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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: July ::
Shylock as Suffering Servant
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1199  Tuesday, 12 July 2005

[1]     From:   David Basch <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Jul 2005 13:22:00 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1194 Shylock as Suffering Servant

[2]     From:   Florence Amit <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 12 Jul 2005 00:46:03 +0300
        Subj:   The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1186 Thursday, 7 July 2005J


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Basch <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Jul 2005 13:22:00 -0400
Subject: 16.1194 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1194 Shylock as Suffering Servant

As Don Bloom wrote, the MOV as I see it would have gone over the head of
Elizabethans. They would not have seen in their merriment what I see as
the Shakespeare's message. It went over their heads the same way it went
over Don Bloom's head.

Elizabethans, no doubt, also laughed when Gratiano tells Jessica who has
just robbed her father, "Now, by my hood, a Gentile and no Jew." Only
the joke was on them because it revealed some not nice things about them
as numerous scholars have observed.

I note that Joe Egert observes the following:

     "Both Portia and Jessica break free of their 'custodial confinement'
      from their fathers' Old will and Testament, no longer needed."

Another way of saying this is that they are covenant breakers, the very
epithet usually directed against Jews. Portia gets around her father's
covenant by maneuvering Nerissa to spill the beans to Bassanio about the
right choice of casket to make and Jessica deserts her father, robs him,
and even slanders him about plotting against Antonio, something she
could not have heard since Shylock's anger toward Antonio after the loan
emerged only after Jessica ran away. Anyone reading this objectively
cannot see any high toned behavior coming from this pair of vow breakers.

One of the ways Shakespeare communicates Portia's violation of her
father's covenant is as follows: First Portia mentions how much alike
she and Bassanio are. Then later Bassanio breaks his vow to Portia by
giving away her ring. If the two are alike, it must raise the question
about what vow Portia broke. It was of course her covenant vow to her
father to abide by the selection process, not circumvent it.

I hardly see how persons are made more noble and exemplary by violating
the moral laws which Judaism stands for. These are, after all, the same
laws that Christians espouse.

The problem with the MoV is that it is a long play and many commentators
pick and choose what they want to see and treat it like a Rorschack
test, seeing what they wish. I don't see the sober, banker type Shylock
character capable of cutting up another person any more than I could see
the Duke in the play doing so. As I have repeated many times before, the
only reason Shylock's monstrosity is credible to some is that they
expect horrible things from even the best of Jews. In my book, THE
HIDDEN SHAKESPEARE, I included a chapter, "Shylock on Appeal," to show
that the same circumstantial evidence that some would use to see Shylock
as a villain will support Shylock as involved in a charade to get
Antonio to plead for mercy from the Jew he belittled and hated. This is
the story within a story that Shakespeare planted in this work for all
to see when they decide to react compassionately toward a widower,
robbed and deserted by his daughter, and who wishes to prove a point in
court that, though he has the right through a bond to a "pound from
[Antonio's] fair flesh," he would compassionately renounce it. His grand
gesture is interrupted when Portia suddenly pulls the rug from under him.

The MoV was written for a future audience that would be free of such
things as anti-Semitism. At that time, the esoteric story within a story
emerges, a story so challenging to some commentators that they won't
even hear of it, let alone read it. This is the play that the great
Shakespeare wrote that exposes hypocrisy, not the play he is thought to
have written.

David Basch

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Florence Amit <
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Date:           Tuesday, 12 Jul 2005 00:46:03 +0300
Subject: Conference: SHK 16.1186 Thursday, 7 July 2005J
Comment:        The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1186 Thursday, 7 July 2005J

Joseph Egert' s  original conception of a "suffering servant" is
acceptable to me only on the transcendental  level of the play. Anything
less that supports a degraded Shylock, I think is a mistake. For it
takes the play into unwanted rationalizations. While real problems as
well as the reaction to them by Shylock and the Jewish party the
reaction of justifiable deception, like Biblical Jacob before Laban (as
Shylock hints to Antonio) does not need this defense. However the
transcendental Shylock is indeed a matter to consider. Of all the
possibilities for a Hebrew reading of Shylock's name the word for
messenger "Shaliach" would probably be the one most customary - although
I have never heard it used as a given name before.

Joseph considers Portia repetition of Morocco's term "complexion" to be
racist. I think that the stigma of "racism" is too severe and
anachronistic. Differentiation is needed when confronted by fortune
hunters and the recollection of forcible conversions, no matter how you
name it. Portia wanted a husband of her own culture - a man of Jewish
lineage - no matter if he be pale or dark skinned. Also Morocco's values
had not the moral "complexion" that Portia liked.

Florence Amit

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