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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: August ::
Shylock as Suffering Servant
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1336  Wednesday, 17 August 2005

[1]     From:   Florence Amit <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 Aug 2005 20:17:21 +0300
        Subj:   SHK 16.1318 Shylock as Suffering Servant

[2]     From:   Bob Rosen <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 Aug 2005 13:22:10 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1331  Shylock as Suffering Servant

[3]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 Aug 2005 13:59:17 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1331 Shylock as Suffering Servant

[4]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 Aug 2005 14:13:21 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1331 Shylock as Suffering Servant

[5]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 Aug 2005 14:35:23 -0400
        Subj:   Shylock as Suffering Servant

[6]     From:   JD Markel <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 Aug 2005 13:20:53 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1331 Shylock as Suffering Servant

[7]     From:   Richard Kennedy <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 Aug 2005 13:55:21 -0700
        Subj:   Shylock as Suffering Servant

[8]     From:   S. L Kasten <
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        Date:   Monday, 15 Aug 2005 01:09:17 +0200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1331 Shylock as Suffering Servant

[9]     From:   Joseph Egert <
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        Date:   Monday, 15 Aug 2005 20:28:11 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1331 Shylock as Suffering Servant


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Florence Amit <
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Date:           Friday, 12 Aug 2005 20:17:21 +0300
Subject: Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        SHK 16.1318 Shylock as Suffering Servant

Again I must apologize to Joseph Egert because strictly speaking a
Shpiel is a story and the Purim Shpiel that is being related here:

The story of "The Merchant of Venice" is typically a comedy of
betrothals. However the costumes for the festival of Purim, imitated by
the masqueraders at the palace of justice, would be the particular
selection of the character who dons the costume for his or her own
reason. My claim is that the costumed characters are recognized as
masquerading by their friends and they are not perceived so by their
adversaries.

Florence Amit

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bob Rosen <
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Date:           Friday, 12 Aug 2005 13:22:10 EDT
Subject: 16.1331  Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1331  Shylock as Suffering Servant

Is it possible that Shylock scenes were sideshows in a comedy and that
Shakespeare was showing off his talents? And like all showoffs,
Shakespeare also revealed his ignorance? But who would call him to
account? Were Shakespeare writing full out as the dramatist-poet he was,
Shylock would not be an abject loser. The MOV isn't Shakespeare at his
best. It is a play with only flashes of his insights and ability
visible. He was over his head in his portrayal of Shylock.

Bob Rosen

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Friday, 12 Aug 2005 13:59:17 -0400
Subject: 16.1331 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1331 Shylock as Suffering Servant

 >[Portia] acts out the charade of being a judge. ...
 >
 >Perhaps not morally bankrupt, but without doubt of questionable moral
fibre.

Has anyone noticed that this debate mirrors the age-old jurisprudential
question of the ends and the means, which still plagues courts and
policy makers today.  As an illustration:  Robert Bork was denied
confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice in large measure because he had
the temerity to say that the Court's decision is Griswald v. Connecticut
was wrongly based.  That was the case which invalidated a state statute
prohibiting the sale of contraceptives.  The Court had a bitch of a time
finding a justification for its ruling.  The majority found that
specific protections of certain privacy rights in the Constitution
evinces an intention to protect others; one Justice found the protection
in the "penumbras" of the first eight Amendments (which is lousy Latin,
if nothing else) and another found it in the non-enumerated rights
reserved in the Ninth Amendment.  None of this is convincing, but the
Court was reluctant to base its decision on the only clause that makes
sense -- Due Process -- because the notion of substantive due process
had been abused in the past to overturn business regulations and the
Court did not want to reopen that can of worms.

Analogously, Portia pretends to be a judge in order to present an unduly
restrictive interpretation of the bond which a real judge might have
scruples about doing.  But who quarrels with the result?

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Friday, 12 Aug 2005 14:13:21 -0400
Subject: 16.1331 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1331 Shylock as Suffering Servant

 >It is time to see Shylock as a suffering human being who could not
 >have been guilty of a true attempt to cut up another human being.

Why is this difficult to believe in light of far more brutal behaviour
that confronts us daily?  Jews, no more than Moslems, Germans or any
other religious or national group, are not exempt from committing such
horrors.  What justification can be offered for spraying automatic Uzi
fire at a group of men, women and children at prayer?

