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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: September ::
Ambiguous Words
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1864  Friday, 26 September 2003

[1]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Sep 2003 08:11:21 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1854 Ambiguous Words

[2]     From:   Bob Rosen <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Sep 2003 12:36:12 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1854 Ambiguous Words

[3]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Sep 2003 17:50:18 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.1854 Ambiguous Words

[4]     From:   Peter Groves <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Sep 2003 22:55:17 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1854 Ambiguous Words


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Sep 2003 08:11:21 -0400
Subject: 14.1854 Ambiguous Words
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1854 Ambiguous Words

Having decided that, despite Hardy's valiant and concerted efforts to
keep them otherwise, many of the threads on SHAKSPER-L have degenerated
into showcases for inflated egos---and arenas in which inflated egos
attempt to deflate one another---often clumsily, and sometimes
maliciously---rather than forums for the polite exchange of scholarly
ideas, I was determined not to participate further (the obvious comeback
"good riddance" notwithstanding). However, I do need to correct an
apparent misperception on Peter Groves' part: as Ms Swilley points out,
I did NOT say that MoV was anti-Semitic: I said that *Antonio* was
(which is quite a different observation). In an earlier post on this
same subject (which Ms. Swilley obviously recalls) I had said that I
thought that Shakespeare's portrayal of Christians who behaved in a most
un-Christian manner worked as a foil to the *play's* (but not
necessarily Shakespeare's) stereotypical attitude toward Jews. I see no
reason to accept the testimony of Shylock's treacherous and self-serving
daughter concerning her father's motives, and while Shylock's motives
for the  price he names may not be altruistic, I don't believe he
intends to enforce payment in that form *when the pact is made*: even
the Jew-hating Antonio says, privately, to Bassanio, once Shylock has
left the stage, "The Hebrew will turn Christian: he grows kind"
(1.3.122).

Indeed, "o father Abram"---see Abram and Melchizedek, Hebrews 7:1-10, in
this context, which Shakespeare may be glancing at ironically via
Shylock's exclamation---"what these Christians are, / Whose own hard
dealings teaches them suspect / The thoughts of others!" It was a
well-known irony too that English Christians who did not engage in usury
because of their religious convictions (Jesus drove the moneylenders
from the temple) thought nothing of borrowing from Jews who did---and
that therefore even in the days when the banishment of Jews from the
nation was actually enforced, officials "looked the other way" for those
who performed that service, since it was essential to commerce.
Hypocrisy abounds in this play---and Shylock is not its only, or even
its worst, practitioner.

I did not say that the UCC applied to this play (that would be
ludicrous), only that it was a modern analogue for the equality of the
principals in terms of their ability to judge the ramifications of their
pact. I also did not say that being hoisted on one's petard had only one
meaning; just the context in which it was being discussed, it had a
metaphorical rather than a literal meaning (and I have no wish to pit my
"acclaimed editors" against the respondent's).

I do hope that all of the Monday morning quarterbacks post with the same
nitpicking precision that they demand of others . . . and that when they
don't, they are hoisted on their own petards royally by those at whose
jugulars they have previously lunged. (And before anyone puts this at
the feet of Terry Hawkes, I do not include him in this broadbrush: his
role---and it is a role---as resident curmudgeon is one he invented, and
he plays it well, without malice; not so those who attempt to imitate
him, without his malcontent's wit.)

Please do let me know if and when scholarly decorum returns to
SHAKSPER-L. I will return then, too.

Carol Barton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bob Rosen <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Sep 2003 12:36:12 EDT
Subject: 14.1854 Ambiguous Words
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1854 Ambiguous Words

>I've never heard of any Western legal code that grants executionary
>>power to a party, etc.
>
>In the case of "Merchant," it does. That's a fact of the *play*; we can
>no more question that fact than we can doubt that Portia is accepted as
>a man, Balthasar, that she is undectected by Bassanio,  or that she
>could be so knowledgeable of the law. --L. Swilley

L,

What you are saying is that the audience accepts the above values,
including anti-semitism, as it does all the other conventions in the
play's production.  That the real world outside the theater's orb means
nothing.  Entertainment can come at any price. In that case, Shakespeare
is full of ethical flaws. He panders to Christians while giving them a
schoolmaster's hard look, easily overlooked by the audience. The saving
grace in this play is that it's not about racism, as Shylock's daughter
is easily accepted as Christian through marriage. Yet according to
Jewish law, her future children will be Jewish and can reenter the
Jewish community. Shakespeare's ignorance never ceases to amaze me as
does his talent. In a strange way his ignorance saves him, or this
epistle would never have been posted. But where is he saved and by
whom?  Us! This elite list. So he has the last laugh.

And others, the eternal sorrow.

br

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Sep 2003 17:50:18 -0400
Subject: 14.1854 Ambiguous Words
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1854 Ambiguous Words

Anti-Semitic? Wow. I thought Will took standard anti-Semitc swill and
stood it on its head. The Christians who bait him in the beginning are
disgusting creeps. And to even imagine "hath not a Jew eyes" is
anti-Semitic is....is....well, what is the biggest most humongous word
for "dumb"?

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Groves <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Sep 2003 22:55:17 +0000
Subject: 14.1854 Ambiguous Words
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1854 Ambiguous Words

L. Swilley writes,

> Peter Groves writes:
>
> >I agree with Carol that the play is profoundly anti-Semitic...
>
> If it is, it is also profoundly anti-Christian.

Excuse me, but I've never said anything of the sort (as a judgemnet it
appears grossly oversimplified).

Peter Groves

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