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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: November ::
Shylock the unChristian
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0456  Thursday, 18 November 2010

[1]  From:      Abigail Quart <
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     Date:      November 17, 2010 3:40:09 PM EST
     Subj:      RE: SHK 21.0451  Shylock the unChristian 

[2]  From:      John Drakakis <
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     Date:      November 18, 2010 5:22:51 AM EST
     Subj:      RE: SHK 21.0451  Shylock the unChristian


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Abigail Quart <
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Date:         November 17, 2010 3:40:09 PM EST
Subject: 21.0451  Shylock the unChristian
Comment:      RE: SHK 21.0451  Shylock the unChristian

William Godshalk writes:

"Shylock is merely words on a page."

Uh...uh....no, not if you read English and have normal brain function.

And I was gonna leave it there. But I spent this morning online learning the stages 
by which the Jews of Sokolka and Bialystok were exported and murdered. Reading about 
the mop up operation that killed the remaining 20,000. That's some mop. They had a 
fairly new resplendent synagogue. 1,500 Jews were herded into it and burned alive. 
An old medieval tradition throughout Europe, burning Jews in their homes.

So no, I don't find the following to be "words on a page."

"To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge. He hath 
disgraced me, and hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses, mocked at my 
gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine 
enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew 
hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, 
hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, 
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, 
do we not bleed?  if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not 
die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we 
will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? 
Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian 
example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go 
hard but I will better the instruction."

I find it damn near miraculous. 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         John Drakakis <
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Date:         November 18, 2010 5:22:51 AM EST
Subject: 21.0451  Shylock the unChristian
Comment:      RE: SHK 21.0451  Shylock the unChristian

To Joe Egert,

The matter is very simple: because it wasn't 'Jews' who were the usurers in 
Elizabethan England but Christians. In Shylock's name and in his designation as 
'Jew' 'myth' and 'reality' collide. May I suggest that Joe undertakes a lengthy 
sojourn in the usury tracts of the period from about 1578 to 1605? 

To Bill Godshalk . . . Good to hear from you Bill. I think you are missing the point 
though. Shakespeare is not a sociologist in any sense that you or I would 
understand, but he does have his finger on the pulse of 'the very age and body of 
the time'. I don't think it improbable that he was able to figure out what we might 
call the contradiction involved in the practice of usury and those who practised it. 
Again, following Barthes, we would call this 'mythologising' wouldn't we?

Of course, 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...

Very best wishes,
John D 

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