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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: April ::
Re: Belmont on the Brenta
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1080  Saturday, 20 April 2002

[1]     From:   Michael W. Shurgot <
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        Date:   Thursday, 18 Apr 2002 14:17:55 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.1070 Re: Belmont on the Brenta

[2]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Friday, 19 Apr 2002 20:59:18 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1070 Re: Belmont on the Brenta


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael W. Shurgot <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Apr 2002 14:17:55 -0700
Subject: 13.1070 Re: Belmont on the Brenta
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.1070 Re: Belmont on the Brenta

Dear Colleagues:

Bill Godshalk raises a fascinating question: Why did Shakespeare select
the structure that he did [for Merchant?] I guess I would answer by
saying that the confrontation (wrongly termed a trial) in Act IV needs
the crucial piece of information that Shylock will not take the loot he
is offered, and the only way to get that piece of info. to Portia is to
have Jessica carry it there. "I have heard him say...." Hence, the
structure is built around having time for Jessica to sail to Belmont
from Genoa or wherever she spent the last of her papa's money. (I have
always assumed that she and hubby arrive broke and depending on Portia's
rumored largess ["richly left," etc.  with lots to spare] and hoping
that they would inherit Shylock's gold when he is destroyed back in
Venice, which surely Jessica knows [hopes?] will happen.) So, the
structure does not depend on Bassanio's motives, but rather on giving
the audience enough info. about what is happening back on the Rialto,
getting Bassanio and Gratiano to Belmont (spending money on their
leisurely way no doubt), and then getting Jessica to Belmont as well.
Once Portia has been "won,' and her money is Bassanio's, and hence his
friends', and Antonio is in jail, then everybody has to rush back to
Venice.  Bassanio's possibly having a pastoral, idyllic jaunt in Belmont
is not the point; or rather, it might have been only if the urgency of
Antonio's being locked up and in Shylock's hands were not the impetus to
return by catamaran to Venice.

Again, I think spectators in a theatre understand all this, once they
hear Jessica speak.

Cheers,
-Michael

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Friday, 19 Apr 2002 20:59:18 -0400
Subject: 13.1070 Re: Belmont on the Brenta
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1070 Re: Belmont on the Brenta

> >One could argue I suppose that Shakespeare's structure itself could tell
> >us something about Bassanio's priorities and motives, but this seems an
> >unnecessary investigation into a purely formal element in a theatre
> >where both time and space are conventionally infinitely malleable.

Time and space are malleable, but certainly not infinitely so. The
inconsistencies that appear here and elsewhere in Sh only work because
almost nobody notices them without close reading of the text for which
they ostensibly were not designed. They are a contrast to other cases in
which the consistency of time and space is obsessive beyond what casual
auditors are likely to remark. Why calculate in WT, for instance, the
accurate round trip travel time from Sicily to Delphi in a play famous
for its reference to nonexistent coastlines when neither reference is
likely to call attention to itself in a first viewing? If elements of
time and space are material to the text, why are they not consistent,
and if immaterial, why devote lines of dialogue to them? Why not one
thousand ducats for one month?

Even after many readings, the time lag in MOV admittedly was news to me,
and I consider myself a careful reader (although I'm not sure that three
months hanging around Belmont is absolutely disqualified by the
dialogue).  Consistency of narrative unities can only be malleable so
far as they continue to seem consistent to the audience and do not
interfere with the suspension of disbelief in the represented world. At
least I'm sure it's so for Shakespeare. Exceptions? Non Shakespearean
examples?

While I'm on the subject: 1) was the identity of the "holy hermit" in
Portia and Nerissa's company once discussed on the list? Was there a
consensus? 2) Is the servant at the end of 2.9 supposed to be describing
Gratiano? If so, why not describe the arrival of Bassanio himself?

Servant
     Madam, there is alighted at your gate
     A young Venetian, one that comes before
     To signify the approaching of his lord;
     From whom he bringeth sensible regreets,
     To wit, besides commends and courteous breath,
     Gifts of rich value. Yet I have not seen
     So likely an ambassador of love:
     A day in April never came so sweet,
     To show how costly summer was at hand,
     As this fore-spurrer comes before his lord.
PORTIA
     No more, I pray thee: I am half afeard
     Thou wilt say anon he is some kin to thee,
     Thou spend'st such high-day wit in praising him.
     Come, come, Nerissa; for I long to see
     Quick Cupid's post that comes so mannerly.
NERISSA
     Bassanio, lord Love, if thy will it be!

Clifford

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