2006

The Big Question

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0611  Friday, 30 June 2006

[1] 	From: 	William Godshalk <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Thursday, 29 Jun 2006 15:19:18 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0610 The Big Question

[2] 	From: 	Jack Heller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Friday, 30 Jun 2006 08:22:11 -0400 (EDT)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0610 The Big Question


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		William Godshalk <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Thursday, 29 Jun 2006 15:19:18 -0400
Subject: 17.0610 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0610 The Big Question

Donald Bloom writes: "I need some clarification here. Why are we 
assuming that a well-respected merchant of late Renaissance Venice would 
have such a Dark Ages attitude toward banking?"

I think it's hard to assume otherwise. Antonio says that he neither 
lends nor borrows "By taking nor by giving of excess" (1.3.57). "Excess" 
here means "usury" (OED, noun, 6. c., citing this passage). And Antonio 
tells Shylock: "If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not / As to thy 
friends, for when did friendship take / A breed for barren metal of his 
friend?" (127-129). I suppose Antonio could be telling Shylock not to be 
friendly with his clients, or informing Shylock that he, Antonio, never 
makes friends with his banker, but more likely he's decrying the taking 
of interest. And at line 70, Antonio appears to reject any taking of 
interest, and Shylock himself says that Antonio "lends out money gratis" 
(39). No wonder Antonio has no money.

If Shylock is a loan shark (as current shylocks are), why does Bassanio 
turn to him rather than to a legitimate banker? Why don't Antonio's 
friends rally round?

I quote the following from LEME, so that we have an EM definition of usury.

William Rastell, An Exposition of Certain Difficult and Obscure Words, 
and Terms of the Laws of this Realm (1579)

Vsurie. VSurie, is a gayne of any thing aboue the principal, or that 
which was lent, exacted onely in consideration of the loane, whether it 
be of corn, meat, apparel, wares, or such like, as of money. And here 
much myght be saied, and many cases might bee putt concernynge Vsurie, 
whiche of purpose I omytte, onely I wyshe, that they who accompte 
themselues religious & good christians, would not deceiue themselues by 
colour of the statute of vsurie, because it sayeth that it shall not be 
lawful for any to take aboue x. ii. in the C. li. for a yere &c. whereby 
they gather (although falsly) that they may therefore take x. li. for 
the loane of an C. li. with a good conscience, because the Statute doth 
after a sort dispence withal, (for that it doth not punish such taking,) 
which thing it cannot do with the lawes & ordinances of God, for God 
will haue his decrees to be kept inuiolable, who sayth, lende looking 
for nothynge thereby &c. By which woordes is excluded, eyther the taking 
of x. li. v. li. yea, or one penny aboue the principall. But rather let 
such think, that that statute was made vppon like cause, that moued 
Moyses to gyue a bill of dyuorce to the Isralites, as namelye to auoyde 
a greater mischiefe, and for the hardnesse of their hartes.

(Lexicons of Early Modern English. Ed. Ian Lancashire. Toronto, ON: 
University of Toronto Library and University of Toronto Press, 2006. 
Date consulted: 29 June 2006. URL: 
leme.library.utoronto.ca/lexicon/entry.cfm?ent=151-280).

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jack Heller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Friday, 30 Jun 2006 08:22:11 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 17.0610 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0610 The Big Question

By what alchemy do threads on general subjects always end up on Merchant 
of Venice? Is there nothing to consider about the morality of Taming of 
the Shrew, Julius Caesar, or Macbeth?

Jack Heller

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Bowdlers on Death of Ophelia

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0611  Friday, 30 June 2006

From: 		Cris Smith <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Thursday, 29 Jun 2006 14:52:48 -0300
Subject: 	Bowdlers on Death of Ophelia

Dear All,

I have been working on bowdlerized versions of Hamlet to find out how 
different texts describe Ophelia's death in the nineteenth century and 
am rather puzzled.

I have compared The Family Shakespeare to the Arden edition and can't 
find the many infamous expurgations commonly attributed to the Bowdlers. 
A part from a couple of lines cut from Gertrude's description of the 
accident, everything else remains pretty much the same.

Why, then, do many claim that the Bowdlers only euphemistically refer to 
Ophelia's death as an accidental drowning rather than the suicide 
implied by Shakespeare?  The grave diggers' words have not been modified 
and neither have Laertes' to the "churlish priest", hence the 
insinuation is clear.