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Friday, 12 Aug 2005 14:35:23 -0400
Subject:        Shylock as Suffering Servant

Don Bloom concludes his "light hearted" interpretation of MoV thusly:

"Shylock is set up as a legalistic bully, and we all enjoy the defeat of
bullies."

So Shylock is the bully and Antonio the victim? OK (for the sake of
argument). If this is so, it reverses the situation at the start of the
play in which we learn how abominably Antonio treated Shylock in the
past (and will again, he promises!) Ergo, the Christians have been
bullies for nearly 1700 years and Shylock for a few days, at most.

Or is this insight one that those watching a "romantic comedy" could not
make?

Ed Taft

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           JD Markel <
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Date:           Friday, 12 Aug 2005 13:20:53 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 16.1331 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1331 Shylock as Suffering Servant

Colin says: "Perhaps not morally bankrupt, but without doubt of
questionable moral fibre."

P's post-trial sound bite, punning on mercy: "My mind was never yet more
mercenary"

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Kennedy <
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Date:           Friday, 12 Aug 2005 13:55:21 -0700
Subject:        Shylock as Suffering Servant

Roses  Pt. 4, concluded

It's well known that Parliament more than once advanced a forceful
petition that the Queen get married, and it was widely held amongst the
people that Elizabeth should surrender her virginity and get an heir.
The idea was not to preserve her beauty, but to avoid the bloodshed and
such a misery that the War of the Roses brought upon the land.

H. E. Rollins, the editor of the Variorum editions of the Sonnets is
usually a bystander in the passing commentary on the Sonnets. He
generally puts forward the scholarly opinions fairly and without any
personal objection, expressing no bias about the Fair Youth, whether he
is presented as a boy, a man, a mistress, Shakespeare's wife, maybe a
hermaphrodite, a glass of sack, or written to his own art, his muses, or
to his cock, or to his mother, and so forth. One might admire Rollins'
scholarly detachment, as proper to his office as an editor, holding a
somewhat cool and aloof  presence above the raging 19th century
discussions of the Sonnets.

But when he gives us the opinion of George Chalmers, who in 1797
supposed the sonnets to be written to Queen Elizabeth, Rollins lets
himself go, and loses all credit in the catalog of balanced reportage.
First, a Chalmers quote, speaking of the "marriage sonnets," and then
Rollins speaking for himself.

George Chalmers. "It was a subject on which the queen was extremely
sensitive, and which she would not suffer even her ministers to urge
upon her directly; hence, perhaps, the artifice of addressing the
sonnets to a man." (222)

Rollins comments, regarding this notion:

"The fun, nevertheless, began before the end of the century. George
Chalmers started it in 1797 by arguing with a perfectly straight face
that 1-154 were written to Queen Elizabeth. As they were composed in
1596 or 1597, Shakespeare was put in the somewhat embarrassing and
unbiological position of exhorting in 1-17 a sixty-three-old queen to
marry and produce an heir to perpetuate her beauty..."  (248)

Note the chummy condescending style, presenting Chalmers as a clown,
bringing a good laugh to us. Of course Rollins' mention of the date of
composition of the first 17 is entirely without evidence, we don't know
when they were written, perhaps even when Elizabeth was of child-bearing
age.  Rollins goes on to say that Chalmers has presented an "impossible
theory," and that such  "perverse ingenuity could scarcely go further."
(249)

All is well with Rollins, for he gladly reports that "Though greatly
ridiculed then and now, [the theory] was taken over in part by many
later writers, and it certainly does not represent the nadir of
absurdity in Shakespearean biographical interpretation."  Amen to that.
Anyway, a reviewer of the theory considered the suggestion to be "one of
the wildest conceits that ever arose in any mind."  Another reviewer
Rollins says, "knew of nobody who ever accepted Chalmers theory."  (249)

Not much has changed since 1797.  There are some hints that Chalmers may
have been right.  In 1599 and again in 1618, Sir John Davies published a
cycle of acrostic poems called "Hymns to Astraea," all written in honor
of Queen Elizabeth.  Here's one of the poems, mind the acrostic:

E   ye of the garden, queen of flowers,
L   ove's cup wherein the nectar pours,
I   ngender'd first of nectar:
S   weet nurse-child of the spring's young hours,
A   nd beauty's fair character.
B   est jewel that the earth doth wear,
E   ven when the brave young sun draws near
T   o her, hot love pretending:
H   imself likewise like form doth bear,
A   t rising and descending.

