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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: March ::
Untouchable Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0174  Thursday, 13 March 2008

From:		Aaron Azlant <
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Date:		Tuesday, 11 Mar 2008 18:14:08 -0400
Subject: 19.0164 Untouchable Shakespeare
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0164 Untouchable Shakespeare

I just wanted to add a quick additional note to this discussion. It 
bears some brief emphasis that the anti-Semitic elements of Merchant of 
Venice are to a very large degree artifacts of the genre that 
Shakespeare is working within, since we Jews were lamentably, but 
frequently, presented as scheming Machiavels during the era. However, as 
my earlier note referencing Rabkin's essay highlights, I believe that 
Shakespeare pushes us simultaneously towards contradictory evaluations 
of Shylock (and many other characters in the play) and that inherited 
traditions of anti-Semitism are, characteristically, complicated in much 
the same way that perceptions about blackness are challenged by the 
rendering of Othello. For similar, less racially charged examples, ask 
yourself in simple-minded terms if Henry V is virtuous or not, if Brutus 
is a hero or a villain, if Hamlet is scourge or minister, etc. I 
recently re-watched the Polanski Macbeth and noticed a similar 
complication in Macduff's character: no matter how much the play sets 
him up as the opposing hero that we are supposed to root for against 
Macbeth, he is *also* a melodramatic coward that abandons his wife and 
child to Macbeth's forces.

--Aaron

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