Could it be that the 1st editions, probably written by Henrietta, were 
more radical in relation to Ophelia than the later ones? (I should add 
that the Family Shakespeare edition I have was published in 1861).

I would be very grateful indeed if a good soul could help me - no 
libraries here in Brazil have The Family Shakespeare, therefore I cannot 
compare mine to earlier editions.

Many thanks and best wishes,
Cris Smith.

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CFP: "The Presence of Shakespeare and War" at SAA

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0609  Thursday, 29 June 2006

From: 		Evelyn Gajowski <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Wednesday, 28 Jun 2006 10:16:26 -0700
Subject: 	CFP: "The Presence of Shakespeare and War" at SAA

"The Presence of Shakespeare and War"
Leader: Evelyn Gajowski, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Research Seminar, Shakespeare Association of America, San Diego, 5-7 
April 2007

Military conflict is a subject Shakespeare dramatized time and again, 
particularly in the histories and the tragedies.  How do his 
representations of war strike us--embedded, as we are, in the 21st 
century?  How do contemporary lived experience and representations of 
war shape the meanings we construct in Shakespeare?  How does he gender 
military experience?  How do we?  All theoretical perspectives are 
welcome, especially those interrogating how our moment (in)forms 
Shakespeare, as well as how his moment (in)forms us.

SAA members can register for this research seminar online at the SAA 
website:

       http://www.shakespeareassociation.org/

Participants in SAA research seminars are expected to complete 
significant work in advance of the meeting: research papers, common 
readings, and bibliographic compilation. Papers are to be completed and 
circulated among seminar members before the meeting. Seminars are 
appropriate for college and university faculty, independent scholars, 
and graduate students in the later stages of their doctoral work.

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email 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.

The Big Question

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0610  Thursday, 29 June 2006

[1] 	From: 	Joseph Egert <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Wednesday, 28 Jun 2006 18:50:25 +0000
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0608 The Big Question

[2] 	From: 	David Bishop <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Thursday, 29 Jun 2006 01:03:42 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0608 The Big Question

[3] 	From: 	Donald Bloom <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Thursday, 29 Jun 2006 10:30:15 -0500
	Subj: 	Usury


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Joseph Egert <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Wednesday, 28 Jun 2006 18:50:25 +0000
Subject: 17.0608 The Big Question
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0608 The Big Question

I cannot for the life of me understand how so many critics and scholars 
down the years have ignored or minimized the subversive undercurrents 
flowing beneath David Bishop's cover story. Perhaps, a Roundtable 
Discussion could explore the sources of such resistance-why so many are 
content to glide along the surface rather than pry to the interior. Rest 
assured, Ms. Bonomi, Shakespeare used both eyes in crafting his dramas, 
winking all the way. Shylock grew fangs only after being called dog, and 
not before.

Joe Egert

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Bishop <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Thursday, 29 Jun 2006 01:03:42 -0400
Subject: 17.0608 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0608 The Big Question

Frank Whigham's question about "let all of his complexion choose me so" 
is a natural one, for us, and a difficult one-as many have found. One 
might wonder why Shakespeare put these words in Portia's mouth if he did 
not mean to make her an unsympathetic character-in our terms, a racist.

In that sense we might consider Shakespeare a racist too, for example 
because of the many passing remarks about the ugliness of dark skin. 
This was a conventional judgment in his world, where whiter skin than 
alabaster was the ideal (though you could be too pale: a whey-face). But 
he also wrestles in the sonnets, as in Othello, with the conflict 
between conventional standards of beauty and a "fairness" that 
transcends skin color.

What then, for Shakespeare, was the point of Portia's remark? I think 
it's 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. 
Then, we understand, she would learn the deeper value of character. As 
it is, Shakespeare lets her off the hook, by giving her a man both 
beautiful and wise. But the hook is there, as her wish reminds us.

I was arguing that through most of the play Shylock's Jewishness is 
given no further positive content than his character as a mean, miserly 
usurer. I'm not sure it has any positive content at all, since what it 
most essentially means-in this play-is not believing in the Christian 
God's command to be merciful.

