The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0201 Wednesday, 2 April 2008
From: Mario DiCesare <
Date: Friday, 28 Mar 2008 22:47:53 -0400
Subject: 19.0190 Untouchable Shakespeare
Comment: Re: SHK 19.0190 Untouchable Shakespeare
Robert Projansky perceptively notes (March 16) that when Tubal, in
III.i, tells Shylock he heard Jessica traded a ring for a monkey,
Shylock is stunned. He "starts to wail again..., but then WS uses this
momentum to jiu-jitsu his audience, suddenly forcing them to see
Shylock's deepest feelings well up here for Leah, who gave him the
turquoise. In the BBC film of the play, Warren Mitchell receives the
news of the lost ring with palpable, searing anguish, escaping at least
for a moment the wily control of Tubal, who has been tormenting him
"Out upon her!--thou torturest me Tubal--it was my turquoise,
I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor; I would not haue giuen it
for a wilderness of monkeys."
Projansky also suggests that Shakespeare "ratchets up Shylock's
nastiness, e.g., he never has him show any feeling for his lost
daughter or even mention her without wailing for his money or jewels
in the same breath."
I disagree. I don't think the play as a whole or this text in particular
requires us to believe that Shylock has no feeling for his lost
daughter; quite the contrary. Salerio and Solanio's imitations of
Shylock in II.viii -- "O my ducats! O my daughter!" -- most likely do
not accurately reflect Shylock's miseries. Given their incapacity for
decent human feeling, they have probably invented their sing-song
mockeries. (It is hard to imagine Shylock crying out, "O my Christian
ducats!") Worse, in III.i, they mock Shylock's despairing line, "My own
flesh and blood to rebel!" and torture it into an ugly joke ("Out on it,
old carrion! rebels it at these years?) As they leave and Tubal enters,
Shylock's first question to Tubal is "what news from Genoa? hast thou
found my daughter?" Shortly after this he cries out,
"I would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear;
would she were hears'd at my foot, and the ducats in her coffin:"
It is worth noting that the structure and rhythm of this passage is
psalmic. Having run off with a Christian, she is dead to him.
Though Shylock does show himself in Act IV, to be what Projansky calls a
"nasty piece of work," still, he also says, in an aside, forgetting his
earlier anguish: "These be the Christian husbands! I have a daughter...."
Mario A. DiCesare
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