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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: December ::
Jewish Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.2097  Monday, 13 December 2004

[1]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Dec 2004 13:03:50 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2084 Jewish Shakespeare

[2]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Dec 2004 07:42:41 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.2084 Jewish Shakespeare

[3]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Dec 2004 11:50:04 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2084 Jewish Shakespeare

[4]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Dec 2004 12:00:25 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2084 Jewish Shakespeare

[5]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Dec 2004 19:03:26 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2084 Jewish Shakespeare

[6]     From:   JD Markel <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Dec 2004 15:54:49 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2084 Jewish Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Dec 2004 13:03:50 -0000
Subject: 15.2084 Jewish Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2084 Jewish Shakespeare

[a] if the name of Portia is so pejorative, (Abigail Quart) why does he
give her the same name as the heroic, stoic wife of Brutus in 'JC'? A
name well-known as a by-word for honour by Elizabethan audiences?

[b] Is David Basch pitching to be one of the scriptwriters for the next
Woody Allen film?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Dec 2004 07:42:41 -0600
Subject: 15.2084 Jewish Shakespeare
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.2084 Jewish Shakespeare

Abigail Quart adds this

 >"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.)"

This bit of whimsy aside, there may be something of interest in the name
of the princess of Belmont. There were a fair number of Portia's in
Rome, but the only one I can think of that WS would certainly be
familiar with is Portia the wife of Brutus, who appears in "Julius
Caesar" and then swallows Drano off-stage. Has anyone made any
connection between the two? Are there other Portia's that might have
suggested that name for the princess? Or is it more likely just a
non-differentiated girl's name that might have instead been Livia or Julia?

Cheers,
don

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Dec 2004 11:50:04 -0500
Subject: 15.2084 Jewish Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2084 Jewish Shakespeare

It seems to me that one of the principal raisons d'etre of a list like
this is to provide a forum in which speculative notions can be tested by
holding them up to the scrutiny of the scholarly community.  When the
new idea withstands that scrutiny it enters the steam of plausible
scholarship. When the notion is patently wrong, the responder's function
is twofold:  (1) to convince the proponent of his or her error and (2)
to make sure that the idea does not seem to gain acceptance from its
merely having been advanced and not refuted.

I believe that the latter purpose has already been served and there is
no point in pursuing the former as Mr. Basch is beyond persuasion.
Therefore, to prevent this post from becoming another thread like the
late unlamented "monetary debasement in Measure For Measure," in which
two pertinacious members pugnaciously withstood the logic of the
champion of the rest of us, I shall not respond further unless serious
members of the list indicate that they are convinced by Mr. Basch.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Dec 2004 12:00:25 -0500
Subject: 15.2084 Jewish Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2084 Jewish Shakespeare

Another function of the list is to provide the community with
specialized knowledge that is known only to some of the members.  To
that end, Tom Krause points out that "fine" had achieved its modern
meaning by the seventeenth century.  I did not intend to suggest that it
could not be susceptible of that interpretation in the right context,
and I thank Mr. Krause for pointing out that my observation may have
appeared too dogmatic.  (I note, however, that the authorities cited by
Black's Law Dictionary for the original meaning are nineteenth and
twentieth century cases.)

Like many legal terms, "fine" takes its meaning from the context in
which it is used.  "Common law" itself is meaningful only in relation to
that against which it is opposed: -- for example, common law vs. local
law, statute law, equity, ecclesiastical law, international law,
admiralty, civil canon law, etc., etc.  The task of filling up the list
I'd rather leave to you.

In the context in which it is used in M/V, "fine" almost certainly means
"composition," not "amercement."

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Dec 2004 19:03:26 -0000
Subject: 15.2084 Jewish Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2084 Jewish Shakespeare

Abigail Quart writes ...

 >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.

A nice idea but unlikely.  If WS's contemporaries made any connection
between Antonio and St Anthony, they wouldn't have thought of pigs.  In
England St Anthony was chiefly associated with cures for ergotism ('St
Anthony's fire').

Peter Bridgman

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           JD Markel <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Dec 2004 15:54:49 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 15.2084 Jewish Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2084 Jewish Shakespeare

To Mr. Weiss, Mr. Krause, and others:

One poster suggested that all of Shylock's wealth was seized by
operation of Antonio's mercy. Mr. Weiss objected it was only half.  I
read the text to mean all of Shylock's wealth was taken from him, but
then I read some commentators take the position that Shylock ends up
with half.  This conflict caused me to scrutinize my interpretation and
the other.  I know of no detailed written analysis of the matter and
would enjoy your thoughts.  The text at issue:

ANTONIO:
So please my lord the duke and all the court
To quit the fine for one half of his goods,
I am content; so he will let me have
The other half in use, to render it,
Upon his death, unto the gentleman
That lately stole his daughter:
Two things provided more, that, for this favour,
He presently become a Christian;
he other, that he do record a gift,
Here in the court, of all he dies possess'd,
Unto his son Lorenzo and his daughter.

