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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: March ::
"hindered me a million"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0245  Tuesday, 28 March 2006

[1] 	From: 	Tony Burton <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 28 Mar 2006 09:27:49 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0235 "hindered me a million"

[2] 	From: 	Bill Arnold <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 28 Mar 2006 08:39:42 -0800 (PST)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0235 "hindered me a million"


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Tony Burton <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 28 Mar 2006 09:27:49 -0500
Subject: 17.0235 "hindered me a million"
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0235 "hindered me a million"

Shakespeare's apparently casual phrases are tricky things. Sometimes 
they are pregnant with a wealth of meaning that enriches the plays for 
anyone who notes them  Sometimes they are just casual phrases like the 
symbolically fraught cigar that, as Freud once reminded a questioner, 
was sometimes just a cigar.  I believe Todd Pettigrew has chosen the 
wrong time to take Antonio's assurance of "thrice three times" the value 
of his 3000 ducat bond as a reliable and arithmetical calculation of his 
total assets.  I think of three reasons in particular.

First, we know that Antonio's (Christian) creditors have grown cruel, 
and it is they at least as much as Shylock who are responsible for 
Antonio's financial straits.  We may think of this as another aspect of 
the theme, "who is the [Christian] who is the Jew" that runs through the 
play.  So Antonio has to pay them all off, perhaps a zillion ducats 
worth, in order to redeem whatever liens they have on his property, 
before he has any net cash profit from which he can anticipate his 
thrice three times 3000 ducats to repay Shylock.  It's all in the 
difference between liquidity and wealth.  After all, even the "wealthy" 
Shylock is not, at the crucial moment, liquid to the sum of 3000 ducats 
and has to raise the full amount by borrowing from someone else. 
Remember, Shylock himself discounts Antonio's trading ventures as 
doubtful and risky, but still considers him "good" for the loan.

Second, the expression is probably best understood as simply a kind of 
intensifier, meant to show how trivial he considers the 3000 ducat bond. 
  It is exactly parallel to Portia's immediate dismissal of the debt as 
too small to be troublesome (in the perspective of her vast wealth) in 
her proposal to double, and double, and treble, the amount owed in order 
to settle the case.  It seems to me that the two should be read in the 
same light.  Of course, there is a lot to say about both Antonio and 
Portia in their misreading of what is certain, what is trivial, and what 
can go wrong; but that's no part of this discussion, and I hope no one 
is tempted to pursue it in reply.

Third, it is not safe to assume that Antonio expects all his ships to 
arrive at the same time, but only a sufficiently dispersed number of 
those on short term ventures to escape all conceivable disasters and to 
meet his needs.  He could also have vast armadas of ships on lengthy 
voyages of many months or years, about which neither he nor Shylock 
would be concerned.  This is pure speculation, and not part of the play, 
but so too is the equally speculative notion that when his ships return 
with thrice three times the bond in profit, he will have nothing left at 
sea.  And who says he has no land ventures?  Or perhaps a shopping mall 
in Siena?  These lines of thought, like the classic non-question of how 
many children Lady Macbeth had, are in my humble view wildly outside the 
dramatic context Shakespeare presents for the purposes of his play.

Tony

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Bill Arnold <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 28 Mar 2006 08:39:42 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 17.0235 "hindered me a million"
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0235 "hindered me a million"

Todd Pettigrew writes, "I calculate as follows:

Antonio says his "fortunes are at sea" (1.1.177).

Antonio borrows 3000 ducats from Shylock.

Antonio assures Bassanio that when his ships come in he will see a 
return of 'thrice three times' the value of the bond (1.3.157-58). 
Thus, 3000 x 3 x 3 = 27000."

This puzzles me: if you interpret words literally, then there are others 
interpretations:

for instance, "thrice three times" could be interpreted to be 3-cubed: 
or, 3000 x 3 x 3 x 3 = 81,000 ducats.

Add to all this interpretation the following information, and I conclude 
that the Christ-image on the coins might be conjuring up some of the 
Judas-sold-Savior metaphor as well.  Certainly, I do not believe the 
phase should be taken literally, nor mathematically: [see url]
http://www.taxfreegold.co.uk/austrianducatsinfo.html

"The Ducat: Ducats were gold coins, and also units of account, formerly 
used in most European countries...The value of a ducat was generally 
about 9s. 4d, that is nine shillings and fourpence. There was also an 
Italian ducat silver coin , value about 3s. 6d. According to The Oxford 
English Dictionary, the first Ducat was a silver coin issued in 1140 by 
Roger II of Sicily, as Duke of Apulia. In 1284, the first gold ducat, 
also called a zecchino d'oro, was struck at Venice under the doge John 
Dandolo. This coin, worth about 9s., bears on one side figures of St. 
Mark and the Doge, and on the other a figure of Christ with the legend 
'Sit tibi Christe datus quem tu regis iste ducatus'; this, though it did 
not originate, may have contributed to spread the name, which was 
subsequently applied to the gold coins of various European countries."

Thus, 81,000 ducats x 9s. = 729,000s. and we are on our way to the 
"hindered...million."

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

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