Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: June ::
The Big Question
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0608  Wednesday, 28 June 2006

[1] 	From: 	Edmund Taft <
 This e-mail 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 e-mail 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 e-mail 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 e-mail 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 e-mail 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 e-mail 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 e-mail 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 e-mail 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 e-mail 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 e-mail 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 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.