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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: January ::
Re: Anyone Know Yiddish?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.057  Monday, 13 January 2003

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Jan 2003 10:57:38 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.047 Re: Anyone Know Yiddish?

[2]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Jan 2003 22:39:07 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.052 Re: Anyone Know Yiddish?

[3]     From:   Anna Kamaralli <
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        Date:   Saturday, 11 Jan 2003 17:02:37 +1100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.042 Re: Anyone Know Yiddish?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Jan 2003 10:57:38 -0500
Subject: 14.047 Re: Anyone Know Yiddish?
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.047 Re: Anyone Know Yiddish?

>I saw
>one several years ago at the Globe, odiously antisemitic  beyond belief,
>they could have been selling the Protocols in the lobby. But I do
>remember thinking to myself, with all the political correctness
>abounding, why, here is the very thing itself, right out in the open.

The Globe did only one M/V, so I assume that Dr. Greenberg saw the same
one I saw.  But it did not appear "odiously antisemitic" to me.  On the
contrary, while Shylock was not portrayed as a sympathetic victim (which
is the current fashion), the German actor who played the role brought a
remarkable understanding and sensitivity to the portrayal, even though
he had just learned English for the purpose of the part.  For example,
his reading of "my deeds upon my head" made it appear that Shylock was
genuinely troubled by Portia's plea for mercy and reluctantly decided to
insist on the bond because of his "oath in heaven."

At some performances the audience booed and hissed Shylock's entrances.
But this was in keeping with the spirit of the Globe and no more
malignant (in my opinion) than the booing of the French in HenV.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Jan 2003 22:39:07 -0500
Subject: 14.052 Re: Anyone Know Yiddish?
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.052 Re: Anyone Know Yiddish?

I saw Morris Carnovsky as Shylock at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater in
1967 or so.  His performance, as best I can remember 35 years on, was
passionate, and although the Jew became the protagonist it certainly did
not attempt to minimize Shylock's own excesses.  But I must say that at
the time I was more strongly impressed by the treatment of the Venetian
Christians--my first revisionist Shakespeare, and in its way as
important to my understanding of the plays as anything I've seen.  That
is, whoever directed understood that if Shylock rises to moral
superiority, his antagonists--not so much Antonio, who has his own
problems, as Antonio's friends and supporters--must fall.  Hence
Bassanio, Gratiano, Lorenzo, Solario, and Solanio were all young, tall,
lean, broad-shouldered, not egregiously Aryan, in the National Socialist
sense of that term, but from the mold of Gary Cooper or Randolph Scott
or Jimmy Stewart: Americans, as we people from the upper Middle West
mostly understood that term in those days, that is, seeming to be of
northern European descent.  And instead of the Decency that those actors
exemplified these guys were played as egregiously small-minded, vulgar,
self-centered, sexually aggressive--right out of the Jerk tradition
currently so ubiquitous in North American popular culture.  (I guess
it's significant that I have no clear memory of the women.)  The concept
may well have originated in the Yiddish theater.  But at that point, in
liberal/populist Wisconsin, it had become part of a more general
reconsideration of our cultural assumptions that, alas, never became as
thorough, or as widespread, or as socially transformative as it might
have been.

David Evett

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Anna Kamaralli <
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Date:           Saturday, 11 Jan 2003 17:02:37 +1100
Subject: 14.042 Re: Anyone Know Yiddish?
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.042 Re: Anyone Know Yiddish?

I have been both persuaded and charmed by Rene Girard's reading of MV
(in Theatre of Envy), in which he points out the large number of
references made by the "Christians" to money, and buying, selling,
trading and gambling on people.

His theory is that, as Shakespeare had to both keep please the pit, and
impress his clever-clever poet friends, he wrote a play that was pitched
at two levels at once. The groundlings got their Jewish villain, to keep
them happy, while the more sophisticated audience members saw how the
Venetians were being satirized as every bit as voracious for their pound
of flesh as Shylock, just less honest about it. Shakespeare's inner
circle would have noticed that most of the lines suggesting avarice,
materialism, and obsession with money actually come out of the mouths of
the "Christians", not the Jew.

It's a thought.

anna.

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