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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: August ::
Shylock as Suffering Servant
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1306  Monday, 8 August 2005

[1]     From:   John Drakakis <
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        Date:   Friday, 5 Aug 2005 15:16:22 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.1299 Shylock as Suffering Servant

[2]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Friday, 5 Aug 2005 07:46:23 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1299 Shylock as Suffering Servant

[3]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Friday, 05 Aug 2005 10:54:39 -0400
        Subj:   Shylock as Suffering Servant

[4]     From:   Joseph Egert <
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        Date:   Friday, 05 Aug 2005 15:28:20 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1293 Shylock as Suffering Servant [9]


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Drakakis <
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Date:           Friday, 5 Aug 2005 15:16:22 +0100
Subject: 16.1299 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.1299 Shylock as Suffering Servant

Subtleties are clearly lost on Bill Arnold. Anyone with any sense would
back Marx against a business degree from anywhere.

But Larry Weiss, I think there is a difference between mercantilism and
full blown capitalism, and the roots lie in the morality of fiscal
practice during the period. The nub of the conflict between the Jew and
Antonio in the play is that the one's principal is always safeguarded,
and that the contract is not (if it is usury) in any way a friendly one.
  Antonio risks all that he has (his life) for his 'friend'. Without the
bond with Shylock he is happy to place his fortunes in the hands of
providence.  This may have part of its root in Calvinism, though I don't
want particularly to start the Max Weber hare here.  So far as we know
from the play Antonio does not require money for 'investment', so is he
involved in any activity before the bond that would require the movement
of capital in a way that we would understand in the modern world? We
might say that his is a mystified form of embryonic capitalism, but it
is an important distinction.  The issue is complicated in the play
because the bond is initially described as a 'merry bond' and by Shylock
himself.  I'm willing to lean on Braudel and Wallerstein in these
matters.  But the issue remains: why was there such a fuss about usury
at the turn of the 16th century? Why was it regarded as so offensive?
Why was it necessary to displace the offence onto a stereotyped figure
from the medieval period, and why was it necessary at the end of act 4
to neutralise the threat by converting him to Christianity?  There are
lots of other questions, but these will do for the moment.

Cheers,
John Drakakis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Friday, 5 Aug 2005 07:46:23 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 16.1299 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1299 Shylock as Suffering Servant

Larry Weiss writes, "The term 'capitalism' was not current in
Elizabethan England.  The essential element, though, is risking wealth
in the expectation of making more wealth.  That fits a variety of
enterprises, including trading, manufacture, participation in joint
stock companies, sharing in theatrical companies, etc.  It also fits the
banking industry; but in the late 16th Century money lending was not
considered to involve the hazard of property (which was one of the
reasons interest was popularly despised-the lender was seen as getting
something for nothing)."

The reason I was adamant about the T.M.O.V. being a capitalist in the
true meaning of the term is that the discussion totally muddles the
roles in the play and is part of the post *Das Kapital*
misunderstandings put upon the play.  Blame it on Karl Marx.  In pure
business parlance, interest equals profit, so it is irrelevant whether
the capitalist is a merchant or a banker.  Marx erred in putting
pejorative value judgements upon the banker more than the merchant.
That is sheer bunk.

Marx was flat out wrong.  So, the word with all its pro and con spin
comes from *Das Kapital* although capitalism per se is as old as trade
and species transactions.

Trace the history of barter and coin, folks!  It is ancient.

Both the merchant and the banker employ the concept of *Vig* and make a
buck off a transaction between a buyer and a seller, and a seller and a
buyer.  Whether one buys money or sells money, or one buys a pound of
flesh or one sells a pound of flesh, is the same thing to Will
Shakespeare and to modern business finance.

Marx put the pejorative spin on the word capitalism, and we are guilty
of introducing Marxism into the play is we pursue this line of
reasoning.  Which is to say: the fundamental point of the play is lost
in a sea of false reasoning.

In contrast to that is the concept of what comes first, love or money.
Do you buy and sell love for money, and do you buy and sell money for
love?  That is the question: of MOV.  Go figure [ pun intended  ! ] .

Bill Arnold
http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Friday, 05 Aug 2005 10:54:39 -0400
Subject:        Shylock as Suffering Servant

Since there's no chance for a meeting of the minds with Don, I'll just
make a few major points:

1. Richards and his pupil Empson were into irony and paradox by the 30s,
but the major Shakespeare critics of the time - Tillyard, Campbell, and
Wilson - were into proving Shakespeare's "orthodoxy."

2. I did NOT attribute any views to Don. I demonstrated through LLL that
early in his career, Shakespeare was already frustrating audience
expectations based on plot, structure, and, most of all, genre.

3. The whole point of my post was to show that one can't, as Don tries
to do, infer theme and content from plot alone (or even from genre or
generic structure).

4. Thus, the example of Isabella is simply a nonsequitor.

One final point: maybe the most interesting character in MoV is not
Shylock but Portia. To me, every major action she takes in the play is
both right and wrong at the same time: the most obvious example is in
the trial scene: she's right to want to save Antonio's life; but she's
wrong to break Shylock completely in the process.

Ed Taft

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Egert <
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Date:           Friday, 05 Aug 2005 15:28:20 +0000
Subject: 16.1293 Shylock as Suffering Servant [9]
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1293 Shylock as Suffering Servant [9]

In my last post on Bellarmine ("Bellario" source?), I left out his
middle name "Romolo," linking him with the Church of Rome (as in: "young
doctor of Rome") and her founding wolf Romulus (as in: "wolvish"
ravenous desires).

Interestingly, Bellarmine served as Spiritual Father to (St) Aloysius
(aka Aluigi) Gonzaga (1568-1591), a sort of Anthonio/Jessica hybrid from
the Mantua area. His father Ferrante groomed his firstborn son for glory
in the field (as military commander) and in bed (as breeder of progeny).
Gentle Aloysius, having experienced two brothers murdered (the Murders
of Gonzago?), instead chose virginity and Mother Church, devoting the
rest of his short life to ministering to the sick and plague-afflicted.
For such brazen defiance, his father, furious, disinherited him and
{WARNING: INJUDICIOUS SPECULATION  ALERT} may have wished him dead and
coffined at his feet. God, in His infinite mercy, (responding perhaps to
a fellow father's heartfelt prayer) smote His son with the same
life-snipping plague, no doubt a reward for his devotion.

One more Suffering Servant down. How many left to go?

Your friendly "complexity-monger,"
Joe Egert

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