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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: February ::
Re: Shylock Redux
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0178  Monday, 3 Feburary 2003

[1]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Friday, 31 Jan 2003 09:45:10 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0172 Re: Shylock Redux

[2]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Friday, 31 Jan 2003 13:01:58 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0172 Re: Shylock Redux


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Friday, 31 Jan 2003 09:45:10 -0600
Subject: 14.0172 Re: Shylock Redux
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0172 Re: Shylock Redux

All right. I lied. I DO have another minor point to make.

Can we please get away from Venetian law, Elizabethan law, canon law,
Jewish law, modern law, and any other kind? The only law that exists in
MOV is that which is stated, and which is thus created by the fevered
brain of WS.

The contract appears to be valid until overturned by the disguised
Portia.  That's THE PLAY. Legalisms that might have informed S's
thoughts while he was concocting MOV can be interesting, but cannot be
determinative. Venice is no more real than the sea coast of Bohemia.

Cheers,
don

PS. Before somebody pounces, I mean by "Venice is no more real than the
sea coast of Bohemia" that it belong to the same Never-Never-Land that
most of the comedies exist in, whether set in the Forest of Arden or
Athens or Illyria. Shrewsbury, by contrast, is a real place where a real
battle was fought during which Prince Hal led a royal army against
rebellious Percies. d.a.b.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Friday, 31 Jan 2003 13:01:58 -0400
Subject: 14.0172 Re: Shylock Redux
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0172 Re: Shylock Redux

John W. Kennedy writes that

>Well, it's a nice philosophical point, but it does not reflect the
>reality of law.  On the one hand, a gentile government would pay very
>little attention to Jewish law.  (I would say "none", except that, for
>all I know, an enlightened judge might have taken Jewish law into
>consideration when dealing with a contractual dispute between two Jews
>-- it if came before him in the first place.)  And, on the other hand,
>except for certain "not even if they threaten you with death" religious
>points, Jewish law in the Diaspora traditionally defers to the law of
>the state.

Maybe, but the conflict might not be between Jewish law as such and
Venetian law, but between a law code applying to Jews and another to
Venetians.  The judge would hardly have to be respectful in order to see
the local Jewish community as not Venetian, and therefore not subject to
the norms of a law code which governs relations between Venetians.
Shylock is, after all, held by a law applying specifically to aliens.

Instead of imagining a self-governing Jewish ghetto following Talmudic
law, we might want to imagine a situation a bit like South Africa under
apartheid, or Canada under more extreme interpretations of the original
Indian Act, in which there are separate systems of law for members of
different races.  The question then obtains as to whether relations
between these communities would be governed by a single code of law, or
whether relations between them would be strictly contractual and
therefore whether a conflict between the demands of the contract and of
the law code would negate the former.

In response to Martin's point, I'm not sure if systems of civil or
natural law would bridge the two communities.  Shylock is, as I
mentioned, an alien, which I'd take to be the opposite of a civic
citizen.  Human rights are, as I understand it, one of the last vestiges
of natural law, and as you said yourself only a couple of days ago,
human rights are often said to flow from God, so even they might not
extend automatically to members of a different religion.  Rather than
seeing the Jewish community as also human, and therefore also endowed by
their creator with certain inalienable rights, could the Venetians just
have seen them as an alien community, needing to be somehow controlled
and contained, but with which deals have to be made occasionally?

Yours,
Sean.

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