2005

Noble Shylock

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0372  Wednesday, 23 February 2005

[1]     From:   John-Paul Spiro <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Feb 2005 17:03:22 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0359 Noble Shylock

[2]     From:   Florence Amit <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 23 Feb 2005 16:55:42 +0200
        Subj:   SHAKSPER 2005: Noble Shylock


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John-Paul Spiro <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 22 Feb 2005 17:03:22 -0500
Subject: 16.0359 Noble Shylock
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0359 Noble Shylock

In response to David Basch's reading of "The Merchant of Venice":

How many people in Shakespeare's audience were supposed to pick up on
this?  Is Antonio's secret history just something that the well-informed
(i.e., those familiar with Talmudic law) can identify?  Was Shakespeare
writing a play that sort-of satisfied his own audience's general
anti-Semitism while also winking at the lucky few who have the right
background to piece together the "real" meaning of the play?
Contemporary Shakespeare scholars aren't the only ones "wedded" to a
bad-Jew/good-but-cruel-Christian reading of the play.

Is there a reason why Shylock never actually calls Antonio a "converted
Jew" and in fact criticizes him as a Christian among Christians?  Can
you point me to a line in the play where Shylock implies that Antonio
used to be "one of us," or is it just in the hints of Talmudic wisdom
that creep out of Antonio's mouth despite his best efforts to pass as
Christian?

If Shylock never intended to actually cut Antonio's flesh but rather
just wanted a piece of his ox (did Antonio own oxen?) then how can
Portia penalize Shylock for wanting to shed Antonio's blood?  Why does
Shylock refer to "your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken/In what part
of your body pleaseth me" (1.3.134-35)?

If Antonio was once Jewish, then how come he seems unfamiliar with the
story of Jacob and Laban (1.3.56: "Did he take interest?")?

That said, I agree with David Basch when he writes, "we have a play with
a different meaning than the old-time morality play expected, a modern
play which explores the merciless hypocrisy of the powers that be toward
the powerless alien in their midst, themselves strutting about in their
belief of their own justice and compassion even while they rape Shylock
of all his wealth for the "crime" of his unwisdom in daring to confront
a Christian in a court that was hardly neutral since Judge Portia was an
involved person in the case."  The hypocrisy of the Christians in the
play is blatant and not flattering; on the other hand, I don't think
this vindicates Shylock at all.  He seems to care just as much about his
ducats as his daughter, and he allows himself to be defined by his
hatred and resentment, not his social conscience or generosity.  Even
his plea for justice shows that he only thinks in bodily terms: he
cannot defend his integrity by referring to his soul or even his good
works, but simply in his physical existence and his desire to avenge.

No one comes off very well in this play, though you can admire Portia
for her resourcefulness while hating how she uses those resources.  But
I don't see any "nobility" in this play anywhere.

John-Paul Spiro

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Florence Amit <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 23 Feb 2005 16:55:42 +0200
Subject:        SHAKSPER 2005: Noble Shylock

Noble Shylock track

  Shylock's Support of Portia

The Italicized text below is taken from Yehuda T. Radday's adaptation
(Shakespeare Survey 32), of Schelomo Jehuda Schoenfeld's original book
written in Hebrew and German, A Hebrew Source for "The Merchant of
Venice". Since it is fairly typical of some representations of the court
room scene I use it as a kind of dialogue that allows me to put the
interpretation that I believe is correct. Schoenfeld's hypothesis of
Shakespeare's supposed plagiarisms from three unknown Hebrew language
sources I have either omitted or indicated by dotes where necessary.

Schelomo Yehuda Schoenfeld found himself in a dilemma whenever he dealt
with Shylock. "How could such an impossible 'Jewish Devil' be exhibited
in a play that so affably features the Hebrew language and Jewish lore?"
His answer to that implied question was to manufacture a hypothesis that
allows for Shakespeare's broad exploitation of three variant sources,
making him not responsible for the play's affirmative Jewish content.
Thus the actual drama is lost to Schoenfeld, as it is to all critics who
superficially evaluate Shylock.  The pejorative understanding of Shylock
which Schoenfeld adopted, of an uncompromisingly evil character, rather
than a man of virtue in disguise, is at odds with any possible cohesion
for presenting an intelligent Shakespearean drama. My alternative
reading is that in order to tempt the Duke to accept his case, Shylock's
strategy: his bait to catch a fish 'with all' (as proposed by Bassanio)
demanded that he parade most of the elements that Schoenfeld describes.
Since Antonio did not deign to understand Shylock's initial offer of
collaboration, brought forward with the Laban reference, for an interim
period he is reduced to actually believing that he is the hapless dupe,
contrived by the Jewish party for a lure. The audience complies and he
has become their woeful "good man" in perpetuity. In contrast, according
to my corrective reading, Antonio finally does comprehend why he has
been singled out to be vexed. He voluntarily transforms his mission into
an act of honor, helps the Jews and is amply compensated for his
inconvenience.

