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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: July ::
Pacino as Shylock in the Park
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0299  Tuesday, 20 July 2010

[1]  From:      John W Kennedy <
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     Date:      July 15, 2010 10:23:54 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0288  Pacino as Shylock in the Park
 
[2]  From:      William Blanton <
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     Date:      July 16, 2010 1:41:58 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0288  Pacino as Shylock in the Park
 
[3]  From:      Virginia Byrne <
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     Date:      July 16, 2010 2:40:38 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0288  Pacino as Shylock in the Park
 
[4]  From:      David Basch <
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     Date:      July 18, 2010 3:48:23 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0288  Pacino as Shylock in the Park
 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         John W Kennedy <
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Date:         July 15, 2010 10:23:54 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0288  Pacino as Shylock in the Park
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0288  Pacino as Shylock in the Park

From: David Bishop 
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>It's still possible to find more 
>significance in Portia's line, but to go on about it without 
>taking note of the line that follows it is, unfortunately, 
>not uncommon.

Not to mention that Portia is role-playing. Unless a mandated 9th-grade 
recitation of "The quality of mercy" is to be counted, I have never played 
Portia, nor am I ever likely to, but I rather think that if I were to take 
on the part, I should read that line, and several others, as though I had 
rehearsed them before entering the court.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         William Blanton <
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Date:         July 16, 2010 1:41:58 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0288  Pacino as Shylock in the Park
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0288  Pacino as Shylock in the Park

Tom Reedy wrote: 

>As the years roll by I tend to look at Shakespeare's published 
>plays more as the ore from which directors mine their play rather 
>than holy scripture.

On the same day, but on a different subject (SHK 21.0286), Paul Barry wrote:

>Have we never come to an agreement over the infinite number of
>interpretations of the Shakespeare plays? Surely, there is 
>more than one approach, but infinite? All theories and all 
>concept productions must be tested against not only the 
>entirety of a text, but other Elizabethan / Jacobean works 
>as well, then, finally, against the sensibilities of the age.
>Many tests to winnow those infinite interpretations down to 
>a workable few. Then, the work can start.

Both comments make a great deal of sense to me, and I thank their authors.

With respect to SHK 21.0281, David Bishop wrote:

>Many have made much of Portia's line, "Which is the merchant 
>here and which the Jew?" Not many have noted that this is a 
>crowded courtroom, in which other Jews may also be present, 
>but that, in any case, the Duke responds to her question with, 
>"Antonio and old Shylock, both stand forth." This at least plausibly
>suggests that they must separate themselves from the crowd to 
>show Portia which individuals are the principals in the case.

Paul Barry's observation applies here. In Shakespeare's play, there is no 
crowded courtroom and there are no other >Jews< on stage. The only 
characters on stage in Act 4 Scene 1 are: the Duke, a few Magnificoes, 
Antonio, Bassanio, and Gratiano; then Shylock, and, at some point, Salerio; 
then Nerissa; and, finally, Portia.

In the portion of my article (at shylocke.org) that dealt with Judge 
Portia's first encounter with Shylock, I described how and why she pretended 
not to know which was which.

Tom Reedy's observation also applies. In Michael Radford's movie, 
fraudulently entitled >William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice< with Al 
Pacino as Shylock, there certainly was a crowded courtroom. The Duke thus 
had some justification for starting the trial with >What, is Antonio here?<

However, Radford's movie is not Shakespeare's play. Care must be taken so 
that the images from the one should not influence the actual words from the 
other.

Bill Blanton
shylocke.org

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Virginia Byrne <
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Date:         July 16, 2010 2:40:38 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0288  Pacino as Shylock in the Park
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0288  Pacino as Shylock in the Park

I have always directed Portia to use the line so as to make it clear to 
Bassanio that she isn't aware of who Shylock and Antonia are . . . to make 
sure he doesn't suspect that she is in fact his wife! (As he is not my 
favorite person in Shakespeare's plays, I also assume he is simply 
interested in how he looks not who the lawyer is.)

