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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: October ::
Re: PBS Masterpiece Theatre/Merchant
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2340  Monday, 15 October 2001

[1]     From:   Geralyn Horton <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 Oct 2001 11:56:42 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2331 Re: PBS Masterpiece Theatre/Merchant

[2]     From:   Bill Gelber <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 Oct 2001 14:55:13 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2331 Re: PBS Masterpiece Theatre/Merchant

[3]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Saturday, 13 Oct 2001 16:54:16 +0100
        Subj:   Re: Merchant

[4]     From:   Janet Costa <
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        Date:   Sunday, 14 Oct 2001 09:25:25 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2331 Re: PBS Masterpiece Theatre/Merchant


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Geralyn Horton <
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Date:           Friday, 12 Oct 2001 11:56:42 -0400
Subject: 12.2331 Re: PBS Masterpiece Theatre/Merchant
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2331 Re: PBS Masterpiece Theatre/Merchant

This "conventional treatment" must be played against the text.  Jessica
never says a regretful word.  In her almost worshipful praise of Portia
she calls marriage to a paragon "heaven on earth", and seems to aspire
to that state.

Has anybody remarked the parallel between Launcelot/Shylock and
Jessica/Shylock?  Shylock treats Jessica entirely as a servant, without
a trace of tenderness-- unless the director puts it in. The servant
Launcelot's comic "turn" where he rejects loyalty to his bad master, and
his cruel joke on his fond father purge the feelings that would
otherwise be expected in Jessica.

> (And did she really trade for a monkey the ring her
> mother gave her father ?!)]

Is there any indication that Jessica knew that's what it was? Or that
Shylock gave it to her, long ago, with his love and as a token of her
dead mother's love? And with an accompanying injunction like Portia's to
value it so? Does Shylock share stories and feelings with his daughter?
The character he most reminds me of is Ebenezer Scrooge.

As for Jessica's trading the ring, where most people see careless
prodigality, I see a tender heart, and the monkey as servant/child.  The
monkey is suffering in captivity, Jessica takes off the ring and offers
it for his deliverance.  She will be as kind and indulgent to it as she
has been to Launcelot.  but also in how Antonio is made to wait, like a
captive on death-row, for the sentence.

Which is similar to the wait of the other self-righteous virtuous man,
Angelo, in MFM.  Time for him to learn mercy. Notice that Antonio is the
one who transfers Shylock's wealth to his "son" and grandchildren.

Geralyn Horton, Newton, Mass. 02460
<http://www.stagepage.org>

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[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Gelber <
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Date:           Friday, 12 Oct 2001 14:55:13 EDT
Subject: 12.2331 Re: PBS Masterpiece Theatre/Merchant
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2331 Re: PBS Masterpiece Theatre/Merchant

Actually there is an alternative:

the directorial choice. In the version onstage, which I saw in March
1999, Portia did not realize the blood idea until Shylock tucked the
towel into his pants. In the video you can see her realize this and stop
him. Then she has to look for the place in the law book. She's not
toying with anyone- she is clueless. This is also proved by the joke at
her entrance (also more obvious onstage) that she was an amateur when
she said, "Which is the Merchant and Which the Jew." Everyone in court
reacted negatively because Shylock was sitting there with a yarmulke on.
Onstage they seemed to say, "Oh no! It's hopeless. She's terrible!" It
was a funny but interesting moment.

Sincerely,
Bill Gelber
Amarillo College

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Saturday, 13 Oct 2001 16:54:16 +0100
Subject:        Re: Merchant

Sean Lawrence writes of the trial in MV:

> The whole procedure is perhaps cruel not only in how
> it treats Shylock, stringing him along before pointing
> out that (surprise, surprise) murder is illegal, but also
> in how Antonio is made to wait, like a captive on
> death-row, for the sentence.

Portia does not point out that "murder is illegal". She points out that
if "an alien . . . by direct or indirect attempts" seeks to take the
life of a citizen, he forfeits his wealth and is thrown on the Duke's
mercy. This Venetian law is concerned quite specifically with the
socio-ethnic statuses of the persons involved (alien and citizen), and
the causal distance between the 'doer' and the 'done'. How terribly
modern this Shakespeare is.

To John Briggs:

> I couldn't swear to have actually read the book:
> although I do possess a copy, it is buried beneath
> a particularly high pile of books,
> and so is essentially inaccessible!

Some librarians are now saying that placing them vertically on a
horizontal shelf makes them all equally accessible.

Gabriel Egan

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Janet Costa <
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Date:           Sunday, 14 Oct 2001 09:25:25 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.2331 Re: PBS Masterpiece Theatre/Merchant
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2331 Re: PBS Masterpiece Theatre/Merchant

Listings for all areas can be found at www.pbs.org. They are also
screening Bogdanov's 'Macbeth' (1997). Another interesting bit,
especially for our friends who commented on 'Baby Shakespeare' is the
Dreaming Shakespeare episode of 'Between the Lions'.

Ms. Janet Costa
The Shakespeare Institute

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