Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: August ::
Shylock as Suffering Servant
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1275  Monday, 1 August 2005

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 29 Jul 2005 12:38:47 -0400
        Subj:   Shylock as Suffering Servant

[2]     From:   Joseph Egert <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 29 Jul 2005 16:46:24 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1263 [5] Shylock as Suffering Servant

[3]     From:   Steve Sohmer <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 29 Jul 2005 14:32:59 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1263 Shylock as Suffering Servant

[4]     From:   Larry Weiss <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 29 Jul 2005 17:24:20 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1263 Shylock as Suffering Servant

[5]     From:   Joseph Egert <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 30 Jul 2005 16:55:45 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1263 Shylock as Suffering Servant

[6]     From:   Florence Amit <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 30 Jul 2005 20:21:23 +0300
        Subj:   SHAKSPER 2005: Shylock as Suffering Servant

[7]     From:   Scot Zarela <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Sunday, 31 Jul 2005 12:09:10 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1263 Shylock as stage villain

[8]     From:   Florence Amit <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Sunday, 31 Jul 2005 23:03:33 +0300
        Subj:   Comment: Re: SHK 16.1246 Shylock as Suffering Servant


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 29 Jul 2005 12:38:47 -0400
Subject:        Shylock as Suffering Servant

Stuart Manger writes in apparent exasperation:

"Come, on, people, Shylock is just a stage villain!"

This thread's discussion of Shylock may have violated common sense, but
not for the reason Manger champions. In point of fact, Shylock has been
played as a tragic or semi-tragic figure for hundreds of years. And
there's good reason for it: like a lot of the most interesting
characters Shakespeare creates, Shylock is presented in more than one
way, and he strikes different sensibilities differently.

Probably the closest parallel is Falstaff. In the 30s and 40s, Old
Historicist scholars demanded that we see Sir John as merely a vice
figure, nothing more. All those 19th- and early 20th-century scholars
were wrong about Falstaff: his rejection by Hal would be applauded by
the audience! Why, they would find it positively delightful! (Wilson).

Nonsense, of course. The problem is that these critics (and Manger) give
up complexity and embrace oversimplification, all for the purpose of a
delusory clarity and simplicity that is not really there.

Likewise, Don Bloom recapitulates the plot as if plot and theme were
identical. They aren't, as we can easily see by noting that both MfM and
All's Well have tragic-comic structures but, alas, both plays are
problematic from start to finish.

I'm not defending every word that's been written about Shylock in this
thread, but the truth about the play is that it's quite a bit like the
problem comedies: elements of the play clash and are meant to clash.

Finally, Jessica and Lorenzo seem shallow and their love doomed. How in
heaven's name do they represent the happy union of Christian and Jew?

Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Egert <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 29 Jul 2005 16:46:24 +0000
Subject: 16.1263 [5] Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1263 [5] Shylock as Suffering Servant

John Drakakis exclaims: "As for Joseph Egert's imagination...I'd back
Orgel's against his any day: it demonstrates restraint where it is
necessary, and a willingness to speculate judiciously and within limits
when evidence requires. It's called scholarship."

Ouch!

I can only refer JD to a far more insightful essay, titled "Jew. Shylock
Is My Name"(2000), wherein the author, caught in the act of judicious
speculation, entertains the suggestion of others "that its [Shylock's
name's] origin lies obscurely in the Old Testament book of Genesis."
Shiloh, anyone?

Enjoy!
Joe Egert

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Sohmer <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 29 Jul 2005 14:32:59 EDT
Subject: 16.1263 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1263 Shylock as Suffering Servant

Dear Friends,

I think we'll see Merchant more clearly if we can cast off our
post-Auschwitz indignation at anti-Semitism and consider the play as it
might have been perceived by Elizabethans.

In the first glance of the eyes of Elizabethans Shylock would have been
perceived as a stock character personifying evil. "Going to the Jew" for
money would have been received as the moral equivalent of making a pact
with the Devil. And that has been overlooked in our discussions; the
play proceeds from an act which is itself morally equivocal if not
downright dangerous. In borrowing from the Jew Antonio and Bassanio make
a wicked bargain. An Elizabethan audience would guess in the instant
that evil will come of it. Nor is Bassanio's motive pure; he speaks of
winning a lady richly left as a means of recovering himself from the
burden of debt. And he tells us that this debt is the result of his own
prodigality (1.1.129).

