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Home :: Archive :: 2011 :: July ::
Merchant of Venice in a Las Vegas Setting


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0166  Wednesday, 20 July 2011

[1] From:      John W Kennedy < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
      Date:      July 19, 2011 10:11:02 PM EDT
      Subj:      Re: SHAKSPER: Ophelia; MV

[2] From:      Carol Barton < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
      Date:      July 19, 2011 2:38:45 PM EDT
      Subj:      Re: SHAKSPER: Change; Ophelia; MV
 
[3] From:      John W Kennedy < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
      Date:      July 19, 2011 3:21:19 PM EDT
      Subj:      Re: SHAKSPER: More v Shakespeare; Theater Calendar; MV

[4] From:      Chris Kendall < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
      Date:      July 19, 2011 9:58:04 PM EDT
      Subj:      MV

[5] From:       JD Markel < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
      Date:      July 19, 2011 10:24:26 PM EDT
      Subj:      ... MV


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         John W Kennedy < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         July 19, 2011 10:11:02 PM EDT
Subject:      Re: SHAKSPER: Ophelia; MV

The plot of "Hamlet" makes Ophelia a victim; the actress should not usurp the plot's job. I especially remember Robin Leary's Ophelia in 1978 at the NJ Shakespeare Festival, but I am aware of only two other people on SHAKSPER who will remember that production. (Perhaps the phrase a reviewer recently used to describe Andrea Corr as "Jane Eyre" at the Gate fits here: "fierce and earnest".) Ideally, the audience should, at IV, 6, be able to mourn for themselves, "Oh, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!" and wonder whether Ophelia, given time, could have become a very Paulina.

From: Carol Barton < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
[Shylock] has been abused--solely for his ethnicity--in the past.

No he has not. He has been abused for his religion.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Carol Barton < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         July 19, 2011 2:38:45 PM EDT
Subject:      Re: SHAKSPER: Change; Ophelia; MV

For Donald Bloom:
 
I'm an independent, politically, though intellectually, I am a liberal. (Whoda thunk someone could be both?)  I'm sorry that you found my response "harsh." It wasn't meant to be. I was just stating a case for the opposition, and for the Janus-like coexistence of both perspectives as equally valid.
 
And on the contrary, I quite enjoy MofV. I just see it as one of the dark comedies/problem plays, not the lark that, oh, Twelfth Night or MSND or Merry Wives should be.
 
A loan-shark is a reprehensible character, I agree--but when it's the only occupation in which an entire (hypocritically "banished" but for mercantile reasons suffered to remain) ethnicity is  allowed to engage, one can hardly (with an honest face) condemn those very useful people for engaging in that with which their moral "betters" would not publicly soil their hands--the lending of money at interest.
 
It's not a reaction to anti-Semitism that makes me play devil's advocate here (though I do think that's central to the take-away). No matter how unappealing Shylock is, he has committed *no crime*, other than to demand the recompense freely offered by his mortgagor--which if it even bears the force of a legal contract is no more, under the terms of that agreement, than that to which he is legally entitled. He didn't coerce or defraud Antonio into agreeing to the bargain--as someone pointed out, Antonio is in fact quite delighted at the "Christianity" of it. BUT SHYLOCK HAS COMMITTED NO CRIME. He is punished simply for being a Jew--and viciously--by those who maintain their "Christian charity."
 
A biblical scholar educated me many years ago to the fact that when Jesus said to turn the other cheek, he meant to the members of one's community (who in a practical sense likely shared the same moral values, and would be more hurt by forgiveness than they would by retaliation); he didn't mean that if someone shoots at you with a tommy-gun, you should run right back into his line of fire. It seems to me that the "Christianity" of the Christians in this play is likewise reserved only for those who profess the same faith, but for very different reasons . . . and that hyporisy is uglier than any of Shylock's "sins."
 
I don't like or feel pity for any of the other characters in this play--the way one might for foolish Lear or bewildered Hamlet or even somewhat penitent Edmund. But disliking someone doesn't give me the right to persecute him--and I would be interested to know on what grounds you think the consistently even-handed Shakespeare thought Shylock deserved what he received.
 
Best to all,
Carol Barton 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         John W Kennedy < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         July 19, 2011 3:21:19 PM EDT
Subject:      Re: SHAKSPER: More v Shakespeare; Theater Calendar; MV

From: Larry Weiss < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

>Is it politically incorrect to refer to someone as
>a Jew? I suppose the proper term is "Jew-ish"; something
>approaching the full state but not quite there.  This
>reminds me of someone who was traveling to Mexico and
>asked what the polite term was for a Mexican.

I remember once being lectured online that Sir Walter Scott obviously regards Rebecca of York as contemptible, because he refers to her as a "Jewess". (To avoid a pointless digression, I'll add that the specific citation was extra textual.)

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Chris Kendall < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         July 19, 2011 9:58:04 PM EDT
Subject:      MV

I wonder if any production has treated Shylock's insistence on his bond as a feint. Perhaps he simply wants to see Antonio humiliated and begging for his life, as Antonio has humiliated Shylock.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         JD Markel < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         July 19, 2011 10:24:26 PM EDT
Subject:      ... MV

First, I blame Harley Granville Barker for the misunderstanding of the play.  He was the perpetrator of the "MV is a fairy tale" meme.  A totally square reading.  Maybe he was unduly influenced at a young age by a bowlderized MV mutant text.   However, I would have Antonio played as a fairy, as Shakespeare intended.  Somewhere between Nathan Lane and Michel Serrault in La Cage aux folles.  I would play Portia as a lush, merely because I think that would work.   Point: MV is renaissance camp, it is not hoity-toity.  It is influenced by commedia dell'arte in which almost every character is ridiculous.  The biggest problem with modern productions is they can't or won't make the characters funny.  It is a satire.

Second, I blame modern British critics of the obsessional anti-religious sort whose primary purpose with MV is to adduce evidence in their case to condemn their history with the evils of anti-Semitism and Christianity, implicitly praising themselves.  The idea that modern England (not Britain) lacks a lot of anti-Semitism is a delusion.  The attitudes towards practicing Christians and how Christians feel faith is also utterly ignorant.  Nicole Coonradt correctly points out that Christianity does not promote forced conversions and Elizabethans would have a complex feelings about such things given their own recent religious history.  There is nothing to suggest Elizabethans walked home after seeing MV and said to each other, "oh Mary, thankful the Jew was saved!"  Rather, the prim types would likely discuss whether Bassanio and Portia are going "to knoweth each other" without the sanctification of solemnization, surely Nerissa and Gratiano are going to commit said sin.  BTW, MV is Shakespeare's dirtiest play.  Sometimes I wonder whether Shakespeare's primary urge in MV was to create a vehicle to deliver cock jokes on stage. 

Third, I blame those handouts given before performances explaining the "context" of the play and such, which every time I've seen them, are full of blatant errors, especially about how Elizabethans dealt with usury in every day life.  Michael Radford's Merchant of Venice film begins with a totally incorrect introductory text, but I liked the film and it dealt with the solemnization problem as important to the play, an anxiety he allayed by imagining a beautiful wedding scene which worked well with the film's pro-Portia slant.

Fourth, I blame directors who believe "tragic" Shylocks should not deliver laugh lines for laughs.  Also happy Jessica and Lorenzo couples. 

I mention these things in hopes someone might use them in a performance or a rehearsal and tell me how it works out. I read once a director contemplating whether all the characters should be hunchbacks.  That would be fun too.

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