Schoenfeld argues that by the application of multiple Hebrew meanings
Shylock believed that he could force the Duke to agree to his evil
forfeiture, since it is specified in a bond.  Such an odd proposition
falls in line with this researcher's others irrationalities regarding
Shylock. For even if Shylock's Hebrew would have been accepted by the
authorities, no proper court could allow an agreement to stand that
contained articles known only to one of the involved parties, nor would
  such a flimsy makeshift influence its preferred judgment. This
question must be put time after time to mainstream critics: Would
Shylock have been that stupid? The real reason for the Hebrew punning is
that it provides guide lines for whom-ever takes on the task of
intermediary before the Duke. Salerio appeals to the Marrano, Bassanio,
to rescue Antonio; but as it happens it is will be his fianc


A Claudius Question

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0371  Wednesday, 23 February 2005

From:           Bill Arnold <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 22 Feb 2005 21:08:51 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 16.0354 A Claudius Question
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0354 A Claudius Question

Julia Griffin writes, "I wondered how many lines of the play one would
have to excise in order to make the question of Claudius's guilt uncertain."

What is this obsession with trying to rewrite Hamlet the play all about,
just to justify the modern interpretation of Hamlet the character's
madness?   The play is written, and the open ACT proves beyond a shadow
of a doubt the guilt of Claudius.  Would you throw out ACT I?  Sounds to
me like version of Game Station 2 in the works!  Just mark this: if you
do, it ain't Will Shakespeare's *Hamlet* the play and Hamlet the
character anymore, because as the tragic hero, Hamlet demands his
antagonist, the murderer Claudius who usurped the throne, knowing, that
if he killed Prince Hamlet's father, he stood a chance of changing fate.
  Fate had Prince Hamlet the next king, and Claudius murdered his
brother to rob fate of its fate!  That is the whole point of the play!
Sheesh.

Bill Arnold
http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

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BBC Radio Shakespeare

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0369  Wednesday, 23 February 2005

[1]     From:   Kevin Dearinger <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Feb 2005 17:40:37 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0351  BBC Radio Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Charles Weinstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Feb 2005 18:22:45 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0351 BBC Radio Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kevin Dearinger <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 22 Feb 2005 17:40:37 EST
Subject: 16.0351  BBC Radio Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0351  BBC Radio Shakespeare

I believe that David Hunter is the director of the BBC radio (on audio)
Tempest. I do not have the A and C at the moment.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Weinstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 22 Feb 2005 18:22:45 -0500
Subject: 16.0351 BBC Radio Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0351 BBC Radio Shakespeare

A&C:  Mary Peate
The Tempest:  David Hunter

--Charles Weinstein

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Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Date of King John

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0370  Wednesday, 23 February 2005

From:           Michael Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 22 Feb 2005 17:35:07 -1000
Subject: 16.0360 Date of King John
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0360 Date of King John

To Jack Heller:  It is quite true that there are more differences (and
similarities) between the two plays than this forum, quite properly,
allows us to list. KJ however is a profoundly anti-catholic play: the
machiavillainous Cardinal Pandulph is the source of endless political
trouble. I don't know how the current trend describing Shakespeare as a
closet Catholic manages to ignore this. KJ also shows additions derived
from Foxe, many cited ironically enough (since they tend to confirm the
sequence TR-KJ) in Honigmann's edition.

To Bob Grumman: Please read Vickers' essay before disagreeing with it:
'The Troublesome Raigne, George Peele, and the date of King John,' in
Brian Boyd (ed.) Words that Count: Essays on Early Modern Authorship in
Honor of MacDonald P. Jackson (University of Delaware Press, 2004).

To Ed Taft: Thanks.

--Michael Egan

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Venetian Usury

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0368  Wednesday, 23 February 2005

From:           Bruce Richman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 22 Feb 2005 16:44:26 -0600
Subject: 16.0350 Venetian Usury
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0350 Venetian Usury

Ezra Pound's Cantos XXV and XXVI address the debasement of art and
culture in 16th century Venice by usury and manipulations of credit.
Although Pound is well-known to have vilified Jews as usurers, the
usurious practices in the Venetian Cantos are not those of small-time
businessmen like Shylock, but of major institutional players like the
Florentine Cosimo de Medici, who routinely did business in Venice
("almost as a Venetian to Venice" Canto XXVI) and manipulated the money
supply throughout Europe by calling in international debts that couldn't
be paid. Florence was the banking capital, but Venice was the center of
brokerage, and lending money at high interest to governments and
nobility was a regular activity among wealthy and influential Christians.

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

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