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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: October ::
Portia's Mysterious Letter
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1703  Thursday, 6 October 2005

[1] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 04 Oct 2005 14:57:28 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1692 Portia's Mysterious Letter

[2] 	From: 	Florence Amit <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 04 Oct 2005 23:25:16 +0200
	Subj: 	Subject: TMOV: Portia's Mysterious Letter


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 04 Oct 2005 14:57:28 -0400
Subject: 16.1692 Portia's Mysterious Letter
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1692 Portia's Mysterious Letter

 >it seems clear that Portia is giving a gift to Antonio.  For it is
 >she who seems to be providing for him here. Just as she earlier
 >disguised herself on his behalf, she now disguises her gift for
 >him as a piece of good fortune.

An interesting conjecture, but it does not bear analysis.  We must 
assume that Antonio was familiar with his vessels and merchandise and 
the manning of his ships.  If Antonio's actual ships were lost, how 
would Portia be able to replace them with identical bottoms, carrying 
the same cargo and manned by the same master, mate and crew?

 >I see Shylock as having authorized the "hit" on Antonio's vessels,
 >but this time not to get richer, but to get revenge. So he calls in
 >some pirate favors.

This is more plausible, but the theory does not hold up if we consider 
that the ships were wracked, not pirated.  And I think WS would have 
given us a little bigger hint if Shylock were responsible.

 >And finally, that, in turn, casts Salarino's (and Salanio's) earlier
 >comments to Antonio, which, in hindsight, seem oddly prescient,
 >in another light as well:
 >
 >"My wind cooling my broth
 >Would blow me to an ague, when I thought
 >What harm a wind too great at sea might do."
 >
 >It sure sounds like Salarino and Salanio knew a whole lot more than 
they were letting on,

Perhaps they had paid a visit to Macbeth's witches, who controlled the 
winds.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Florence Amit <
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 >
Date: 		Tuesday, 04 Oct 2005 23:25:16 +0200
Subject: 	Subject: TMOV: Portia's Mysterious Letter

A crises point, reflected in the dilemmas facing Shakespeare's 
characters, was reached under the influence of Pope Paul IV when books 
of the Talmud were burned, Jews were put into Ghettos, a badge made 
mandatory, occupations limited and the employment of non-Jewish servants 
curtailed. Crypto Jews were particularly persecuted. Twenty-six were 
burned at the stake at Ancona by the inquisition; others sent to the 
galleys. These events so much affected the Nasi family (chief among 
prominent Jews) that they initiated a boycott against Italian shipping. 
It is, I believe, recalled by the disappearance of Antonio's argosies. 
Brian Pullan recounts that "In March of 1556 the Sultan Suleyman 'the 
Magnificent' wrote a letter to Pope Paul IV asking for the immediate 
release of the Ancona Marranos, which he declared to be Ottoman 
citizens. The Pope released them." It was a time when indeed Marranos 
were expelled from a number of Italian cities - including Genoa 
(mentioned by Tubal for the benefit of those whom he would mislead) and 
Venice. (This period corresponds to Joseph Nasi's young manhood) One 
must understand Bassanio's involvement in the affairs of Shylock as well 
as the embargo of Antonio's vessels as reflective of these events. Those 
who benefited from the philanthropy of the Nasi family were often the 
victims of Christendom's ambivalent policies regarding the Jews, made 
evident when the transfer of wealth was involved.

Therefore the release of Antonio's vessels would well be within the 
knowledge of Portia ~ (daughter of the Nasi clan) according to the analogy.

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