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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: August ::
Shylock as Suffering Servant
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1396  Thursday, 25 August 2005

[1] 	From: 	JD Markel <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 24 Aug 2005 11:00:42 -0700 (PDT)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1371 Shylock as Suffering Servant

[2] 	From: 	Edmund Taft <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 24 Aug 2005 14:53:22 -0400
	Subj: 	Shylock as Suffering Servant


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		JD Markel <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 24 Aug 2005 11:00:42 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 16.1371 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1371 Shylock as Suffering Servant

Scot writes:

 >"Must we believe it happened because Shylock (not
 >disinterested) says so, and Antonio (haughty as a
 >Lord) doesn't deny it?"

I believe S. intends for us to believe Antonio did spit upon Shylock to 
establish enmity and biblical allegory.  But a reading that Antonio did 
not do so is plausible, and Shylock lies as a favor to Antonio. Antonio 
may proclaim himself free of borrowing and lending at interest, but is 
he really free of the practice?  There's hints in the play he is not so 
pure and it would be a stretch for the Elizabethan audience to believe 
anyone, especially a merchant, an Italian merchant, doesn't borrow or 
lend at interest.  Shylock may tell the abuse story to indicate for 
Bassanio he and Antonio had no prior business dealings.  But Bassanio 
may know the truth:

PORTIA - What sum owes he the Jew?

BASSANIO - For me, three thousand ducats.

"For me"

Many approaches to the play, and other plays, are confounded with a 
struggle to ascertain consistency while assuming everyone is telling the 
truth.  This play especially should be approached with the attitude 
"Who's lying?"  Just about all the characters.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Edmund Taft <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 24 Aug 2005 14:53:22 -0400
Subject: 	Shylock as Suffering Servant

Instead of answering Scot and Don point for point (and thus irritating 
Stuart Manger), I'll refer to a particularly ferocious Shylock, snarling 
and wolf-like, that seems to conform to the ideal Shylock of Scot and 
Don, and that we know a bit about.

I refer to Charles Macklin's 1741 Shylock. It is said that he regularly 
bared his teeth and emitted animal-like grunts as he played the part! So 
what was the audience's reaction? Here's are the recorded words of one 
member of the audience:

"It cannot be denied that the sight of this Jew is more than sufficient 
to arouse once again in a mature man all the prejudices of his childhood 
against this race."

What's interesting is the double consciousness of this spectator. What 
the play did was to rouse his racial prejudices and also cause him to 
question them. And this when the play was acted in such a way as to make 
Shylock not only a villain but a degraded one that resembled a vicious 
animal out for the kill!

So, whether you like it or not, there's no way to get rid of the 
ambivalence and ambiguity at the heart of MoV. Even if it is acted in 
the "prescribed" way, it just won't yield to readings like those that 
Scot and Don advocate.

Ed Taft

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