Separating "ideological" anti-Semitism from "racial" anti-Semitism can 
be difficult in some contexts. Here I'm pointing out that behaving 
kindly, and converting, seem to be all that's called for, in this play, 
to be accepted into the Christian community. Jessica is so attractive 
that even as a Jewess she inspires love and admiration. As far as the 
play is concerned, it appears that Shylock is an alien-a Jew-because 
that is what he chooses to be, when he could simply choose to be a 
Christian. If he quit usury, he could presumably make an honest living 
as a merchant. This may not apply to historical Jews in Venice, but then 
they also lived a ghetto, as Shylock does not. Incidentally I should 
mention to Hugh Grady that I'm not Tom Bishop, whom I imagine would not 
wish to be tarred with my feathers.

As for Jessica's ambiguity, I think the way her father keeps her locked 
up, and her own reaction to him, shows his meanness. To think Shylock is 
an admirable father seems to me to strain plausibility. Jessica makes 
fast the doors in ironic obedience to her father's order to shut them 
"after you, /Fast bind, fast find"-a proverb yielding more than one 
meaning to the thrifty mind. To take her genetic Jewishness seriously 
would undercut the satire of Launcelot, who "tells me flatly there is no 
mercy for me in heaven, because I am a Jew's daughter." Shakespeare 
faced the dramatic difficulty of making a happy marriage interesting, 
which he does by giving the couple some lovingly needling dialogue. That 
they can twit each other with references to famously unfaithful lovers 
shows their absolute security in their love. Portia shows the same 
rather awesome security when she says "Since you are dear bought, I will 
love you dear." They navigate these dangerous waters with the 
insouciance of true love.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Donald Bloom <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Thursday, 29 Jun 2006 10:30:15 -0500
Subject: 	Usury

William Godshalk writes: "Shylock is a usurer. I think we'd call him a 
banker in 2006. How could Renaissance merchants function without a 
fairly sophisticated banking system?"

Keeping strictly away from moral judgments of Shylock, what of Antonio's 
attitude toward "usury"? By the time Shakespeare wrote MOV banking had 
existed in Italy for upwards of 400 years and many a famous family 
(including the Medici) had gotten their start in that business. It 
strikes me as odd-and highly unlikely-that Antonio would accuse Shylock 
of a sin that was widely practiced by the most important people 
throughout Northern Italy, including (presumably) many of his Christian 
business associates.

Isn't it far more likely that he's accusing Shylock of actual usury, 
that is, of charging exorbitant interest rates in order to gouge money 
out of the desperate? Isn't he calling him what we would now term a loan 
shark?

I need some clarification here. Why are we assuming that a 
well-respected merchant of late Renaissance Venice would have such a 
Dark Ages attitude toward banking?

Cheers,
don

_______________________________________________________________
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The Big Question

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0608  Wednesday, 28 June 2006

[1] 	From: 	Edmund Taft <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Tuesday, 27 Jun 2006 12:08:07 -0400
	Subj: 	The Big Question

[2] 	From: 	Ruth Ross <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Tuesday, 27 Jun 2006 13:32:09 -0400
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0603 The Big Question

[3] 	From: 	Frank Whigham <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Tuesday, 27 Jun 2006 12:41:38 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0603 The Big Question

[4] 	From: 	William Godshalk <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Tuesday, 27 Jun 2006 14:03:34 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0603 The Big Question

[5] 	From: 	Hugh Grady <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Tuesday, 27 Jun 2006 15:43:45 -0400
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0603 The Big Question


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Edmund Taft <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Tuesday, 27 Jun 2006 12:08:07 -0400
Subject: 	The Big Question

Mari Bonomi writes:

 >"My personal lens finds the punishment meted out to Shylock at the end
 >intensely painful-to me he's stripped of his identity by being forced to
 >convert.  He's a broken man because of that, not merely b/c he was
 >unable to gain his vengeance on Anthony.
 >
 >But when I hold up my Elizabethan lens and peer through it at the stage,
 >I see a man given a gift instead of the punishment he deserved.  He is
 >not pauperized, and he's given the "real" divinity and grace of the
 >Christian "god."  There, perhaps, is the "marriage" that comedies are to
 >end with (since all the other marriages have already taken place!)."

I seldom disagree with Mari, but there are two points worth making:

1. Mari's "personal lens" is not restricted to post-Holocaust moderns. 
There is no reason to suppose that all Elizabethans were incapable of 
responding to Shylock's punishment much as Mari does.

