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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: August ::
Shylock as Suffering Servant
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1293  Thursday, 4 August 2005

[1]     From:   John Drakakis <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 3 Aug 2005 15:24:32 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant

[2]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 03 Aug 2005 11:44:47 -0400
        Subj:   Shylock as Suffering Servant

[3]     From:   William Sutton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 3 Aug 2005 08:56:16 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant

[4]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 03 Aug 2005 13:36:18 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant

[5]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 03 Aug 2005 13:40:35 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant

[6]     From:   JD Markel <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 3 Aug 2005 11:14:25 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant

[7]     From:   Joseph Egert <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 03 Aug 2005 19:27:55 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant [3]

[8]     From:   Joseph Egert <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 03 Aug 2005 19:27:55 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant [3]

[9]     From:   Joseph Egert <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 03 Aug 2005 19:33:19 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant [3]


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Drakakis <
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Date:           Wednesday, 3 Aug 2005 15:24:32 +0100
Subject: 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant

Sorry Larry Weiss,

You're wrong.  Antonio was a mercantilist NOT a capitalist, which is why
he doesn't lend money at interest.  Interestingly (sorry about the pun)
he is willing to borrow at interest, so he is caught in a contradiction
that the play may actually represent figuratively as the source of his
'illness'.  It is an 'illness' that Shylock inherits as a result of his
enforced conversion to Christianity. In his ventures he places himself
in the hands of 'providence' which means that if God smiles on him then
he makes a profit and if not then he gets permanently wrecked on the
Goodwins.

My point is that Elizabethan culture had no easy way of dealing (in
moral and ethical..i.e.religious, terms) with the need to circulate
capital, which is why Shakespeare's play addresses a crisis, and why his
audiences might have been so interested in the topic.

Of course, it's also a reason why we are so interested in the topic too,
but from the standpoint of a crisis of late capitalism.

Cheers,
John Drakakis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Wednesday, 03 Aug 2005 11:44:47 -0400
Subject:        Shylock as Suffering Servant

Don's posts often seem to come from a time warp, circa 1940 or so. In
fact, he's fighting a rearguard action in a war that was basically over
by 1970 or so. For by then, the humanist precursors to postmodernism had
clearly demonstrated that setting elements of a play in opposition to
each other or writing scenes that could be viewed in more than one way,
or presenting inherently ambiguous characters to whom we respond
ambivalently - all these were part and parcel of Shakespeare's
characteristic way of working. Sure, he provided suspense and duels and
thrills (Think of 1H4), but he also provided more for those who wanted
to listen and watch carefully - and more than once.

All this is old hat - except to Don. To take just one example, as early
as LLL, Shakespeare frustrates the expectations of an audience who,
based on structure and plot, expect marriages at the end of this
romantic comedy. Is this an example of applying modern sensibilities to
Renaissance plays? When structure and theme are juxtaposed in the
problem comedies, is this another example of critics who, unlike Don,
just don't understand the way people thought in the past? When Bassanio
is shown to be a playboy chiefly interested in Portia's money or Antonio
revealed to be suffering from a lack of self knowledge, are these
examples of applying a modern sensibility to an old text? When it
becomes clear that Portia, the heroine, represents not only social norms
about marriage but also Aristocratic notions of money and "desert," are
these conclusions no one could possibly come to 400 years ago? Of course
not.

Don should learn that folktales and fairytales are not always benign:
the little match girl, for example, dies in the end. Nor do such folk
elements have to be used as simple affirmations of the status quo. Nor
are they necessarily one-dimensional in nature. To cite just two
examples: Morocco makes his choice of casket by unselfishly assuming
that he should privilege Portia's worth. A few scenes later, Aragon,
like Aristotle's magnanimous man and the English aristocracy, assumes
his own worth and value, and makes his choice accordingly. Now, we can
laugh and jeer at them for making the wrong choice if we want -
Shakespeare gives us that option - and we can think of them as pompous
fools because they are grave and dignified in their choices, OR, we can
look deeper and see that there is no evident reason why they are wrong.
Bassanio is not inherently superior to these two men, he's just lucky:
he comes from the right culture and he's helped by Portia. In effect,
the casket scenes reveal the bottom line of the play: the rules of the
game are rigged - as the trial scene demonstrates again later on.

