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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: March ::
EMLS 13.3 Now Available
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0165  Tuesday, 11 March 2008

From:		Nicole Coonradt <
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Date:		Tuesday, 11 Mar 2008 19:04:04 +0000
Subject: 19.0155 EMLS 13.3 Now Available
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0155 EMLS 13.3 Now Available

Dear Friends,

In reference to the recent EMLS link provided here by Sean Lawrence 
(thank you, Sean!), I'd like to draw your attention to an interesting 
article that addresses a topic of discussion at a different thread, 
"Untouchable Shakespeare," where the author in EMLS discusses 
Anti-Semitism and Usury in MoV. The article is by Jennifer Rich at 
Hofstra University titled: "The Merchant Formerly Known as Jew: 
Redefining the Rhetoric of Merchantry in Shakespeare's _Merchant of 
Venice_."  I mention it as interesting on various levels-- one of which 
misses/ignores any discussion of the historical Catholic/Protestant rift 
(something which even Greenblatt notes in  _Will in the World_, a study 
Rich references) and was a far more immediate concern than "The Jewish 
Question" that so absorbs most readers these days.

Moreover, I wonder about the author's use of texts about usury. 
Interestingly, Henry Smith, senior and junior, were both virulent 
Puritans-- the former the famous "silver tongued" preacher and the 
latter his son, a commissioner of the High Court of Justice at the trial 
of King Charles I (the last Catholically-aligned monarch in English 
history), was a signer of the King's death warrant, for which he was 
later sentenced to death himself for "Regicide," but instead spent time 
in the Tower (1660-64).

By contrast, Robert Filmer (also cited by Rich), was a supporter of 
Charles I, being knighted by the king early in his reign. Based on the 
more pressing problem between beleaguered Catholics and their Protestant 
persecutors, it would make sense to dig a bit deeper when examining 
these contemporary sources for discussions on usury. Note the quote form 
Henry Smith's "Examination of Usury" (published in 1591, during a period 
of severe Catholic persecution-- recall the priest hunts for Jesuits, 
Edmund Campion having already been martyred in 1581, Robert Southwell 
captured in 1592 and martyred in 1595-- they, along with others, 
undergoing gruesome torture and execution, part of which entailed the 
cutting out of the victim's still-beating heart), which Rich includes to 
make a point about usury and heresy. Smith equates usurers with 
"heretics" or "obstinate . . .  Papists" who "persist . . .  in Poperie" 
(qtd. in Rich 9). "Papist" is the derogatory name Protestants used for 
Catholics, typical of Smith's virulent Puritanism and anti-Catholicism.

Of concern, Rich "drops" in this quote from Smith with no further 
analysis and ignores the obvious anti-Catholic sentiment offered by the 
"silver-tongued" preacher. Interestingly, from Elizabeth I on after 
Henry VIII's "reforms," the spiritual and temporal were united in the 
English Monarch by law/through Oaths (see the Jacobean _Macbeth_ 4.2 for 
topical discussion of treason at the Macduff household, a Shakespearian 
insertion/digression in his source material from Holinshed). For a 
comprehensive recent study on polemical texts during the 16th and 17th 
centuries, see Arthur Marotti's interesting and informative _Religious 
Ideology and Cultural Fantasy:  Catholic and Anti-Catholic Discourses in 
Early Modern England_.  South Bend, IN:  U of Notre Dame P, 2005. 
Interestingly, is was Marotti's friend James Shapiro who suggested the 
study when he asked, "Arthur, why don't you do Catholics?" (Marotti xi).

Rich does note Shapiro's comment that what seems important about Jews in 
England in Shakespeare's time (Shapiro's study makes the case that they 
did exist though having been driven from the country in 1290 under 
Edward I's "Edict of Expulsion," forbidden to return on "pain of 
death"), is ' "not the raw numbers of Jews . . .  [but] the kind of 
cultural preoccupation they became" (Shapiro 88) ' (qtd. in Rich 4). It 
is this cultural "preoccupation" that the Bard takes up as cover for a 
much different argument-- one about not Jews, but Christians.

It would be wonderful to have these fellow scholars join us at SHAKSPER 
to discuss the issues.

At any rate, Carol Morely, the originator of the "Untouchable" thread 
might find Rich's article useful for the questions it poses and the 
sources the author cites, especially as it continues to read in the 
tradition of seeing the play as anti-Semitic, though Rich falls into the 
"defending the Bard" camp when she refuses to condemn Shakespeare. (See 
her comment on Tubal and sympathetic characterization in note 15.)

Cheers,
Nicole

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