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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: November ::
"Translated and Improved"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1919  Monday, 21 November 2005

[1] 	From: 	HR Greenberg <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 19 Nov 2005 15:26:31 EST
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1903 "Translated and Improved"

[2] 	From: 	David Basch <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 19 Nov 2005 18:35:45 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1910 "Translated and Improved"

[3] 	From: 	Florence Amit <
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	Date: 	Sunday, 20 Nov 2005 09:40:14 +0200
	Subj: 	Translated and Improved


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		HR Greenberg <
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Date: 		Saturday, 19 Nov 2005 15:26:31 EST
Subject: 16.1903 "Translated and Improved"
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1903 "Translated and Improved"

It is by no means received truth that the hapless Dr. Lopez was any sort 
of conspirator. Setting aside a great deal of information about his 
innocence, just before his excruciating death, with no possibility of 
reprieve, he nevertheless maintained his innocence, and expressed his 
absolute devotion to Elizabeth. He may indeed have been a Maranno, but 
that is another matter..... HR Greenberg

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Basch <
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Date: 		Saturday, 19 Nov 2005 18:35:45 -0500
Subject: 16.1910 "Translated and Improved"
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1910 "Translated and Improved"

Peter Bridgeman raised a question about the heinous nature of interest 
in that a Gospel parable seems to treat interest as neutral and even 
praiseworthy in the event mentioned. Peter wrote:

  >Where is the prohibition in the Bible?  I ask because last Sunday's
  >gospel, the 'parable of the talents', seems to condone the practice ...
  >
  >"His master answered him, "You wicked and lazy servant!  ... you should
  >have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would
  >have recovered my capital with interest"." (Matt. 25: 26-27).

Norman Hinton then answers the question by noting the Hebrew Bible 
verses that forbid charging interest to a "brother." He lists the 
following scriptures:

   >Among other places:

   >Exodus 22:25; Levticus 25:36; Leviticus 25:37; Deuteronomy 23:19;
   >Nehemiah 5:10; Psalm 15:5; Ezekiel 18:8-14; Ezekiel 22:12
   >
   >This does not include the verse that says you can charge interest to
   >'foreigners'.

The parable seems an indication of a recognition in the New Testament of 
the Jewish oral law, which later was written down as the Talmud. In the 
oral law/Talmud, relief and encouragement was given to a lender to lend 
to his "brother" through the legal device that was called a SooDaR, 
which was a form of partnership, a solution to the practical problem of 
people unwilling to give loans. In this device, the lender became a 
partner of the borrower. Thus, when the borrower later increased his 
wealth as a result of having the borrowed money, he paid back the loan 
and a portion of his gains to the partner-lender. Hence the parable 
would have made sense and been thoroughly understood by those living in 
Judea at the time.

Apparently, since that time, Christians were not conversant with the 
Talmud and would not have known about the legal device of this borrowing 
partnership and did not formulate such a practical system for their own 
use, sticking literally to the Hebrew Bible law. Hence there was the 
need for Jewish lenders like Shylock who were not obligated to render 
interest free loans to non co-religionists.

That Shylock gave Antonio a free loan is one of the many indications 
that Antonio was a Jewish convert to Christianity. Some of the other 
indications are Shylock's use of the word "OUR" in talking to Antonio: 
"OUR father Abram," Sufferance is the badge of all OUR tribe, etc. This 
issue is important because it explains the "merry jest," which was a 
reference to a Talmudic law of the "half payment" penalty that the owner 
of an ox that gored had to pay the owner of the gored ox. The money came 
"from the flesh," of the ox that gored which was sold and the money 
equally shared that was taken "from his flesh." The technical term for 
this in Hebrew is "me'guf'o," literally meaning, "from his flesh," and 
was understood as "half payment." In the play, Antonio obviously 
understands the joke and is not bothered by it and the scene could be 
played in a fashion that would suggest Antonio's recognition.

David Basch

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Florence Amit <
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Date: 		Sunday, 20 Nov 2005 09:40:14 +0200
Subject: 	Translated and Improved

I wish to thank David Basch for graciously sending me copies of his 
postings. In this case it allows me to readily contest some of his 
arguments about Antonio's supposed conversion to Judaism.

Although some of his observations are very interesting his two counts of 
evidence are flimsy indeed. He states "that Shylock gave Antonio a free 
loan" - it being a privilege for a fellow Jew. Shylock's so called "free 
loan" has a most heinous stipulation - a pound of flesh. No one can 
interpret that as being close to anything that the Talmud stipulated, a 
sign of brotherhood or indeed free. Neither Jew nor non- Jew would 
accept such a perverse ruling as anything benevolent. The play occupies 
itself conspicuously with the reason for this perversity. Most people 
say that it is because of revenge. (Why revenge against Antonio when it 
was Christian institutions that were making hardships for the Jews. 
True, Antonio has an agenda and says harsh words but hardly worse than 
most Gentiles at that time. )

My argument is that Shylock's stipulation is part of the "bait to catch 
a fish with all ". It will allow Shylock to have a court ruling, even 
though it would be against his own person, when ordinarily he would have 
no recourse but to know that after his death, his property would be 
confiscated by bureaucrats.

David goes on to interestingly mention the Talmudic "flesh of an ox 
etc". This seems to me an instrument of Shakespeare and not of his 
character. He would have found such ideas amusing and made them 
pertinent to Shylock's imagery. As I have indicated long ago for 
"shaksper" regarding the final arrangements of transfer, Shakespeare 
evidently studied Jewish law quite well in preparation for his play.

Then David mentions Shylock's use of the word "OUR" in talking to 
Antonio: "OUR father Abram," Sufferance is the badge of all OUR tribe, etc."

Well this is a weak argument indeed. The first person plural here simply 
means the collective to which the speaker belongs - here the community 
of Jews. To include Antonio or anyone else that could be represented by 
the singular "you" shows an exceptional degree of conformity or 
continuing intimacy that ordinarily is not sustained. It would be right 
if both parties were listening to rites at a grave side or together 
attended the same lecturer.

On the other hand we have the weekly reading from the Torah "Ha yotzeh" 
- the "leave-taking" of Jacob from Laban which Shylock mentions to 
Antonio at length so as to put him into the secret of his justifiable 
deception. Speaking from experience, even a non- religious Jew would 
understand the essence of this lesson - but not Antonio. He asks, " was 
this inserted to make interest good / Or is your gold and silver ewes 
and rams?"

Although a business man himself, hypocritically he cannot forego 
applying his official  ideology  and  attacks Shylock for taking 
recompense when leasing what is his own,  his money.  To tie this to 
the reading  requires some effort. Antonio further says that "The devil 
can cite scripture for his purpose." (I, iii ,90)  Here one asks, of the 
two whose purpose is devilish? Is this David's convert?

Indeed the only time when conversion becomes an issue is when Antonio 
suggests it to the Duke, The convert to Christianity is to be Shylock. 
This ensues after a changed Antonio has made sure that Jessica will 
inherit something from her father. I believe that he appeases the Duke 
with a dying candidate. Who had the authority to enforce conversion? 
Antonio might have, if he had been made the civil representative of the 
Inquisition in Venice. His sponsorship of Bassanio, his early civility 
to Lorenzo and Graziano and his previous antipathy to Shylock suggests a 
more involved Christian than the ordinary.

Be that as it may, I cannot agree that Antonio in any way or style seems 
like a convert to Judaism.

Probably it is useless for me to further oppose your partiality, David. 
  I will not. By now you know my opinion.

Florence

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