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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: September ::
Ambiguous Words
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1876  Monday, 29 September 2003

[1]     From:   John Drakakis <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Sep 2003 12:32:31 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.1864 Ambiguous Words

[2]     From:   Melvyn R. Leventhal <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Sep 2003 09:47:05 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1864 Ambiguous Words

[3]     From:   Edmond Taft <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Sep 2003 11:28:29 -0400
        Subj:   Ambiguous Words

[4]     From:   Peter Groves <
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        Date:   Saturday, 27 Sep 2003 03:09:51 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1864 Ambiguous Words


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Drakakis <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Sep 2003 12:32:31 +0100
Subject: 14.1864 Ambiguous Words
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1864 Ambiguous Words

The Merchant of Venice is anti-semitic and it's critical of
Christians...It's official!

Cheers,
John Drakakis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melvyn R. Leventhal <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Sep 2003 09:47:05 EDT
Subject: 14.1864 Ambiguous Words
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1864 Ambiguous Words

Re: Shylock's protestation, "Hath not a Jew eyes."

Any African American at the worst moments in the history of slavery in
America would have uttered the words uttered by Shylock here.  The issue
is not whether Shylock is anti-Semitic, it is whether the people around
him, including the audience watching and listening to the performance,
are anti-Semitic.  While Shylock is protesting "hath not a Jew eyes,"
Antonio and the rest are saying "so does a dog and the basest of
humanity."  Now if Antonio had uttered the redeeming protestations,
Abigail's point might have validity.

Melvyn R. Leventhal

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmond Taft <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Sep 2003 11:28:29 -0400
Subject:        Ambiguous Words

The problem with the _MoV_ is that it is half fairy tale and half
realistic drama. In

That sense, it anticipates _Lear_ and the ?problem comedies? _Alls Well_
and _MM_.

Critics, however, tend to see only one or the other: some confidently
declare that

_MoV_ is a fairy tale; others declare that Shylock is a "tragic hero."
Both sides are half right, and half wrong.

Isn't it clear by now that Shakespeare intends ambiguity and multiple
interpretations?

It should be: his technique -- super-sophisticated --  insures it!  To
take just one example, what are we to make of Portia?s other suitors? If
we see them as part of a fairy tale, then they are like the "bad
sisters" in Cinderella. They are meant to be laughed at and derided.

On the other hand, if we put ourselves in their place and see them with
sympathy and understanding, they are badly treated indeed. In fact, the
faults of the Prince of Aragon -- he is self-satisfied and proud -- are
precisely the faults of the Christians as a whole!

Shakespeare's doubleness insures that we can see this -- or miss it. The
play allows us to go as far as we wish to go.

It's true that the play can be seen as profoundly anti-Semitic; it is
also true that the play can be seen as pointing out for all to see that
if you are not part of the "in" group, then the game is rigged, and you
will always lose.  You can see as much or as little as you choose.

I'm sorry to see my friend Carol Barton go. This list is often too quick
to find fault, and it too often lacks the negative capability to read
sympathetically. Carol is right.

--Ed Taft

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Groves <
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Date:           Saturday, 27 Sep 2003 03:09:51 +0000
Subject: 14.1864 Ambiguous Words
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1864 Ambiguous Words

Carol Barton writes:

>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).

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.  It was precisely the rather
smug manner of Carol's "correction" ("Easiest first") that prompted my
contribution.

Peter Groves

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