Shakespeare's genius provides that moral ambiguities pervade all his
characters in this play. Antonio has spat in Shylock's beard, kicked
him, and called him cur. Salario, Solanio, and Gratiano are fools who
prattle of nothing (1.1.113-115). Gratiano is also a vicious Jew-baiter
(4.1.passim). Lorenzo is a thief and a spendthrift. Gobbo is not merely
a disloyal servant; a primitive anti-Semite, he offers Jessica to hope
that she was a bastard rather than a Jew (3.5.1-16). Gobbo has also
engaged in rassenschande; he has impregnated a Moor (3.5.35-6).  Portia,
facing Morocco, dissembles when she protests that his race is not an
issue; the moment he fails the casket-test and departs, she reveals her
racism: "Let all of his complexion choose me so" (2.7.79). [Little
wonder Merchant enjoyed a renaissance under the Nazis, it sounds so many
of their volkish themes.] Even the gracious Duke -- who clearly
perceives and deplores the excessiveness of Shylock's demands -- is
estopped from vacating his bond by considerations of the Venetian
economy. Shylock twits him with this (4.1.89-103) and, in the same
breath, reminds the audience that Venetians keep slaves, a practice
horrific to Elizabethans.

The moral ambiguity of every character in Merchant is Shakespeare's
mighty trope. And that theme crystallizes when Portia demands, "Which is
the merchant here? and which the Jew?" (4.1.170). In counterpoint to
this moment stands Shylock's speech, "Hath not a Jew eyes? etc."
(3.1.52-66), which confronts the audience with the man's humanity: to
our astonishment the untermesch is still a mensch.

In the disturbing catastrophe of Act Five, Shylock is compelled to
change his religion on pain of praemunire -- a cruel formula not
unfamiliar to Elizabethan auditors with longer memories. Christians
believe that their souls may be saved by the blood-sacrifice of Christ.
But what Shylock receives in receiving Christ is punishment, not salvation.

Merchant is not an easy play, nor a comforting play. It's not supposed
to be. It is a black comedy written for adults, a play which renders a
ringing indictment of racism and commodity, and Christians who practice
both. To reach its beating heart one need not burden Merchant with
post-Holocaust indignation or 21st century liberalism or even Talmudic
exegesis; these mask its moral impact rather than reveal it.

Hope this helps.

Steve Sohmer

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 29 Jul 2005 17:24:20 -0400
Subject: 16.1263 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1263 Shylock as Suffering Servant

I wrote:

 >If the issue were not the life of the
 >defendant, but only damages for conversion of the
 >plaintiff's property, it seems unlikely that the same court would have
 >found in favor of the Christian defendant
 >against the Jewish plaintiff for that reason alone."

Mr. Egert replied:

 >The key conversion here is that of Jessica.

The conversion I referred to is the common law tort of wrongful taking
of personal property.  It has nothing to do with shifting religious
affiliations.

Mr. Egert further commented:

 >Does anyone doubt she has a cornucopia of
 >quibbles up her sleeve to benefit Lorenzo and
 >his new Christian bride? ... The
 >entire trial is a sham and any decision void,
 >given her criminal imposture as a doctor of laws from Rome.

I still see no evidence, as opposed to paranoid fears, that the court in
Venice, whose wealth depended on the reliability of its judgments, would
have bent the law out of shape for the sake of saving a Christian the
obligation of paying restitutionary damages.  Mr. Egert is bitter that
the court unjustly denied Shylock his pound of flesh.  He should get
over it.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Egert <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 30 Jul 2005 16:55:45 +0000
Subject: 16.1263 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1263 Shylock as Suffering Servant

The illustrious Don Bloom describes the MERCHANT as primarily dealing
with love and friendship.

Right. But doesn't it also expose the unChristian failure to extend that
amity to the Alien within?

Critics often contrast Portia's "I stand for sacrifice" (i.e. the spirit
of self-sacrifice) with Shylocke's "I stand for judgment" (i.e. the
letter of the law). Yet their Biblical precursors are not so tightly
matched. Jesus often uses "sacrifice" in the legalistic sense of burnt
offerings, while subordinating it to mercy ("I desire mercy, not
sacrifice"). Portia, despite her merciful sermon, sacrifices Shylocke on
the altar of the law, a true mercifixion. By forcing him to convert,
Anthonio renders him forever suspect to Inquiring eyes (One possible
source among others for "Belmont" is the Spanish town Belmonte near the
Inquisition Tribunal center Cuenca).

The Iewe's "suff'rance" clearly encompasses the piratical theft of his
only child, recalling yet another ewe parable in 2SAMUEL 12. Isn't
Jessica, before her betrayal, the poor man's "one little ewe lamb...like
a daughter to him"? The rich man, who seizes the lamb, deserves to die,
in King David's judgment, and must pay fourfold in recompense "because
he had no pity."

The multiple recompense that Portia and her gang offer Shylocke also
recalls the penitent "publican" (Anthonio?) of LUKE 19, who offers half
his wealth to the poor (the nouveau pauvre Shylocke?) and fourfold to
those he has cheated. In their guilt, Portia's lot offers Shylocke ten
times the forfeit sum to buy off his vengeance.

