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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: December ::
Jewish Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.2084  Friday, 10 December 2004

[1]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Thursday, 9 Dec 2004 10:57:47 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.2076 Jewish Shakespeare

[2]     From:   David Basch <
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        Date:   Thursday, 09 Dec 2004 15:56:18 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2076 Jewish Shakespeare

[3]     From:   Tom Krause <
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        Date:   Thursday, 9 Dec 2004 17:21:23 -0500
        Subj:   Fw: SHK 15.2076 Jewish Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Thursday, 9 Dec 2004 10:57:47 -0500
Subject: 15.2076 Jewish Shakespeare
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.2076 Jewish Shakespeare

I dunno what Shakespeare knew or didn't know about Jews, but Portia's a
pig. The name is from "porcinus," a Latin gens of <snort!>"unknown
meaning." Oddly enough, other Latin words with the root "porc" are all
words that mean something about a pig. (Considering that Portia lives at
Belmont, "beautiful or Bel's mountain," it's likely that she's the
goddess who had the fancy porker festival all over the Mediterrannean
area, the Thesmaphoria.)

Which brings us to Antonio and his possible association to Saint Anthony
and his ever-present pigs. So there's Shylock the Jewish guy wanting a
pound of pigman flesh.

Sometimes Shakespeare was perfectly juvenile about what gave him a giggle.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Basch <
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Date:           Thursday, 09 Dec 2004 15:56:18 -0500
Subject: 15.2076 Jewish Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2076 Jewish Shakespeare

Larry Weiss is a tough one, determined to stick to his views come hell
or high water and to ignore taking seriously the hints in the play left
by Shakespeare, who had no desire to get his throat cut in Elizabethan
England by openly supporting his Jewish character Shylock.

I note Larry's distortion of the Talmudic advice. The Talmud directs
NOT TO SAY THINGS that should not be said because you think that
eventually they will be understood. Larry manages to have the Talmud
advise doing the opposite. Here is Larry's discussion of it in his posting:

   I, Basch, wrote:
   >>I have noted in my book the Talmud's advice in Pirke Avoth
   >>"not to say things that should not be said because you think
   >>that it will eventually become understood properly" -  advice
   >>which Shylock ignored.

   Larry responded:
   >In other words, the Talmud advises speaking in riddles so as
   >to conceal one's real meaning?  According to Basch, Shylock
   >followed that advice to a tee.

Larry interpreted this in exactly the opposite way and this should be a
warning to those who read this discussion that he is prone to see things
colored by his original opinions unmodified by new information.  Shylock
failed to heed the Talmudic warning and said what should not be said,
thinking he would be able to pull off the charade and eventually to show
off his humanity to Antonio and to the court. This error of Shylock is
an object lesson in favor of the Talmud's wisdom (recognized by
Shakespeare who seems to have known of it).

Am I the only one to have seen a Jewish Shakespeare in 400 years? As I
note in my book, THE HIDDEN SHAKESPEARE, I got on to this late as a
result of Neil Hirschson's articles in the journal MIDSTREAM during
middle and late 1980's. It was Hirschson that spotted the hints of
Antonio's Jewish apostasy and it was he that first voiced-to my
knowledge-his theory that Shakespeare was Jewish. The additional
evidence I found confirmed it and I wrote this up in three books that
you can find out more about at my website

                    www.ziplink.net/~entropy

The item, "Can no mercy pierce your heart?" was first mentioned by
Abraham Morevski in Yiddish more than 60 years ago in his book, totally
ignored. Morevski was an actor and mentioned this line as pointing to
the charade, that Shylock was waiting for Antonio to ask for that mercy.
Morevski was a very perceptive person and it is my policy to try to
learn from everyone.

All of this I mention in my book-crediting those who educated me-and it
is there for those who want to read more about the matter instead of
being professional objectors, baying at the moon. The evidence for my
views are numerous and deep and reveal Shakespeare as someone
knowledgeable of Judaic culture and as being a profoundly religious
personality, more religiously inclined than most Westerners of today,
which may be an embarrassment to some people (but not to me). When
Hamlet observes, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy," he says it all, speaking I
believe for Shakespeare, who conveyed the essence of the teaching of
Ecclesiastes in HAMLET-a finding of my own made about ten years ago that
academics far and wide still have trouble catching up to because they
refuse to see a Shakespeare with a reverence for those "more things"
that today's philosophers leave out.

Concerning Florence Amit, she did not dream that Shakespeare was a Jew
but only reported on the finding of "Hebrew puns" embedded in The
Merchant of Venice, noticed by a polymath Talmudic scholar in Haifa.
This scholar's findings were presented in an extensive article in
Shakespeare Survey.  That scholar also did not dream that Shakespeare
was a Jew but theorized that Shakespeare merely got hold of a
translation of what must have originally been a Hebrew Renaissance
vintage play-examples of a play type that scholars have long known
about-and had those imbedded Hebrew puns accidentally showing up
inadvertently in the thread of the story.  My new findings about
Shakespeare would indicate that he was very accomplished in Hebrew and
could have done all this himself, putting in
a hidden story within a story -- a genre that is not original.