As a powerful, yet literal, thinker, Shylock's big mistake is to believe
that the law is the bottom line: he is "safe" because the law says so.
Portia teaches him otherwise. Even the law is subject to manipulation by
the "right" people.

Is this insight unavailable to Elizabethans and the product of a deluded
"modern" mind?  The sentiment that the law is an ass occurs more than
once in Shakespeare. Shakespeare allows you to skate along the surface
if you wish; he also allows you to see more deeply if you wish.

Once upon a time, critics used to argue that Hamlet delays his revenge
because the play has to last five acts. Simple, clear, direct,
all-encompassing - and about as wrong and unhelpful as can be. I'm
afraid that many of Don's assertions, time after time, follow the same
pattern.

Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Sutton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 3 Aug 2005 08:56:16 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant

Is this still the list whose editor has a broken arm?

Think on people, write less.

William Sutton

[Editor's Note: William et al. Thanks for the concern. In fact, a little
over a month ago I was released from both my hard casts. My wrist
continues to improve, and I am about to graduate from Physical Therapy
to Occupational Therapy for it. Two weeks ago, I started typing with
both hands and resumed my work on my edition of the Poems. My leg is
another matter, and I assume it will be another six or more months of
Physical Therapy before I will be relatively back to normal. All of this
said, I am very much in favor of succinct posts. Hardy]

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Wednesday, 03 Aug 2005 13:36:18 -0400
Subject: 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant

 >How can Shylock be called avaricious when he gives Antonio a free loan
to "win [his] love."

The loan was "free" only if it had been repaid.  Shylock had no
downside.  If the loan were repaid he would have obtained Antonio's
goodwill and, he might have thought, more freedom to ply his trade, at
zero cost.  And if Antonio defaulted, Shylock expected to eliminate his
competition forever.

 >Why is Shylock considered a dog when he loans his
 >own money? He provides a necessary service to his community that today
 >is indispensable and honorable everywhere.

Here Basch goes further than to sympathize with Shylock; he adopts
Shylock's expressed reasoning.  But lending money for interest was not
considered honorable by most auditors at the play.  Even today, it is a
felony to charge excessive interest.  Among certain religious groups it
is still considered sinful to charge any interest at all.  Those groups
include orthodox Jews, who believe that it is a sin to charge interest
to other Jews, although it is perfectly proper to charge as much as can
be obtained from gentiles.  Of course, they do not actually practice
such restraint and do lend to each other at interest.  The scriptural
stricture is evaded by a sort of legal fiction.  When lending to each
other at interest they write some magic words at the top of the bond --
"hetar iskar" I believe -- which they contend converts the loan to an
equity transaction, although the obligation remains a debt in all its
particulars.  Thus, Jahweh is fooled into believing that there is no
transgression.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Wednesday, 03 Aug 2005 13:40:35 -0400
Subject: 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant

 >Take the name Ariokh, prefix the Babylonian god, Bel,
 >drop the final 'kh', and the resulting name sounds perfectly Italianate,
 >Bellario. The sound that was discarded - /kh/ - will soon be encountered
 >elsewhere. In Gratiano, friend of Antonio and Bassanio, we recognise
 >Daniel's friend, Hananiah: the Italian form is an exact translation of
 >the Hebrew name, which means 'graced', 'blessed'."

All of which would have been apparent to the audience in a trice.  (A
"trice" was one of the more restrictive wards in Bethlehem Hospital.)