The crux of the matter might be the word "so."  I read "so" as "in this
way", "in order that", "therefore," or "having the purpose of."  Antonio
says, in other words, "dismiss the fine so I can have it, and I will
render it to his son-in-law at Shylock's death."   The "favour" being
the man who stole Shylock's daughter will get the money - eventually.
In the meantime Antonio's generosity profits him by usury, "in use," a
humorous point subverting his earlier protest he doesn't practice usury.
   Antonio keeps his accorded half, the "other half" accorded to the
State goes to Antonio too.

I saw an editorial footnote defining "so" as "if" and inferentially this
supported the editor's interpretation the result of Antonio's mercy was
Shylock keeps half, half to Antonio "in use".  The dictionary
definitions of "so" are many, one being "if."  I think "if" supports
both interpretations. "If" meant for the editor a result that the Court
would dismiss the fine, it remits to Shylock, but the court would take
this act only "if" Shylock "let[s ]" Antonio have half of the estate, or
perhaps lets Antonio keep the half already accorded to Antonio by the
law pronounced by Portia.  Shylock keeps half, Antonio half but only for
the remainder of Shylock's life.

Perhaps someone can explain the latter interpretation better than I.

I think arguing against the latter interpretation is the phrase "other
half."  Maybe one half of something is interchangeable with the other.
But I think Shakespeare signifies that the "other half" is a fixed term,
perhaps a legal usage, denoting a particular half, that which had been
accorded to the State.  And Portia previously specified:

The party 'gainst the which he doth contrive
Shall seize one half his goods; the other half
Comes to the privy coffer of the state;

The Duke then reemphasized the division:

That thou shalt see the difference of our spirits,
I pardon thee thy life before thou ask it:
For half thy wealth, it is Antonio's;
The other half comes to the general state,
Which humbleness may drive unto a fine.

One might argue if Shylock is also forced to sign a deed of gift "of all
he dies possess'd" would not this suggest that he will have an estate
worthy of undergoing this procedure, and would not this imply Antonio's
mercy leaves him with half?  It's a plausible argument.  But reference
to "The Jew of Malta" should be considered.  The Governor of Malta
decrees all Jews will to pay half of their estates to the state in order
to pay the tribute owed to the Emperor of Turkey.  Instead the Jews may
convert to Christianity.  If they do neither their entire estates are
seized.  Obviously this predicament resounds in MOV.   Barabbas argues
he won't do either and such is unfair.  The governor reminds him that he
risks his whole estate.  Barabbas relents and says he will pay half.
Governor says too bad, too late:  "No, Jew, thou hast denied the
articles, And now it cannot be recall'd."

Barabbas' precedent for Shylock is the loss of the entire estate.
Certainly Antonio's amendment to Jew of Malta may be the mercy of
letting Shylock keep a half, but I think Antonio's mercy is grabbing the
state's share.  And Marlowe contemplated the plight of a moneyless Barabbas:

Barabas:  And Christians, what or how can I multiply?
Of naught is nothing made.

First Knight: From naught at first thou cam'st to
little wealth,
 From little unto more, from more to most:
If your first curse fall heavy on thy head,
And make thee poor and scorn'd of all the world,
'Tis not our fault, but thy inherent sin.

Barabas. What, bring you Scripture to confirm your
wrongs?
Preach me not out of my possessions. ...

Perhaps difficulties in our understandings are caused by the fast pacing
of the comedy, Shakespeare's agenda aimed at greater metaphorical and
symbolic purposes, and his concern to fit in two legalistic jokes - the
jab that Antonio would practice usury, elsewhere hinted in the play, and
a joke on "Deed of Gift" the deed being no gift at all, but compelled.

On another note, Mr. Strauss and Mr. Weiss discuss the word "fine."  In
the words of the Duke:

The other half comes to the general state,
Which humbleness may drive unto a fine.

The use of the word "fine" here perplexing.  I've read only one
commentator try to explain it, effectively "If you are humble Shylock I
will reduce this to a lesser amount."  The implication for the
commentator was "fine" connoting  something small, maybe like the fines
we usually face for parking tickets and such.  Perhaps this is an errant
modern reading but I know of no other.  Antonio later does not use
"fine" with such a meaning.

Thoughts?

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