The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0121 Friday, 24 January 2003
Date: Thursday, 23 Jan 2003 10:27:24 -0600
Subject: 14.0109 Re: Shylock Redux
Comment: Re: SHK 14.0109 Re: Shylock Redux
Nora Kreimer remarks, at the conclusion of an otherwise very clear and
balanced comment on the text,
>There is no mercy for Shylock at this court, as there was no mercy in
>his heart for Antonio. They're even. Through a trick in the
>interpretation of the law, the Jew was deprived of his ducats, his house
>and his right to be different.
I am afraid -- unless she is being ironic and I'm taking her too
seriously -- that this statement must baffle anyone with a clear
perception of the events in question. At the beginning of this scene,
Shylock is attempting to have Antonio judicially murdered over money he
doesn't need and that Bassanio (that is, Portia) could pay on the spot.
For unadulterated viciousness I find this hard to top. To match it,
Antonio would have to demand that Shylock have his heart cut out in
front of all of them. Antonio could, in fact, have demanded something
very like it, but he doesn't.
Antonio could also demand half of Shylock's vast wealth. He doesn't do
that either. He asks that the one half be transferred to Shylock's
daughter and her husband, and that the other half remain in his
(Shylock's) possession (guaranteed to pass to the daughter and
son-in-law at his death) -- provided he convert to Christianity. Since
the vast majority of Shakespeare's audience would consider conversion a
benefit not a punishment, and since the money that Shylock lives for
will remain either in his possession or that of his family, the judgment
is extremely merciful, at least in the eyes of the author and the people
he wrote for.
And one piece of Hawkery: what on earth is "his right to be different"?
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