The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0413  Friday, 4 March 2005

From:           Richard Burt <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 3 Mar 2005 08:57:12 -0500
Subject:        Dowd and M of V

March 3, 2005

Frozen Mermaids, Scary Sirens


I went to see Al Pacino's "Merchant of Venice" movie the other day.

It was funny to watch the climactic courtroom scene in which the
cross-dressing Portia sets a dazzling legal trap for the cross Shylock.

The vengeful loan shark can take his pound of flesh from Antonio, she
tells him, but it has to be exactly a pound. And if Antonio bleeds, the
laws of Venice dictate that all of Shylock's lands and goods will be

The 16th-century Shylock skulks off. A 21st-century Shylock would have
had a solution: liposuction.

Shylock could have extracted his precise pound of flesh, and the
fashionably epicene Antonio could have come out of it looking even sleeker.

Shakespeare wrote a lot about the power of beauty and the withering of
beauty. As one pre-Botox sonnet went: "When forty winters shall besiege
thy brow/And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,/Thy youth's proud
livery, so gazed on now,/Will be a tattered weed of small worth held."

Shakespeare also wrote about narcissistic personalities and the
treacheries of time. So I'm sure he would have been fascinated by the
obsession of our modern culture with freezing the clock - and the face -
with lifestyle drugs and medical treatments.

[ . . . ]


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