The more ignorant about the facts that someone wishes to keep himself
in, the less such a person becomes qualified in speaking about such things.

Larry also alleges as follows:

    >Basch cannot quote a passage that suggests Shylock's benignity, even
    >ironically.

I will now try to do so in a number of instances, but will begin by
quoting a comment in a film review on Al Pacino's Shylock,

      "Peter Bradshaw focuses on the play [MOV] as comedy and on the
       characterization of Shylock as an eloquent denouncer of
       hypocrisy, cruelty, and oppression ..."

That is what Peter Bradshaw saw, even if Larry is ignorant of such
things about Shylock. A man who would denounce cruelty and oppression is
obviously not all bad. Now here is Shylock speaking nicely to Antonio to
cool down Antonio's rage at him:

    SHYLOCK                Why, look you, how you storm!
         I would be friends with you and have your love,
         Forget the shames that you have stain'd me with,
         Supply your present wants and take no doit
         Of usance for my moneys, and you'll not hear me:
         This is kind I offer.

    BASSANIO        This were kindness.

There is also the speeches in which Shylock castigates the Venetians for
their treatment of slaves, asking whether any of them would let a slave
of theirs sleep in their beds. In fact, the Talmud directs a slave owner
that has only one bed in his house to give it to his slave before
himself so that he not demean the slave's humanity. I wager that
Shakespeare knew of this when he composed Shylock's speech on this.

Larry falls into the trap of seeing the Jewish banker as potentially a
mugger-monster, referring to those outlandish incidents he has in his
brain.  Shakespeare knew full well the prejudices of his audience that
would expect barbarism from the Jewish stereotypes they knew. That is
why all those soulfull speeches made by Shylock-the only one to make
such in the play-are without affect on audiences even today, like when
Shylock who searches far and wide for his daughter is told that his
daughter traded his dead wife's ring for a monkey, he says:

      "I would not have sold that ring for a wilderness of monkeys"

In his suffering Shylock says:

                   No news of them? Why, so: and I know
         not what's spent in the search: why, thou loss upon
         loss! the thief gone with so much, and so much to
         find the thief; and no satisfaction, no revenge:
         nor no [ill] luck stirring but what lights on my
         shoulders; no sighs but of my breathing; no tears
         but of my shedding.

This sympathetic character wins no sympathy from the prejudiced and the
unempathetic for the sensitive Shylock is obviously not portrayed by
Shakespeare as a psycho-killer. The very daughter he says he wishes dead
he searches for at great expense. (How many fathers ever said of their
daughter, "I'll kill that kid!" A little empathy for a bereaved father,
driven to distraction, would yield a new understanding of events.

So if Larry wants to spend his days on a Mount Olympus of his own
unreachable opinions, he won't be able to make sense of all of this and
must find an incompetent Shakespeare who creates a hopelessly
inconsistent character rather than find consistency in a play that
exploits the prejudices of his audience that just cannot fathom
Shylock's humanity since they interpret every Rorschack blot to confirm
their prejudices about Jews. In fact, TMOV fits the prototype of what
are called Purimshpiels. These were plays written by Jews in Medieval
Europe in honor of the Purim holiday in which conventions were
burlesqued and things shown in opposites.  (In fact, I will send out to
the list my article which shows those elements in The Merchant of
Venice.) So Larry was right when he mentions "cryptogram," which is what
this play is, playing a joke on the hypocrits who outwardly profess high
ideals but who betray these again and again without being aware of it.

Nevertheless, I must acknowledge that I am indebted to Larry for his
skepticism which enables more details of the story to unfold.

David Basch

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Krause <
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Date:           Thursday, 9 Dec 2004 17:21:23 -0500
Subject: 15.2076 Jewish Shakespeare
Comment:        Fw: SHK 15.2076 Jewish Shakespeare

Larry Weiss writes:

"I agree that the passage is unclear to any but an Elizabethan common
lawyer. A 'fine' was not a monetary penalty, but a settlement to 'end'
(hence 'fine') a dispute. See Black's Law Dictionary."

I don't think Black's Law Dictionary should stand as the final authority
on this tricky question. In fact, Justice O'Connor, in her concurring
opinion in Browning-Ferris v. Kelco, quoted Shakespeare for the opposite
view:

"By the 17th century, fines had lost their original character of bargain
and had replaced amercements as the preferred penal sanction. . . . .
William Shakespeare, an astute observer of English law and politics, did
not distinguish between fines and amercements in the plays he wrote in
the late 16th century. In Romeo and Juliet, published in 1597, Prince
Escalus uses the words 'amerce' and 'fine' interchangeably in warning
the Montagues and the Capulets not to shed any more blood on the streets
of Verona:

'I have an interest in your hate's proceeding, My blood for your rude
brawls doth lie a-bleeding; But I'll amerce you with so strong a fine,
That you shall all repent the loss of mine.' Act III, scene 1, lines
186-189."

Browning-Ferris Indus. v. Kelco Disposal, Inc., 492 U.S. 257, 290 (1989)
(O' Connor, J., concurring).

Tom Krause

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