Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: July ::
The Big Question
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0621  Tuesday, 4 July 2006

[1] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Monday, 3 Jul 2006 13:58:39 -0400 (EDT)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0608 The Big Question

[2] 	From: 	Maureen Jansen <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Tuesday, 4 Jul 2006 12:44:09 +1200
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0614 The Big Question

[3] 	From: 	David Evett <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Monday, 3 Jul 2006 20:52:02 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0614 The Big Question

[4] 	From: 	Nabie Swaray <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Monday, 3 Jul 2006 18:51:15 -0700 (PDT)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0614 The Big Question


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Monday, 3 Jul 2006 13:58:39 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 17.0608 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0608 The Big Question

Here I sit in the spacious lobby of the San Pietro villa on the Amalfi 
Coast, luxuriating in acres of red and lavender fiori and basking in 
sweet Tyrrhenian zephyrs, when I am assaulted by yet another visitation 
from the moral relativism fairy.

Surely it must be pixie dust or some equivalent mind altering substance 
that can so cause otherwise sensible people to attempt to justify 
killing a man by slicing off his left pectoral by equating that with 
such enormities as spitting in the street, hurling imprecations and 
practicing law without a license.  Or take this example from the usually 
normal Frank Wigham:

 >Is there a nice healthy moral version of "let all of
 >his complexion choose me so"?

Before you tar and feather Portia for preferring not to marry a member 
of another race, can we be sure that the same brush does not stand ready 
to do its office for you. For example, many of the loudest defenders of 
Shylock are among the first to condemn Jessica for breaking the taboo 
against marrying a non-Jew.  Even today, when it seems politically 
incorrect for a Caucasian to express a preference not to marry a Negro, 
it is still considered respectable for a Jew to insist on marrying only 
another Jew.  Indeed, many Jews will go so far as to excommunicate one 
of their number who marries outside her faith and mourn for her as if 
she were dead.  When you condemn this insularity as racism then I will 
listen patiently while you explain why Portia's preference for a husband 
of her own race is reprehensible.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Maureen Jansen <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Tuesday, 4 Jul 2006 12:44:09 +1200
Subject: 17.0614 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0614 The Big Question

New to the list, I'm enjoying the debate about Shylock.

Does anyone have any thoughts about the relationship between Shylock and 
Lear, Macbeth, Othello, Hamlet?  Does Shylock bear any of the hallmarks 
of the later tragic heroes? I'm not a scholar but I have a similar 
sympathy for Shylock as I have with the aforementioned victims of their 
own folly, of fate, of their societies. I know that he is not plunged 
into self-doubt in the same way as them. However, he does grapple with 
his sense of his own identity. He fiercely defends his ethnicity and 
religion from the contempt in which Antonio and his ilk hold him. When 
he is informed of Jessica's betrayal of him he says: "The curse never 
fell upon our nation till now; I never felt it till now". When Portia 
orders his wealth to be taken from him, he says, "you take my house when 
you do take the prop that doth sustain my house". There are more 
poignant statements than these but these words come to mind when I sense 
a Shylock who is forced to grapple with a world in which the old 
certainties have been removed and he has to fight his way back to some 
sort of understanding of himself or the world.

Surely, consciously or unconsciously, Shakespeare is showing us a man 
who is as much sinned against as sinning?

Maureen Jansen

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Evett <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Monday, 3 Jul 2006 20:52:02 -0400
Subject: 17.0614 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0614 The Big Question

 >I would like to reply to David Evert's comment that Portia's racist
 >comment is intended "to show that Portia is a young girl naturally
 >swayed by conventional standards of beauty: that she's not wise
 >enough to completely discount them.  But if even a black man
 >chose the right casket he would have proved his essential
 >rightness-his fairness-and following the wise command of her
 >father, she would have to marry him."

Reasonable members of the list might suppose that this remark came from 
me. It did not.

