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


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0170  Sunday, 24 July 2011

[1] From:      Carol Barton < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
      Date:      July 20, 2011 6:19:39 PM EDT
      Subj:     Re: SHAKSPER: Ophelia; MV

[2] From:      Joseph Egert < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
      Date:      July 20, 2011 8:13:39 PM EDT
      Subj:     Re: Merchant of Venice in a Las Vegas Setting

[3] From:      Donald Bloom < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
      Date:      July 21, 2011 8:47:40 AM EDT
      Subj:     Re: SHAKSPER: Ophelia; MV

[4] From:      Jack Heller < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
      Date:      July 21, 2011 11:10:03 AM EDT
      Subj:     Re: SHAKSPER: Ophelia; MV


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Carol Barton < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         July 20, 2011 6:19:39 PM EDT
Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Ophelia; MV

Chris Kendall < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

>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.

Chris, I have never seen a production that took this approach (and I'm not sure how you could portray it, without altering Shakespeare's text, or perhaps having a "thought bubble" sort of image behind Shylock's head when he gives his justification speech) but that's more how I see his enforcement of the bargain. He hates Antonio, yes--but he never says (the way Iago might) "I'll see him dead!" He wants to grind Antonio into the dirt, as Antonio has done to him--not murder him. But if so, Shylock is never given the chance to say so. The court scene reminds me, anachronistically of course, of the trial of Charles I, in which the king was silenced by his prosecutors when he tried to defend his actions. Shylock doesn't stand a chance of justice in the elevated sense among his supposed social betters, and he knows it. Were this a comedy, the "good Christians" would offer clemency of some kind . . . not punish their adversary (who again has caused no actual harm to anyone) to the fullest extent of the law.
 
Best to all,
Carol Barton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Joseph Egert < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         July 20, 2011 8:13:39 PM EDT
Subject:     Re: Merchant of Venice in a Las Vegas Setting

John Kennedy denies Carol Barton's claim that "[Shylock] has been abused--solely for his ethnicity--in the past." JK insists, "No he has not. He has been abused for his religion."
 
JE: He has been abused for both. They were often conflated. Check out Adelman's BLOOD RELATIONS (or Lancelet's chat with Jessica). One can argue Antonio is being punished through Shylock for the former's overweening trust in 'Fortune' rather than Faith in Heaven.
 
Larry Weiss asks, "Is it politically incorrect to refer to someone as a Jew?"


JE: Larry, is the Duke being politically incorrect when he warns, "We all expect a gentle answer, Jew!"?

JE: We all expect an honest answer, Lawman! :)

Chris Kendall wonders, "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,"

JE: Or expelled perhaps from Venice or Italy?

JD Markel notes, "Nicole Coonradt correctly points out that Christianity does not promote forced conversions"

JE: Nicole, do involuntary baptisms of non-Christian minors and their subsequent kidnapping count as forced conversions?
 
Best,
Joe Egert

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Donald Bloom < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         July 21, 2011 8:47:40 AM EDT
Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Ophelia; MV

From Carol Barton:

"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.'"

I could argue that Portia proves rather conclusively that Shylock did commit a crime, but I'll leave that.

My problem with Shylock is, I confess, moral and spiritual. The situation in which he demands his "pound of flesh" from Antonio appalls me beyond description. I don't care at that point if Antonio has brought this on himself. I don't care if Shylock is Jewish. I don't care if Antonio has been nasty to him. Shylock is offered an opportunity of pathological cruelty and he accepts it eagerly. He defines the sort of person he is, one who will happily watch a man die in agony in order to enjoy his own spiteful revenge. He makes me, frankly, sick to my stomach.

It is possible that I lack the ability to distance myself from the "pound of flesh" scene. But I take it absolutely at face value. Antonio will be cut open if Portia does not rescue him by a twist of the law. Sometimes, we recall from other plays, this kind of rescue happens, as in COE and MFM; sometimes it doesn't, as in R&J and Othello. But it is completely real and possible -- and appalling.

Cheers,
don

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Jack Heller < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         July 21, 2011 11:10:03 AM EDT
Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Ophelia; MV

Given the usual hubbub any mention of MoV causes on this list, I'm reluctant to jump in. However, the question of whether Shylock has committed any crime would depend upon who is creating the laws. James Shapiro's book SHAKESPEARE AND THE JEWS is helpful on this question.
 
Jack Heller

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