Finally, in searching the Archive for a Launcelot-Luther connection, I
came across Cliff Stetner's 1999 post (SHK 10.0818), which led me to his
fertile Web essays: "Genre and Geometry in Shakespeare's MERCHANT OF
VENICE" and "The Protestant Reformation According to Launcelot Gobbo".
To Stetner, Launcelot embodies the English people moving under Lutheran
and Calvinist influence from the Pharisaic Romanist Church (Shylocke's
House) to Elizabeth's "middle way" of Anglican Protestantism (Portia's
Household), as defended by Lancelot Andrewes and Richard Hooker. Here
are the full text links:

http://phoenixandturtle.net/excerptmill/movgeometry.html
http://phoenixandturtle.net/excerptmill/stetner5.html

Enjoy!
Joe Egert

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Florence Amit <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 30 Jul 2005 20:21:23 +0300
Subject:        SHAKSPER 2005: Shylock as Suffering Servant

Dear Forum members,

I am sorry that I did not make my references clear when I told the forum
that I was informed by a guide at the Venice Ghetto. We were not
discussing a current impression. Indeed he was a scholar employed by the
library and cultural center there. "In the heart of the Ghetto of
Venice, heir to the ancient traditions of study, the Renato Maestro
Library and Archives was opened by the Jewish Community, and thanks to
private funding, in 1981.

Its main goal is to make a wide range of resources on Judaism, Jewish
civilization and, particularly, the history of Italian and Venetian Jews
accessible to a vast public, and to promote knowledge of all these
subjects. The library owns a large collection of documents and
publications on the Jewish Community dating from the XVII century."

Copyright (c)Venezia net s.r.l         developed by Business Project

I realize that there are people including forum members who want to put
a simple slant upon the works of Shakespeare. I try to go along with the
creative artist. He deserves our efforts. So I believe.

Florence

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scot Zarela <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Sunday, 31 Jul 2005 12:09:10 -0700
Subject: 16.1263 Shylock as stage villain
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1263 Shylock as stage villain

Stuart Manger's and Don Bloom's postings mark a welcome return to
clear-headedness when they ask us to remember that Shylock is a stage
villain.  I only wish to carry it further by reminding all that his
villainy is of specific kind:  a _comic_ villain.  The menaces that make
Antonio sweat, and his friends squirm, should make us sweat, squirm, and
laugh.  Shylock's devious bond amounts to an outsized game of Gotcha;
and the law court's solemnly hearing this outrage only makes the descent
of the knife tantalizingly slow, in effect milking the agony-the
joke-for all it's worth.  Then Portia's highly suspect casuistry (the
logic of which has been rattled, if not busted, by po-faced legalists
probably since the play's debut) is nothing but her game of Gotcha Back.
  On the foundation of this very stageworthy contest, Shakespeare gives
us a courtship fable, an elopement novella, some breathtaking poetry,
and -- have I left anything out? -- the invention of some humans?

In today's _Parade_ magazine, the actor Jeremy Piven is quoted about
working with Al Pacino:  "'Pacino can be so funny,' Jeremy said.  'He
really ought to do a comedy.'"  And I think so too.

-- Scot

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Florence Amit <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Sunday, 31 Jul 2005 23:03:33 +0300
Subject: SHK 16.1246 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Comment: Re: SHK 16.1246 Shylock as Suffering Servant

To Joseph Egert. I owe you an apology. . On Monday you corrected me by
writing "Clearly the slant is pre-Holocaust as well" concerning a Jew's
doubt over Gentile intentions. Yes, any individual could very well have
such doubts through out the whole period of dispersion. However when
that kind of insecurity is applied to the early  period of Italian
Ghettoiztion and the other restrictions that are reflected in "The
Merchant of Venice" it must be said that the rules were pretty well laid
out. They were well known by both camps. The Jews did not anticipate
surprises while Shakespeare gives a few to the other side. It is my
opinion that the incident of Ancona was not far from his mind, where
through the influence of the Nasi family the Pope was halted in his
excesses by interference from the Turkish Sultan.

This I copied from the Wikipedia free encyclopedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_

"PagePaul IV had rather anti-Semitic views, and he acted on those views,
as well. He considered Jews to be condemned by God to slavery and
undeserving of "Christian love". In 1555 he issued a canon (papal law),
Cum nimis absurdum, by which the Roman Ghetto was created; Jews were
then forced to live in seclusion in a specified area of the town, locked
in at night, and he decreed that Jews should wear a distinctive sign,
yellow hats for men and veils or shawls for women. The following popes
would have enforced the creation of other ghettos in most Italian towns.
Under conservative pressure from Pius IX, the Roman ghetto was the last
ghetto to be abolished in Western Europe".

Florence

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail 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.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.