David Evett

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Nabie Swaray <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Monday, 3 Jul 2006 18:51:15 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 17.0614 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0614 The Big Question

I share Ms. Barton's opinion of Portia's idea of "Mercy and Justice" as 
a cruel irony to the Christian concept of Mercy, Forgiveness and 
Justice. Many readers of Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" had 
grossly misinterpreted the playwright's original intentions. For those 
who saw the play as anti-Jewish did so because they failed to see the 
play as one of the greatest satirical plays on race and religious 
belief. The Christians in this play see Shylock as the devil-incarnate 
because of his behavior towards Christians and practicing usury. If ever 
there was a play that challenged and mocked at the Christian doctrine of 
the "Quality of Mercy and Forgiveness," that play is "The Merchant of 
Venice." Kant, in his book: "The Old Saw" asked the question: "if it is 
right in theory, shouldn't it be right in practice?" From time 
immemorial, Christians like Muslims are quick to say: "I am a Christian" 
or "I am a Muslim." But what makes a good Christian and a good Muslim? 
Here is another cruel irony: the two greatest and most popular religions 
of the world cannot, when the situation called for mercy and 
forgiveness, show these sacred religious doctrines to their enemies. The 
play is the greatest satire ever written about what is believed and 
practiced. The crime and punishment in this play showed how ridiculous 
human behavior is. In the New Testament, Christ is reported to have said 
to the Jewish elders in the Synagogue when he declared: "The heart of 
the Lord is mercy and not sacrifice." When I first read " The Merchant 
of Venice," as a young man, I closed the book and shouted with the same 
disbelief like George Brack in Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler" on the shocking 
discovery that Hedda has shot herself on the temple: "What, people do 
not do such things!" Hedda like Portia had tried to live according to 
the code of social mores that had dictated her behavior since childhood. 
But her crime is, she has been living a conventional lie that her father 
and society designed for her. When faced with reality, she behaved 
exactly like any other human being and not as a saint.  Portia also, 
surrendered to the dictates of her conventional mores and shows that she 
is no different from the other characters who demanded total punishment 
and no mercy for Shylock. And yet are these really true Christians? 
Radical Muslims behead their captives and regard their act as an act of 
sacrifice, and in the process of killing their enemies would shout: 
"Alahu-Akbar" or " God is Great." In Islam also, Muslims always refer to 
their God or Allah as "The most merciful, the most compassionate and the 
most forgiven." But when we reexamine the state of Islam then and now, 
and its call for violence against non-Muslims, we would walk away with a 
broad satirical laugh about the folly of religion. Let me again Return 
to "The Merchant of Venice." Are we to believe that Portia and those who 
called themselves Christians really acted as true Christians? There is a 
sense of organized hypocrisy which reminds me of the tragic end of the 
character Ill in the play "The Visit." His death was almost a public 
lynching by those who claimed to be the pillars of society. What is 
Justice?  Where is Justice? What kind of justice did Shylock receive in 
the hands of the so called Christians? Are we to praise such justice as 
a sublime concept? Or to quote the very charge that England's first 
Jewish Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, who once accused Gladstone and 
the Whigs when a fellow Jew, who was duly elected to the House of 
Commons, of organized hypocrisy, if the candidate is forced to resign 
his seat because he chose to take his oath in the Old Testament. This is 
an example of religious intolerance and ethnic prejudice. The ending of 
the play is a tragi-comedy because for one to be forced to abandon his 
religion and accept another religion is spiritual and physical death. 
Euripides, in the "Bacchae" also made a mockery of the belief in 
traditional gods, in this case, Dionysus. If gods, according to Plato, 
are better than human beings, Dionysus' idea of crime and punishment, 
who claims to be a god, is really laughable. If the lesson of Euripides' 
play is missed by many, Shakespeare, in "The Merchant of Venice" simply 
reframed the same questions: What is Justice?  What is Mercy? In whose 
light should we modeled our behavior? Christians are asked to love their 
enemies and neighbors and to also show mercy and forgiveness to those 
who persecute them. Did we get any of these in Shakespeare's "The 
Merchant of Venice"? Who really need repentance-Shylock or the 
Christians? The behavior of Portia and the rest is the most unchristian. 
  Finally, those who accuse Shakespeare of being anti-Semitic must 
rethink their position and reread the play like Nietzsche asks us to 
read all great works: "to ruminate over the text as a cow chew the cud."

Nabie Yayah Swaray

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the 
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the 
editor assumes no responsibility for them.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.