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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: July ::
Shylock as Suffering Servant
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1194  Monday, 11 July 2005

[1]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 Jul 2005 13:51:27 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.1190 Shylock as Suffering Servant

[2]     From:   Florence Amit <
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        Date:   Saturday, 09 Jul 2005 23:04:10 +0300
        Subj:   Shylock as Suffering Servant

[3]     From:   Joseph Egert <
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        Date:   Friday, 08 Jul 2005 19:18:55 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1186 Shylock as Suffering Servant


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Friday, 8 Jul 2005 13:51:27 -0500
Subject: 16.1190 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.1190 Shylock as Suffering Servant

David Basch writes,

"If many commentators see a suffering servant motif in the guise of
Shylock, it is because it is there. He is a man 'numbered among the
transgressors' and he is innocent too. Shylock has not hurt Antonio and,
as others have observed, was involved in a charade to throw a scare into
Antonio so that Antonio would beg for mercy from him, a Jew. But the
charade is interrupted and Shylock is left high and dry in the pose of a
killer."

This interpretation-which we might call "Pulling the Old Switcheroo on
that Bozo Shylock," as well as "Charade"-casts an entirely new light on
MOV as comedy. I can visualize all those Italian gents laughing heartily
as they marched down to the nearest tavern to hoist a few, clap each
other on the back, and remember the sick look on Shylock's face when he
realized that the joke he was playing on Antonio had been swapped around
so that he was the one getting stung.

It's a rough, crude sort of humor, I admit, but just the sort of thing
Elizabethan gentlemen would go for, don't you think?

Cheers,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Florence Amit <
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Date:           Saturday, 09 Jul 2005 23:04:10 +0300
Subject:        Shylock as Suffering Servant

Dear Forum members,

Please excuse my error.

  "The application to Antonio can be applied to ourselves" should read:
The application to Aragon can be applied to ourselves. Sorry.

Florence Amit

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Egert <
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Date:           Friday, 08 Jul 2005 19:18:55 +0000
Subject: 16.1186 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1186 Shylock as Suffering Servant

Amid his kind remarks, Cliff Ronan gently chides:

"But, surely, Egert might be on uneasy ground if he believes that The
Merchant of Venice is a radical critique of the Christian notions of
human sacrifice...English churchman opposed Catholics' notion of their
Sacrifice of the Mass, as a re-enactment of the Sacrifice of a Man-God..."

The critique was mine. The saving blood sacrifice of the Redeemer Jesus
remains the Core of the Christian message for both Catholic and
Protestant alike. My remarks did not specifically address the
cannibalism of the Mass, a separate though related issue, and far more
divisive, as Ronan justly notes.

For someone unfamiliar with the New Testament, reading Paul's Letters
for the first time is quite a revelation. The parallels to THE MERCHANT
are indeed striking. The Sons of Paul are locked in momentous struggle
with the Sons of James (Jacob, the brother of Jesus) over the future of
their nascent Messianic sect. On the side of Paul are the faith-freed
Gentiles, their eyes fixed on the Heavenly Jerusalem, the eternal City
of Spirit on the Hill (Belmont?). On the side of James are the
flesh-enslaved law-bound Jewish Christians of Earthly Jerusalem
(Venice?), their devotion to the ancient Sinai Covenant unshaken.
Circumcision lies at the heart of the conflict. Even Peter, who (like
Shylock) has risked dietary pollution by dining with uncircumcised
converts, is now retreating in the face of James' Judaizers. In a
shameless display of legerdemain, Paul switches the pedigrees of the two
factions. The younger brothers of the Covenant, Isaac and Jacob, are now
identified with the uncircumcised Sons of Paul (as heirs of the New
Covenant with its life-giving Spirit) thus displacing their circumcised
progeny. Only faith in Jesus and inward circumcision, not fleshy good
works, now count toward salvation. Paul thereby defies Jesus himself,
who had come to fulfill and transcend the Scripted Law, not nullify it.
The apostle of lawless love then inveighs against his troublesome
rivals: he calls them "dogs" ("their god is the belly!") and sends them
off to castrate themselves.

Sixteen centuries later, the descendants of Paul's Church and James'
Synagogue are squaring off in Venice over that same pound of flesh.
Usurious stone-hearted Shylock (hard as the tablets he lives by) strives
with knife in hand to Judaize the Gentile converts embodied by Anthonio
and led by Portia. Instead, they turn the tables and in effect castrate
(de-stone) him. They call him dog and ravenous wolf. Yet GENESIS
identifies the ravenous wolf with the tribe of Benjamin, to whom Paul
proudly (?)belongs! Portia proceeds to despoil Shylock, raining down his
manna for her starving prodigals. When Aragon speaks of "estates,
degrees and offices...derived corruptly," who is implicated? Shylock? Or
his tormenters?--the same usurious Shylock who has fertilized their
ventures with his breeding metals, like the ewesorious Jacob and Laban's
flocks.

The racist Portia directs the journey of every character freely or
forcibly through and past the Law to the new Pauline dispensation of
faith, grace, mercy and spirit. The clown Launcelet, the play's
Everyman, acts as touchstone for this movement from the Jew's "House of
Hell" to the Christian "Household of Faith". Christendom moves with him.
Paul has triumphed. Both Portia and Jessica break free of their
"custodial confinement" from their fathers' Old will and Testament, no
longer needed. Portia in mystical fashion brings Anthonio's three ships
safely home, as the three marital questers find their mates. At play's
end, this Holy Spirit passes round the sacred ring of love and grace to
Fatherly Anthonio and from him to Son-like Bassanio, at last uniting the
Trinity.

But, will the Circle stay unbroken?

Joe Egert

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