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         David Basch <
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Date:         July 18, 2010 3:48:23 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0288  Pacino as Shylock in the Park
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0288  Pacino as Shylock in the Park

I would like to respond to the two comments on list about my letter that 
appeared in the Wall Street Journal (7.8.10), one by John W Kennedy 
(7.12.10) and one by David Bishop (7.15.10).

David Bishop wrote:

>Many have made much of Portia's line, "Which is the merchant
>here and which the Jew?" Not many have noted that this is a
>crowded courtroom, in which other Jews may also be present,
>but that, in any case, the Duke responds to her question
>with, "Antonio and old Shylock, both stand forth." This at
>least plausibly suggests that they must separate themselves
>from the crowd to show Portia which individuals are the
>principals in the case. It's still possible to find more
>significance in Portia's line, but to go on about it without
>taking note of the line that follows it is, unfortunately,
>not uncommon.

Since David calls for careful reading of Shakespeare's lines, each line 
considered with what follows and, presumably, with what precedes it, let's 
put David's advice to the test.

In the courtroom scene, what has occurred just before Portia shows up is 
that both Shylock and Antonio are already before the court since each has 
been briefly questioned. It is after this that Portia enters and notes that 
she is thoroughly informed "of the cause." Portia goes on to ask, "Which is 
the merchant here, and which the Jew?" The implication of the word "here" is 
that both individuals are at hand. The Duke then says, "Antonio and old 
Shylock, both stand forth." From the context, the Duke is saying that they 
should both stand ready for examination.

Notice, the Duke refers to "old Shylock," apparently age is the 
distinguishing feature between the two since Portia immediately asks 
Shylock, "Is your name Shylock?"

It seems evident that Portia needs information to distinguish between 
the two figures in her presence and that, aside from age, the two are 
not distinguishable as Christian and Jew.

I think it is an overreaching to come to David's interpretation of what is 
happening. It goes against the thrust of the line as we read it forward and 
from its foregoing context.

Turning to John Kennedy's comment, he quotes my letter as follows:

>The point here is that Shylock looks like everyone else. All male
>Elizabethans wore hats in public and in private, and Shakespeare
>means to show by this that the devilishness which others see in
>him is brought about by their biased expectations of a Jew.

To this assertion, John pithily comments: "A truly heroic non-sequitur."

I can only say that what John finds as "non-sequitur" is actually "sequitur" 
when the play is consulted.

We had already learned that Launcelot refers to Shylock as devilish. 
Says Launcelot, "to be ruled by my conscience, I should stay with the 
Jew my master, who, God bless the mark, is a kind of devil;..."

Later on, Salanio, Antonio's friend, says, "Let me say 'amen' betimes, 
lest the devil cross my prayer, for here he comes in the likeness of a 
Jew." Once more, when Tubal, Shylock's friend shows up, Salanio says, 
"Here comes another of the tribe: a third cannot be matched, unless 
the devil himself turn Jew."

Somehow, Shylock, who, as we learn from Portia, appears like anyone else in 
Venice, is said to look like the "devil." Surely, Portia's statement must 
come as an eye-opener that Shylock can't be distinguished physically from a 
Christian?

The point is that Shylock, who is nothing more than today's equivalent of a 
banker or loan officer carrying out his society's commercial necessity for 
loans, is hated, not for what he looks like, but because he is a Jew.

Focusing narrowly on my comment alone in the Wall Street Journal, John may 
find its conclusion a non-sequitur but this is not so when it is read in the 
context of the play.

Finally, Tom Reedy's comment appears to bell the cat about what tends so 
often to happen with Shakespeare's plays. Wrote Tom, "As the years roll by I 
tend to look at Shakespeare's published plays more as the ore from which 
directors mine their play rather than holy scripture." But if we regard 
Shakespeare as the playwright without peer, this is not the best use of this 
"ore." For then his plays are in danger of being reduced to the level of a 
director's intellect rather than reaching up to that of the playwright.

David Basch


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