish lenders turned to the desperate
recourse of chipping coins, after being pushed out of their living. The
community was banished from the Island. Money lending, with all of its
'particular' risks and emotional baggage, was not preferred by European
Jews: they were saddled with it. In other places of Jewish dispersion,
it was not taken up.

"The impact of the First Crusade (1096-99) on the status and livelihood
of the Jews in France, Germany, and England drove [Jews] out of trade
through the lack of security arising from the inimical attitude of
society in general; at the same time, Jewish merchants and craftsmen
were denied any share in the Christian towns and guilds which were
rapidly evolving as the only social framework for trade and crafts in
those countries. This crystallized at a time when European trade,
agriculture, and building were expanding and in need of financing. Ready
cash-which then meant precious metals-was scarce. Available means in
Christian hands were channeled into credit for merchant ventures and
other relatively creative loans, in which it was also easier to
formulate partnerships that evaded the stigma of usury. Under such
circumstances the Church found it easy to act in accordance with the
agricultural ethos of its upper strata, and to insist on the prohibition
of usury.  There remained the field of loans for consumption-the need
for which arose in cases of illness, litigation, and unforeseen
expenses-for which Christian capital was not readily available and where
usury was least avoidable. Deprived of its former uses, Jewish capital
entered this field, as well as granting any other possible loan. Hence
among the Jews of the region between the Pyrenees and Scotland, between
the Atlantic and the Elbe, usury became the main source of livelihood
from about the 12th to the 15th centuries.  They were not the only
people to lend money on interest in that region: there were also the
Cahorsins of southern France, the Catalans, and the Lombards.  But
religious enmity, the social separateness of the Jews, and their hateful
image, combined to identify Jew with usurer in the western Christian
imagination. "Jewish lenders (as all Jews) were at the disposal and
caprise of local princes and Prelates, "King Henry III of England
formulated with Christian candor in 1253", "that no Jew remain in
England unless he do the King service, and that from the hour of birth
every Jew, whether male or female, serve Us in some way" (in his
Mandatum Regis; Select Pleas, Starrs... of the Exchequer of the Jews,
"HISTORY: THE MIDDLE AGES."

"A period of relative tranquility ended with the spread of crusading
enthusiasm under Richard I.  ....Outrages were accompanied everywhere by
the burning of the deeds of debts due to the Jews. The Crown, which
derived much revenue from the profits of the moneylenders, thus suffered
considerable loss.  Accordingly, after his return from captivity (to
supply ransom the Jews of the country had been made to contribute three
times as much as the citizens of London) Richard, by his "Ordinance of
the Jewry" (1194), ordered the establishment of an archa or chirograph
CHEST in principal cities, under the charge of Jewish and Christian
"chirographers," in which duplicate records of all debts contracted with
the Jews were to be deposited. Thus, whatever disorders might occur, the
Crown's dues were henceforth secure.  As coordinating authority over
these provincial centers, ultimately some 26 in number, there came into
being the Scaccarium Judaeorum or "Exchequer of the Jews"-an institution
with both judicial and financial functions. Closely connected with it
was the office of Presbyter Judaeorum or archpresbyter-not a chief
rabbi, as once believed, but official representative and expert on
Jewish matters appointed by the Crown.  Of the occupants of this post,
the names of Jacob of London (appointed 1199), Josce (1207), Aaron (fil'
(i.e., son of) Josce) of York (1236), Elias le Eveske (1243), Hagin
(Hayyim) fil' Moses of Lincoln (1258) and Cok Hagin fil' Deulecresse
(1281) are known. In the Exchequer, the Jews of England had an
organization acting in the royal interest equaled in no other European
country. Its records, preserved in unparalleled completeness, yield
minute information as to their condition."  [David Cesarani]
"Encyclopedia Judaica" The following, from the "Encyclopedia Judaica"
are conclusions that would have been current for Shylock's approach to
his vocation:

"In 1500 Abraham Farissol expressed the attitude toward the taking of
interest through a theory which assumed the existence of a different
social and conceptual order in biblical times and in accord with the
Greek philosophers who justified the prohibition on taking of interest.
However, as of now, human society was structured on other principles:"
"A new nature, different obligation, and another order pertains,
inherently different from the first. This is: to help your fellow for
payment coming from the one who is in need of something. Nothing should
be given to another free of charge if he is not a charity case deserving
pity."

He lists payment for work, rent for accommodation, and hire of
work-animals as cases to prove this point. He considers it a logical
consequence to pay for the use of the capital of another man, "for a
money loan is sometimes much more important than the loaning of an
animal or a house, hence it is natural, logical and legal to give some
payment to the owner of the money who gives a loan in the same way as
people pay rent for houses and cattle, which come to one through
money... the first natural order has been abolished and no one helps
another person for nothing, but everything is done for payment (from his
Magen Avraham, in: Ha-Zofeh le-Hokhmat Yisrael, 12 (1928), 292-3)."

"This foreshadowing of modern theorists about capital and gain is the
end result of the Jewish attitude toward money and interest throughout
the Middle Ages."

Although control was a constant factor, not so protection: not for
usurers and not for the Jewish community , in all of its varieties.
Shakespeare's placing of the key emblem of Laban does many things
besides to emphasize the difference in scriptural understanding between
Antonio and Shylock. Most pointedly, it indicates who is Jacob and who
is Laban in the play:  who the Jew and who represents the institutions
of repression and deceit in that home away from home of Venice. Further
discussion of Shylock's attributed 'rapaciousness, or 'miserliness' at
another time.

Florence Amit

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stevie Gamble <
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Date:           Tuesday, 8 May 2001 19:23:23 EDT
Subject: 12.1056 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1056 Re: Tragic Hero

>To Steve Gamble,
>
>Those of us who have been members of SHAKSPER for a long time are all
>too familiar with Stephanie Hughes making claims like,
>
>>some of my points seem so self-evident that
>>"proving" them is like proving that grass is green,
>>including the idea that Shakespeare wrote MOV
>>out of a particular set of circumstances that
>>were known to his audience,
>
>She has previously claimed that things are self-evident, which aren't.
>We don't take her any more seriously than she takes the principles of
>sound scholarship.  You have done all that is reasonable by giving her
>the opportunity to demonstrate that she has a reason for her claims.
>She has failed to take advantage of this opportunity.  The claim that it
>is self-evident is, transparently, an attempt to wiggle out of this and
>still be able to claim that she is right.  Believe me, many people on
>the list understand this.
>
>It is good to challenge her, and you did it very well.
>
>Shaking my head in dismay,
>Mike Jensen

Thank you. I am grateful for your courtesy, and that of a number of
people who have responded on and off the list.

But perhaps we should not be too dismayed by Stephanie Hughes' latest
missive; it has focused my attention on another claim in a very
different play in the canon.  There seems to be a striking similarity to
Glendower's boast:

'I can call spirits from the vasty deep'.

And like Hotspur, I reply:

'Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?'

In Stephanie Hughes' case the answer would appear to be No.

Best Wishes,
Stevie Gamble

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