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           JD Markel <
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Date:           Wednesday, 3 Aug 2005 11:14:25 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant

 >"an obscure word in the Talmud that was only available
 >to be read by a handful of scholars in Elizabethan
 >England and would have meant nothing to the
 >groundlings at the Globe."

The Talmud's sole reference to Shiloh has been reverently cited as proof
of messianic meaning, but in context was a joke about a rabbi with a
similar name whose followers proposed him as a messiah. But the Targums
changed Shiloh into messiah and king messiah, showing the Targum writers
saw the messianic meaning, and the messiah's association with the word
king in a time near Christ's.

Joseph says:

 >"After much digging, I managed to locate a marginal
 >note identifying the "Shiloh" of GENESIS 49:10  as
 >"Christ the Messias, the giuer of all prosperitie: who
 >shal call the Gentiles to salvation.""

Same in the Bishops'.  The glosses are chock full of nifty information.
  Anyway, the messianic import of Gen. 49:10 was not a particularly
obscure debate, especially in an age when accurate translations into
vernaculars were a particular concern.

Florence writes:

 >"I have told this thread that the "Comedia dell'Arte"
 >is the inspiration that causes Antonio in prison garb
 >to represent Pantelone, which Portia notices.
 >Launcelet is another Commmedia character He is a Gobbi
 >comic (Hunchback in Italian). I would like to send the
 >forum a Gobbi image of a hunchback from  the "Comedia
 >dell'Arte" series of Jaques Callot: "Balli di
 >sfessanio"."

Prison garb?  You're on target with the commedia topic.  I've yet to
read any article discussing MOV's possible Commedia roots, but there
seem to be stock characters and plot devices, such as the invitation to
get dad out of the house so daughter can elope.  Launcelot is a
Pulcinella of the 16c. Neopolitan regional style - working class,
hunchbacked, lascivious, fat.  Callot's drawings are fun.

You've lost me on Bellario, but one need not go farther than the Italian
language for Gratiano: grace.  I initially thought it an ironic
invention of S, a character named grace who has none.  But a gratiano
was already a character clown, Florio's dictionary mentions it.

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           JD Markel <
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Date:           Wednesday, 3 Aug 2005 11:35:28 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant

Larry says:

 >"If you believe that Shylock should have been allowed
 >to gleefully slice a pound of  meat from the left
 >pectoral of the still breathing Antonio writhing on
 >the floor in agony, have the intellectual courage to
 >say so."

Been done.  Theatre of Blood.  Comic horror genre.  Comes up in the
religious too:

Deut. 30:6 "And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine
heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy
God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that
thou mayest live."

Unsuccessfully in MOV.  God contained, partying ensues.

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Egert <
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Date:           Wednesday, 03 Aug 2005 19:27:55 +0000
Subject: 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant [3]
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant [3]

Amid his catty little nips and Judenspiegel projections, Larry Weiss
continues to evade every contrary point raised. His "writhing in agony"
and "gleefully slice" remind me of Isabel confronting Angelo. Alas, I've
been de-Mistered. Let's all take a deep breath and lighten up. Peace!

Joe Egert

[9]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Egert <
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Date:           Wednesday, 03 Aug 2005 19:33:19 +0000
Subject: 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant [3]
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1288 Shylock as Suffering Servant [3]

JD Markel writes, "I find confounding the name Bellario, the lawyer from
Padua."

May I direct JD to the life and career of Cardinal (and later Saint)
Roberto Francesco Bellarmino (1542-1621), yes Galileo's foil Bellarmine.
There are interesting parallels to the learned Bellario from Padua.
Bellarmine too was trained in Padua (in Thomist theology) and later, as
stalwart champion of the CounterReformation, became involved in many of
the same controversies addressed in THE MERCHANT-- the relative merits
of virginity/celibacy versus marriage; the efficacy of grace; clerical
property rights in Venice; papal versus secular supremacy in temporal
affairs; etc.

Happy hunting,
Joe Egert

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