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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: October ::
Re: Merchant
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2467  Sunday, 28 October 2001

[1]     From:   Dana Shilling <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Oct 2001 12:47:52 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2463 Re: Merchant

[2]     From:   Tony Burton <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Oct 2001 13:02:07 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2463 Re: Merchant

[3]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Oct 2001 10:11:22 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2463 Re: Merchant

[4]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Oct 2001 18:12:14 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2463 Re: Merchant


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dana Shilling <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Oct 2001 12:47:52 -0400
Subject: 12.2463 Re: Merchant
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2463 Re: Merchant

Graham Hall said,

> I mention these [Shylocks] because critical attention about
>the productions focused
> predominantly on the singular role and (obsessively) continues to be a
> feature of this play's reception.

I find that plays tend to become about whoever is giving the best
performance. Last year I saw an off-off-Broadway MV where the strongest
performance came from an excellent (and very sexy) Antonio, so the title
really did seem justified.  It did seem out of balance for Antonio to be
much more attractive than Bassanio though.

Dana Shilling

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tony Burton <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Oct 2001 13:02:07 -0400
Subject: 12.2463 Re: Merchant
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2463 Re: Merchant

I disagree with Gabriel Egan's (and Stephen Orgel's?) inference that
Antonio already had bad credit, at least in the ordinary sense of the
term.  Consider this:  It is Antonio in particular who seems to be the
big Christian money lender, and who has hurt Shylock's business by
refusing to charge interest.  Logic tells us there must have been other
Jews and Christians who loaned money, but dramatically we are led to
think of the field as occupied entirely by Antonio and Shylock.  They
are the mighty opposites of Venetian finance, or the story line would
hardly get moving.  And within that world, Antonio is forced to borrow
from his "opposite."  It is surely not "bad credit" in the sense that he
has a bad reputation, or is a known defaulter, but we are given to know
that he has cash-flow problems which make him vulnerable to onerous
terms for a loan.  Indeed, Shylock makes his opinion quite clear that,
in the long run, Antonio is good for the money.  This is to be a
short-term loan for a sudden need.

Those Christians who might lend to Antonio on credit may -- as good
Christians  -- refrain from charging interest, but Antonio's "racked
even to the uttermost" implies that he expects them to demand something
as painful as the rack, in the form at least of some bond or security
they deem  very "good" or "sufficient", to use the standard Shylock
employs in then offering the loan entirely without either security or
interest, before the merry bond occurs to him.

The matter of credit-worthiness seems to turn only on Antonio's present
ability to fund Bassanio's very long shot gamble, the outcome of which
will be decided before Antonio's returning argosies can (as he sincerely
and confidently expects) resolve his cash-flow problems.   So, the term
of the loan is presumably longer than Bassanio will take to complete the
casket test, but shorter than Antonio requires for at least one of his
ships to come home,  On the surface then, Shylock is offering an even
better deal than Antonio anticipates from his even-Christians, all to
establish good relations and bury his ancient grudge.  The "grudge"
remember, is revived by Jessica's elopement and high-handed assemblage
of a dowry, not by anything between the two moneymen.

And the relative morality of sinful but bearable "usance" to the Jew
which, Antonio finally chooses, versus the morally permissible but
"racking" demands of fellow Christians, surely added a pretty dimension
to all the troublesome moral issues over charging interest (usury) for a
loan versus the alternatives.

Tony B

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Oct 2001 10:11:22 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.2463 Re: Merchant
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2463 Re: Merchant

The 1998 Merchant of Venice was the first time I attended an RSC show.
It is another example of current tendencies to make the show "The
Tragedy of Shylock" and to focus on that character as the primary one.
Philip Voss was indeed excellent. In the trial scene, at one point after
he had been robbed of his bond, a trunk of thousands of ducats was
thrown on the floor and Shylock wallowed in them. A very moving and
sympathetic performance, one which showed you the reasons why Shylock is
so motivated and allows you to feel for him but nonetheless makes you
distance yourself from him at the same time. Brilliant.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Oct 2001 18:12:14 -0700
Subject: 12.2463 Re: Merchant
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2463 Re: Merchant

Gabriel Egan suggests that

>ANTONIO Therefore go forth -
>Try what my credit can in Venice do;
>That shall be racked even to the uttermost
>To furnish thee to Belmont, to fair Portia.
>(MV 1.1.179-82)

indicates that Antonio has rather poor credit.  On the other hand, he's
certainly considered "sufficient" by Shylock, and one might note that
"racking" something that's already broken would be rather redundant,
like beating a dead man.

The lack of other lenders (of cash, at least) in the play, and Shylock's
conviction that "were he out of Venice I can make what merchandise I
will" would seem to indicate that these two men are the only retail
bankers in town.  (Tubal lends money, but we only see him lend money to
another banker, and never learn whether he charges Shylock interest).

There might be another clue in Antonio's claim that he has "no commodity
to raise a present sum".  He doesn't have any collateral.

By the way, if the murder laws are different for Christians and aliens,
might not the usury laws also be different?  Would Antonio or his
Christian friends be forbidden from lending at interest?

Cheers,
Se

 

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