2. Shylock is not given a gift: it is crammed down his throat whether he 
wants it or not. The quality of this mercy is "stained" indeed.

Best,
Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Ruth Ross <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Tuesday, 27 Jun 2006 13:32:09 -0400
Subject: 17.0603 The Big Question
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0603 The Big Question

Once again, I submit the following:  Shylock is charged as an alien and 
convicted as a Jew.

Ruth Ross

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Frank Whigham <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Tuesday, 27 Jun 2006 12:41:38 -0500
Subject: 17.0603 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0603 The Big Question

I would think a full discussion of this so-called big question ought to 
engage with the racial hostility to Morocco that Portia voices. As many 
have observed, the play's concern with outsiders is wider than the fact 
of anti-Semitism. Is there a nice healthy moral version of "let all of 
his complexion choose me so"?

Another query: how can we tell that Antonio spits on Shylock because 
he's a usurer, and not (or not also) because he's a Jew? This is not 
Shylock's view, who says explicitly, "You call me misbeliever, cutthroat 
dog, / And spit upon my Jewish gabardine."

Jim Shapiro usefully notes that the category "Jew" might be regarded as 
a matter of race, religion, or nation. These versions have different 
histories and different logics (can you change your race? if the Jews 
are a racial group, what can their conversion mean? if the Jews are a 
dispersed nation, can they be reliable English citizens? etc.), though 
they are now quite entwined for us. I'd call all of them ideological 
constructs.

Is Jessica "welcomed," or is her reception more complex? Who reacts to 
her arrival, and how? How do we know Shylock "mistreats" her? What does 
that mean? If she runs away from home he must be the cause? What about 
her decision to "gild herself" with her father's stolen money (which is 
what she's so generous with on her honeymoon)? And on her possible 
feelings of guilt (obscure, I agree): why does she "make fast the door" 
after robbing her father? What does all the anxiety of the classical 
parallels she and Lorenzo exchange in 5.1 attach to? I find her 
character and experience full of obscurity.

~Frank Whigham

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		William Godshalk <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Tuesday, 27 Jun 2006 14:03:34 -0400
Subject: 17.0603 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0603 The Big Question

David Bishop writes clearly and reasonably:

'Shylock's Jewishness is mostly tied to his being a usurer, and 
generally mean, though the play says nothing about usury being his only 
allowed occupation. Antonio spits on him because he's a usurer, and 
suggests that he could change if he wanted to. Not being a usurer is 
connected to being a kind, friendly person, part of a community of 
people who lend money out of good will. This is hardly realistic, of 
course, but when it looks like Shylock is lending money free, Antonio is 
willing to say there is much kindness in the Jew. Antonio's 
"anti-Semitism" is anti-usury and anti-unkindness. He may go a little 
overboard in cruelly promoting kindness, but Shylock is not a very 
sympathetic victim, no one is closing down his business, and Antonio is 
ready to change his attitude when Shylock changes his.'

Shylock is a usurer. I think we'd call him a banker in 2006. How could 
Renaissance merchants function without a fairly sophisticated banking 
system? As David says, it is "hardly realistic" for Antonio to expect 
banking houses to lend money without interest. And if the Christians 
force Shylock to do so, this would indeed close down his business -- as 
soon as he gave all his money away.

And, of course, Antonio makes his money by buying cheap and selling dear 
-- a form of interest, if you will. How else? And as far as we know, he 
does not buy in order to give his goods away to the starving multitudes. 
He makes his money breed.

I think Shakespeare, a man who knew about money and its uses, played 
Shylock. And post play, Shylock and Antonio realize that they really 
can't do without each other, and form a business partnership. They now 
quarrel about whose name goes first on their stationery.

Bill

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Hugh Grady <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Tuesday, 27 Jun 2006 15:43:45 -0400
Subject: 17.0603 The Big Question
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0603 The Big Question

In an article that discusses MofV and Martin Luther's essay "The Jews 
and their Lies," Lisa Freinkel made a strong case that the distinction 
Tom Bishop is arguing for here-racial vs. religious-is unstable and hard 
to maintain in practice. It's well worth a look. It's "The Merchant of 
Venice: 'Modern' Anti-Semitism and the Veil of Allegory," in 
_Shakespeare and Modernity_, ed. Hugh Grady (Routledge 2000).

Best,
Hugh Grady

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email 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 
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