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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: February ::
Re: Shylock Redux
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0186  Tuesday, 4 February 2003

[1]     From:   Bradshaw Graham <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 4 Feb 2003 10:57:55 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0178 Re: Shylock Redux

[2]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Monday, 3 Feb 2003 14:35:30 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0178 Re: Shylock Redux

[3]     From:   Claude Caspar <
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        Date:   Monday, 3 Feb 2003 10:25:02 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0178 Re: Shylock Redux

[4]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Monday, 03 Feb 2003 13:31:58 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0178 Re: Shylock Redux


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bradshaw Graham <
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Date:           Tuesday, 4 Feb 2003 10:57:55 -0800
Subject: 14.0178 Re: Shylock Redux
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0178 Re: Shylock Redux

This has been an almost nightmarish example of a "thread" (is that the
term?) that never visits, let alone ponders, past criticism. What then
counts as "research"? Oh, I know, that's a different "thread", right
now. But the present example, which I have just pursued with much pain,
is, well, sobering,

Graham Bradshaw

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Monday, 3 Feb 2003 14:35:30 -0000
Subject: 14.0178 Re: Shylock Redux
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0178 Re: Shylock Redux

"Can we please get away from Venetian law, Elizabethan law, canon law,
Jewish law, modern law, and any other kind?" asks Don Bloom.

Well, perhaps we can at some point, but for the moment, to use Don's own
words, "Legalisms that might have informed S's thoughts while he was
concocting MOV can be interesting".

On which, Sean wrote,

"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."

That's right, but then no one who lived in England in 1598 could be
called "a civic citizen" because the constitution was not conceived to
agree with a system of civil (that is, Roman) law - like that of France,
or, more pertinently, Scotland. They were all "subjects" who owed
allegiance to a monarch who protected their laws.

Of course this all depends on the assumption that Venice is not
conceptualised as the real Venice. I don't think it is, any more than
the Venice of Volpone, where some of the same issues are tried out.

We should recall that there was a deal of speculation (and anxiety)
about what would happen when Elizabeth breathed her last, and a certain
expectation that she would look Northwards when she started to consider
the succession. Some of her subjects quite rightly anticipated that this
would throw up a number of legal problems. And, as it turned out,
James's determination to forge a legal union between the two kingdoms
brought those problems very much to the fore in all the Parliaments
between 1605 and 1610.

Oddly, the legal context for MOV might well be best sought after in
texts that post-date the play by 6-8 years, when the problems it tackles
become unavoidably current.

I would suggest:

Francis Bacon, "A Brief Discourse touching the Happy Union of the
Kingdoms of England and Scotland", Letters and Life Vol. III
Francis Bacon, "The Argument of Sir Francis Bacon, Knight, his Majesty's
Solicitor-General, In the Case of the Post Nati of Scotland, in the
Exchequer Chamber...", Works Vol. VII
"The Case of the Post-nati", Cobbett, ed., State Trials Vol. II
Edward Coke, "Calvin's Case 1604", 7 Reports, Vol. IV of the 1777
edition.

Whether Shakespeare would have agreed with Bacon or with Coke is
difficult to say. For once, I might suggest Bacon, because his arguments
were particularly ingenious in this case and demonstrate the sort of
intellectual flexibility we tend to associate with our playwright (and
tend not to associate with Bacon!).

Bruce Galloway, The Union of England and Scotland 1603-1608 (Edinburgh
1986), esp. pp.148-157
Brian P. Levack, "The Proposed Union of English Law and Scots Law in the
Seventeenth Century", Juridical Review 20 (1975), pp.97-115
Brian P. Levack, The Formation of the British State: England, Scotland,
and the Union 1603-1707 (Oxford 1987)
Bernard McCabe, "Francis Bacon and the Natural Law Tradition", Natural
Law Forum 9 (1964), pp.114-118

I think the point of thinking about MOV in these contexts helps us to
see how it anticipates some of the more overtly politicized concerns of
the Jacobean plays, which can so often seem like they come from a
different world or a different mind. So, it becomes much more obvious
how it can be read alongside Measure for Measure, Macbeth, King Lear,
Cymbeline, and Coriolanus, for example.

martin

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Claude Caspar <
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Date:           Monday, 3 Feb 2003 10:25:02 -0500
Subject: 14.0178 Re: Shylock Redux
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0178 Re: Shylock Redux

>The contract appears to be valid until overturned by the disguised Portia.

Doesn't the fact that Portia herself operates outside the Law, is not
ethical, acts illegally, count? In a compelling essay, (The Golden
Casket: An Interpretation of MoV), in a compelling book, (Shakespeare as
Political Thinker) [2000 edition], Barbara Tovey argues, in agreement
with Allan Bloom, that Portia ".must stand for classical philosophy."
Her symbolic daddy is Cato the Younger & husband Brutus, all Stoics,
[hehehe] as Seneca.  That WS uses Portia in her actual historical
context gives some weight to accepting that her name is suggestive.

"In order to entrap Shylock, she violates the canons of good legal
proceeding." She has an agenda & uses Shylock, according to this line of
analysis. The book to see regarding the legalities, it seems (I just
ordered it), is Keeton's "Shakespeare & His Legal Problems."

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Monday, 03 Feb 2003 13:31:58 -0500
Subject: 14.0178 Re: Shylock Redux
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0178 Re: Shylock Redux

It has been suggested that the law in Shylock v. Antonio is intended to
allude to a famous equity case (whose name escapes me-Throckmorton's
Case ?).  But I think that case was decided in 1598, a couple of years
after the most likely date for M/V.

I tend to agree with Don Bloom that the law in the play is Jus
Shakespeareanum.  However, the suggestion that there were parallel laws
for citizens and aliens is an interesting one in its own right.  In
Rome, noncitizens carried with them, wherever they went in the empire,
the law of their own nation (the jus gentium).  Of course, in
transactions between aliens and Romans (who were governed by the jus
Romanum) there must have been principles to resolve the conflict of
laws.  Regrettably, I do not know or have forgotten what they were.

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