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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: February ::
Noble Shylock
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0304  Tuesday, 15 February 2005

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 Feb 2005 18:18:00 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0293 Noble Shylock

[2]     From:   JD Markel <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 Feb 2005 19:20:09 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0293 Noble Shylock


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Monday, 14 Feb 2005 18:18:00 -0500
Subject: 16.0293 Noble Shylock
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0293 Noble Shylock

 >instead of making him - as shamefully Olivier did - the greedy,
 >whiny, put-upon, hand-wringing sniveler - try seeing him as much as
 >possible as a 19th century banker, dignified and justly contemptuous of
 >the society beneath him.

I find this observation curious, as the play does not present Shylock in
relation to his social inferiors except Launcelot Gobbo, whom he treats
with less contempt than I would have expected.  Antonio, a rich
merchant, would have been the social equal of a Victorian banker.  The
other characters, Bassanio, Portia, Lorenzo, et al., were gentles, so
they would have been his social superior.  If a Victorian banker had
treated his peers and superiors with the arrogance Shylock shows, he
would have been unclubbable.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           JD Markel <
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 >
Date:           Monday, 14 Feb 2005 19:20:09 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 16.0293 Noble Shylock
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0293 Noble Shylock

Harvey Greenberg writes:

"Shakespeare knew his audiences were particularly eager to see
punishment of the perfidious Jew in the context of the trial and
execution of Roderigo Gomez, the Spanish Jewish physician falsely
accused of planning Elizabeth's poisoning."

I think his audience would rather enjoy seeing Shylock knife Antonio.
But Lopez was guilty.  He did so plan.

"When and if possible how did the notion of a politically correct, noble
Shylock emerge?"

Around 1596?

L. Swilley writes:

"And instead of making him - as shamefully Olivier did - the greedy,
whiny, put-upon, and-wringing sniveler - try seeing him as much as
possible as a 19th century banker, dignified and justly contemptuous of
the society beneath him."

Then you certainly should never rent "The Jazz Singer" -Neil Diamond
version- where Olivier emotes with the same schtick.  There's good
argument that Shylock would be well played as a Puritan.  Earlier actors
of record costumed him in clothes seemingly Puritan or clerically-related.

Colin Cox writes:

"The gentle doctor in question was Roderigo 'Lopez' - hence the wolf
reference by Gratiano at the trial."

I believe that true.  The wolf reference about Shylock did not relate to
his usury and the anti-usury texts I've read don't particularly use wolf
analogies.  About "gentle," Lopez was popular but sometimes lacked
gentlemanly tact.  For example his breach of a doctor's ethics by
gossiping about Essex's less than pound of flesh.   As for Don Antonio,
the half-Jewish pretender to the Portuguese throne, by the time of
Lopez' trial Lopez was really conspiring to kill him.  He wasn't alone,
two Jewish spies for England captured by Spain confessed the same.
Antonio failed them, and others, in various ways.  Seemingly no one at
the time cared too much about Antonio to complain.  David Katz has
written at length about these conspiracies with much authority including
diving into the letters where Lopez bargains with the King of Spain
about payment.  Lopez wanted the money up front, the King wanted the
murder first suspecting Lopez was going to cheat him.  Why wouldn't a
Marrano want to cheat the King of Spain?  He'd be the talk of Europe.

There's much written arguing Lopez was unfairly treated.  These analyses
examine the power politics of the time usually focusing on Essex's power
aims and the good reasons Essex had to personally hate Lopez.  Also
presented is the opinion that Lopez' plot was not real and meant to
cheat the King of Spain for he truly loved the Queen.  Similar intrigues
were not unusual.  Also added to the mix is Lopez' stated fear of the
rack.  On the other side is argument Lopez' judges could reasonably
believe he intended to kill the Queen.

I take a different view.  I agree Lopez was probably "innocent" in our
conception and probably by the laws of most any other state at the time.
   Lopez was scamming the King, banking on prior connections for one
last retirement-worthy jackpot.  He had no intent to kill Elizabeth.
Even so he was still guilty of treason under Elizabethan law.  Merely
talking about or "imagining" the death of Elizabeth was a treasonable
offence whatever the intent, a curious law impelled by Elizabeth's
tenuous status due to her gender, lack of heir, and the numerous
conspiracies these statuses promulgated. At first Lopez confessed
willfully, with explanation, thinking there was no problem.  I suspect
when he realized the believability of his explanation was irrelevant and
what he thought was legal was not he made up the rack story thinking
duress by torture was plausible.  Essex vehemently denied torturing
Lopez and I believe Essex.  He didn't have to torture him, Lopez was
convicted by his own mouth.

Your average Elizabethan might also have thought the scamming story
plausible, and the punishment based on overly legalistic grounds.
Further, there was no conception of "attempt" crimes in England at the
time except for treason against the Queen.  If Lopez plotted so against
them there would be no crime.  These tensions might echo in Portia's
"The law hath yet another hold on you..."  I'm researching these matters
currently so I would be glad to hear any input.

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