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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: June ::
The Big Question
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0611  Friday, 30 June 2006

[1] 	From: 	William Godshalk <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 29 Jun 2006 15:19:18 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0610 The Big Question

[2] 	From: 	Jack Heller <
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	Date: 	Friday, 30 Jun 2006 08:22:11 -0400 (EDT)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0610 The Big Question


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		William Godshalk <
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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 <
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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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