R   ose of the Queen of Love belov'd:
E   ngland's great kings, divinely mov'd
G   ave roses in their banner:
I     t shewed that BEAUTY'S ROSE indeed
N   ow in this age should them succeed,
A   nd reign in more sweet manner.      (my caps, rk)

The acrostic of the first letters of the poem spell out ELIZABETH
REGINA, and the "Beauty's Rose" of this poem is the same "beauties Rose"
of the first sonnet, so I suppose. "Beauty's rose" is mentioned in a
poem by Barnabe Barnes, "Parthenophil and Parthenophe," 1593,  Sonnet
45, which begins: "Sweet Beauty's rose! In whose fair purple leaves/
Love's Queen in richest ornament doth lie..."  The same phrase appears
also in a poem by William Drummond, both epithets in praise of a woman.
Notice also Barnes' use of the word "ornament," as in Shakespeare's
first sonnet, "the world's fresh ornament."

If ever a man was described as a Rose, let someone find it to be so. A
man might as well be described as a Violet, or a Gardenia, not happily
to describe his masculine grace, and so we have come back to the
beginning. If the name Wriothesley has a Rose in it, Martin Green's
thesis would be only half way out of the closet.  If young Henry was the
"beauties Rose" of the first sonnet, he would be in contention with
Queen Elizabeth as the rightful owner of the epithet, known to all who
were familiar with the poems of that day.  Gender is the big problem
with the first 17 sonnets. Common sense must decide the issue.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Another mention of the "marriage sonnets," taken from an excellent site
with many contemporary portraits of Elizabeth.  "Gloriana: The life and
times of Elizabeth I."

  http://elizabethtudor.150m.com/Index.html

"From her accession in 1558 until she passed the age of childbearing,
Elizabeth I's ministers, parliament and people were obsessed with her
marriage. This was no romantic or frivolous obsession but a deadly
serious political essential. When Elizabeth coyly demurred from wedlock
in the early months of her reign, no one believed she meant it. In a
violent age where kings maintained their thrones by armies and in which
no army would follow even a popular queen, the Queen's most important
duty was to marry and bear an heir immediately. Her husband would defend
the realm and her child inherit it and provide for England's future
stability."

Here's a good website regarding the Marriage Problem, "Elizabeth 1. The
most elusive bride in history."

http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:MhiNKRqf3Z8J:history.hanover.edu/hhr/94/hhr94_2.html+elizabeth+parliament+marriage&hl=en

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           S. L Kasten <
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Date:           Monday, 15 Aug 2005 01:09:17 +0200
Subject: 16.1331 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1331 Shylock as Suffering Servant

The views tendered on this thread seem to be divided between those who
see Shakespeare as having written an antisemitic tract, a philosemitic
tract or simply a comedy with a cardboard Jew banker figure to spice up
an otherwise weak plot.  Most seem to take for granted that the play was
written for an audience consisting of those who had never met a Jew nor
cared to meet one.

This play was written some 300 years after the final and total expulsion
of the Jews from England put an end to the irregular outbursts of
incited, mob-led  pillage and murder which had been their lot ("ancient
grudge" - what an understatement!).  Considering that a mere 50 years
was to see them officially welcomed back, could this play be seen as the
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" of its day?

Before rushing to point out the difference in time frames keep in mind
that the speed and breadth of dissemination enjoyed by Ms. Beecher
Stowes novel were unthought of in the early 17th century.

Best wishes,
Syd Kasten

[9]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Egert <
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Date:           Monday, 15 Aug 2005 20:28:11 +0000
Subject: 16.1331 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1331 Shylock as Suffering Servant

For those simplicity-mongers who idolize surface coherence and refuse
Shakespeare's insistent invitation to walk through the "metaphorical"
doors he Willfully leaves open, perhaps we should let Myriad Man pass
final judgment through his creature Aragon, on:

    "the fool multitude that choose by show,
      Not learning more than the fond eye doth teach,
      Which pries not to th'interior..."

Regards,
Joe Egert

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