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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: December ::
Shylock the unChristian
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0459  Tuesday, 21 December 2010

[1]  From:      William Godshalk <
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     Date:      November 18, 2010 2:30:09 PM EST
     Subj:     RE: SHK 21.0456  Shylock the unChristian
 
[2]  From:      William Godshalk <
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     Date:      November 18, 2010 2:30:09 PM EST
     Subj:     RE: SHK 21.0456  Shylock the unChristian
 
[3]  From:      John E. Perry <
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     Date:      November 19, 2010 12:59:38 PM EST
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0456  Shylock the unChristian
 
[4]  From:      Donald Bloom <
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     Date:      November 19, 2010 9:09:09 AM EST
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0456 Shylock the unChristian



[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         William Godshalk <
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Date:         November 18, 2010 2:30:09 PM EST
Subject: 21.0456  Shylock the unChristian
Comment:     RE: SHK 21.0456  Shylock the unChristian

There is a difference between words on a page and the reality of 
suffering. All the suffering in the world will not turn the printed word 
into the death camps. This is not to say that words on a page cannot be 
interpreted -- if you have a functioning brain and know the language in 
which the words are written. In fact, the words on the page can often be 
interpreted in many different ways. They have no inherent meaning. 

Bill 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         William Godshalk <
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Date:         November 18, 2010 2:30:09 PM EST
Subject: 21.0456  Shylock the unChristian
Comment:     RE: SHK 21.0456  Shylock the unChristian

To John D

Just wanted to say hello, John. You make perfect sense I hope, because I 
often make your point when teaching Merchant to undergraduates. As for 
Terry Hawkes, I think we all three agree: 

"I cannot separate my own perceptions of the play from 'the play'. A 
cursory re-reading of Terry Hawkes' 'Meaning by Shakespeare' would 
remind us all of that. But if you want to apply that logic to my 
reading, then you will need to apply it to your own..." And that's the 
hard part. Words against words.

Bill 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         John E. Perry <
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Date:         November 19, 2010 12:59:38 PM EST
Subject: 21.0456  Shylock the unChristian
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0456  Shylock the unChristian

William Godshalk writes:

"Shylock is merely words on a page."

If Shylock were merely words on a page, we wouldn't care any more than
we care about the words on the pages of, say, _National_Enquirer_.

John Perry

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Donald Bloom <
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Date:         November 19, 2010 9:09:09 AM EST
Subject: 21.0456 Shylock the unChristian
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0456 Shylock the unChristian

"Words on a page."

Like those just preceding these. What _are_ these words? According to 
Falstaff they're nothing but air. But he wouldn't speak them if they had 
no meaning -- to himself or to "the world" or to the audience sitting 
out there in the dark.

We might question whether, in that case, he _could_ speak them.

If the words did not create pictures in the minds of those hearing or 
reading them, even very slight pictures (such as those created by the 
choice of "a," "an," or "the"), then there would be no language at all. 
No plays. No conversations. No philosophical insights. Such as, "What is 
this honour? Air." Or, "Shylock is merely words on page."

Of course, there are a great many pages with even more words on them, 
most of them exceedingly dull, but some of them have a high degree of 
impact on those who read them. Why? Well, clearly because the pictures 
created by certain words resonate in people's minds so that they 
continue to think about them, and re-read them, and speak or write more 
words talking about their thinking.

Yes, the reality of Shylock is entirely in words. You cannot go to 
Shylock's birthplace or grave or the place where he strutted and fretted 
his hours upon the stage. And the uncertainty-mongers of the last 
generation were right to the extent that there is never complete 
understanding between writer and reader. But there must be a degree of 
agreement before there can be any disagreement at all.

If we knew no English, Shylock would be "merely" words. But we do know 
it, and so the depiction of him creates responsive pictures in our 
minds. Quite intense responses, actually. These pictures are similar 
enough to generate discussion and different enough cause disagreement. 
So we discuss and disagree. 

But that's what it means to be an English major.

Cheers,
don

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