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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: July ::
The Big Question
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0634  Monday, 10 July 2006

[Editor's Note: This thread has been going on for a considerable time 
now. In the interests of diversity, could we bring it to an end soon by 
stopping repeating points that have already been made.]

[1] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 6 Jul 2006 12:46:14 -0400 (EDT)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0628 The Big Question

[2]	From: 	JD Markel <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 6 Jul 2006 12:40:42 -0700 (PDT)
	Suct: 	Re: SHK 17.0628 The Big Question

[3] 	From: 	David Bishop <
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	Date: 	Friday, 7 Jul 2006 01:52:49 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0628 The Big Question

[4] 	From: 	John Crowley <
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	Date: 	Friday, 07 Jul 2006 07:09:33 -0400
	Subj: 	Big Question


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Thursday, 6 Jul 2006 12:46:14 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 17.0628 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0628 The Big Question

Bob Rosen essays my challenge to justify marital insularity among Jews 
while condemning as "racism" a preference by a white person not to marry 
a black person by saying:

 >In orthodox Judaism there is some justification for staying within the
 >tribe through marriage. It isn't about two people conjoining. It's about
 >passing on a religious tradition through family.

Sorry; that is an explanation, not a justification.  One can as easily, 
and as validly, say "Among racially conscious Caucasians there is some 
justification for passing down cultural traditions through marriage and 
avoiding confusion and possible disadvantages which might be suffered by 
the offspring of racially mixed unions."  I presume that those who 
condemn Portia as a racist for her "all of his complexion" line feel 
that such considerations are insufficient justification.  If racial 
purity does not wash, neither does tribal purity.  It is just a case of 
"my ethnic prejudices are good, yours are horrid."  Please save us the 
sanctimony.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		JD Markel <
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 >
Date: 		Thursday, 6 Jul 2006 12:40:42 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 17.0628 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0628 The Big Question

Ed writes:

"M of V ends with a dirty joke: how much clearer could Shakespeare be 
about his view of Belmont?"

Anticipating the current dominant interpretative discourse Shakespeare 
should have supplied us with a copy of Q1 with many marginal notes in 
his own hand reading "Laugh here."

Larry writes:

"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."

Amen.  I hate when that happens.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Bishop <
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Date: 		Friday, 7 Jul 2006 01:52:49 -0400
Subject: 17.0628 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0628 The Big Question

I seem to be masquerading serially as Tom Bishop and the phantasmal 
David and Tom Evert. Not that I really care about little mistakes like 
that. You can get my name wrong if you get my arguments right, but that 
doesn't seem to happen much either. Several people seem intent on 
repeating their favorite theories without bothering to consider 
carefully, let alone answer, the particular objections to them which 
have been offered, by me among others.

It's not that I don't see Christian sinfulness as a theme of the play: 
it underpins it. But aside from Gratiano, and perhaps the taunting boys, 
most of the particular Christians in Venice and Belmont do not 
demonstrate it. On the contrary, they mostly go far toward demonstrating 
ideal Christian virtue. Antonio's spurning and spitting are emotional 
outbursts that, at least when they happen offstage, can be accepted, I 
think Shakespeare assumes, as justifiable, if less than admirable, 
expressions of anger and resentment at Shylock's mean materialism. I 
think Shakespeare was criticizing the materialism he saw around him, in 
England-though aside from Shylock none of the characters in the play 
displays it personally. It appears more subtly, more indirectly, as a 
shadow, in Shylock's meanness, first of all, and then in his fanatical, 
though comprehensibly human, desire for revenge. I would interpret the 
message this play subtly, even subconsciously, conveys to Shakespeare's 
audience as "The Jew-is you!" The response to "shall I not revenge?" is 
designed to occur in the audience's mind.

I can hardly expect this to be accepted by my opponents. After all, how 
could I see the truth of the play when I stubbornly fail to understand 
that Shakespeare is presenting Antonio, Bassanio, Jessica and Portia as 
despicable hypocrites, thieves, cheats, etc., and Shylock as their 
admirable victim?  I guess we all have our blind spots.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John Crowley <
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Date: 		Friday, 07 Jul 2006 07:09:33 -0400
Subject: 	Big Question

 >Perhaps we
 >need to mix a little New Criticism into our historicism.

Yes -- and our historicism too has to reach beyond Shakespeare's moment 
-- note that the story of MOJ appeared (without the "chests" subplot) in 
1378, and was apparently old even then.  (In the original Portia is a 
pirate queen at Belmont who keeps seducing the merchant, drugging him 
and stealing his ship -- three times -- until his bond with the Jew 
falls due. Then she disguises herself as the lawyer. Too bad WS didn't 
use this angle.)

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