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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: February ::
Noble Shylock
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0322  Thursday, 17 February 2005

[1]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Feb 2005 12:34:02 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0312 Noble Shylock

[2]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Feb 2005 10:42:47 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0304 Noble Shylock

[3]     From:   Peter Berek <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Feb 2005 14:25:24 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0312 Noble Shylock

[4]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Feb 2005 19:33:04 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0312 Noble Shylock

[5]     From:   William Godshalk <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Feb 2005 17:10:54 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0312 Noble Shylock

[6]     From:   L. Swilley <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Feb 2005 18:40:17 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0312 Noble Shylock

[7]     From:   Colin Cox <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Feb 2005 16:43:58 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0312 Noble Shylock

[8]     From:   Robert Lapides <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Feb 2005 21:58:00 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0312 Noble Shylock


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Feb 2005 12:34:02 -0600
Subject: 16.0312 Noble Shylock
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0312 Noble Shylock

Michael B. Luskin offers this opinion: "Finally, in the speech beginning
at line 144, it seems that Shylock is not being deadly serious when he
proposes the pound of flesh penalty, that he is more or less joking.  He
is not willing to be friends, but is willing to be friendly."

Have to say that's a right gallus-snapper, that is. He sure had
everybody convinced that he was planning to have Antonio carved up. It's
a pity he didn't let them in on the joke before he lost all his money
and had to agree to be baptized.

Of course, pity and Shylock don't work real well together, as Portia
pointed out.

Cheers,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Feb 2005 10:42:47 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 16.0304 Noble Shylock
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0304 Noble Shylock

 >"When and if possible how did the notion of a politically correct, noble
 >Shylock emerge?"
 >
 >"Around 1596?"

Again, not true. As far as we know, Shylock was played as a more or less
comic Jew until Charles Macklin, around 1740 at Drury Lane, played a
more tragic dimension. It was a stunning interpretation that became his
most famous role. Although I wouldn't rule out the idea that Shylock
could have been performed as a sympathetic character before then, it
seems that Macklin was purposely playing against an established stock
type for the role.

It led Pope to write: "This is the Jew That Shakespeare drew".

Brian Willis

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Berek <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Feb 2005 14:25:24 -0500
Subject: 16.0312 Noble Shylock
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0312 Noble Shylock

I remember seeing Olivier play Shylock at the Old Vic in 1971-72 in a
production directed by Jonathan Miller. (I think I have the year right.)
As I recall, the production was in 19th century costume, and Olivier
played Shylock as though he were a Rothschild. He came across as a
figure of great cultivation and sophistication. It's hard to imagine
anyone perceiving this performance as "antisemitic." Indeed, Olivier
left the stage after saying "I am content," and then the audience heard
him singing the mourner's Kaddish--the Jewish prayer for the
dead--offstage. I don't think anyone in the audience rejoiced in the
humiliation of this particular Shylock.

Peter Berek

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Feb 2005 19:33:04 -0000
Subject: 16.0312 Noble Shylock
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0312 Noble Shylock

Michael Luskin writes ...

 >In Act I, scene 3, Shylock says that Jacob was the third possessor, of
 >the birthright and the blessing, which he stole from Esau with the
 >connivance of Rebecca.  But in fact he is only the SECOND holder, after
 >Isaac.  Abraham did not have a birthright or blessing from his father,
 >Teruah, why does Shylock say the third?

Shylock seems to be confusing paternal blessings and divine blessings.
Jacob is certainly the third in the line (Abraham - Isaac - Jacob -
Joseph) of those who were divinely favoured by Yahweh.

 >When Antonio says that Heaven gave
 >Jacob the bulk of the sheep, he misses the point. Shylock is only
 >saying, I think, that he can make money by being intelligent in the use
 >of the money he already owns, just as Jacob was being intelligent by
 >using observed genetic knowledge.  I wonder what others think,

I think it depends if Jacob's use of the peeled white "wands" to produce
striped offspring was "observed genetic knowledge" or a magical trick.
Jacob is such a trickster character that the Genesis stories tend to
backfire on him.  The reader tends to sympathise with honest hungry Esau
(though maybe not with Laban) and wonders why Yahweh is favouring the
trickster.  Shakespeare's audience of course knew these stories
backwards so the Shylock-Jacob association would not necessarily have
worked in Shylock's favour.

Peter Bridgman

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Godshalk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Feb 2005 17:10:54 -0500
Subject: 16.0312 Noble Shylock
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0312 Noble Shylock

 >Leah, the wife of Shylock, is the unloved wife of Jacob.

Actually Shylock never married Leah. She died of the plague in
Constantinople before marriage arrangements could be finalized. The big
problem was that she wasn't Jewish. She was Muslim. Shortly after her
death, Shylock fled to Venice and after years of celibacy married a
woman whose name has not survived in the written records.

Okay, I made it all up. But those who tell us that Leah was the wife of
Shylock are equally guilty of fabrication. My students like to imagine
that she was his childhood girlfriend.

Bill Godshalk

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           L. Swilley <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Feb 2005 18:40:17 -0600
Subject: 16.0312 Noble Shylock
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0312 Noble Shylock

Stephen Dobbin writes:

 >I take it that L. Swilley's characterisation of Olivier's Shylock as
 >'shameful' is a thinly veilied assertion that Laurence Olivier was an
 >anti-Semite?  Does Swilley have any single shred of evidence to back up
 >that assertion? If not, it seems to me an apology is in order.

Clumsy me!  I had not thought of that possible construction of my
remark. I was thinking of the potential of the character of Shylock as a
full, complex human being, and the "shame" of Olivier's two-dimensional
presentation that missed it. His offense is against Art, not against Life.

L. Swilley

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Colin Cox <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Feb 2005 16:43:58 -0800
Subject: 16.0312 Noble Shylock
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0312 Noble Shylock

 >Killigrew (page to Charles I and eventually a knight) was
 >not an actor at all, but the patentee and manager of the Restoration
 >King's company.

Mea culpa, my mistake.

Colin Cox

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert Lapides <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Feb 2005 21:58:00 EST
Subject: 16.0312 Noble Shylock
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0312 Noble Shylock

It surprised me that Stephen Dobbin suggested that one has to be an
anti-Semite to use Jewish stereotypes unfairly. I think Olivier's
Othello was shameful for similar reasons, but I have no idea if Olivier
wished to harm African people or their descendents. I've always thought
his narcissism distracted him from the harm he might do.

Robert Lapides

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