The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0382 Monday, 5 August 2013
Date: August 4, 2013 9:14:03 AM EDT
Subject: Merchant of Venice—Recent Essay & Question
In the most recent Shakespeare Quarterly, there is an essay by Emma Smith titled “Was Shylock Jewish?” Part of it presents that at the time the play was written, there was a large wave of immigration into England from Protestant Europe, so discourse regarding “the Other” was a contemporary theme. Smith presents various arguments that Jews were seen no more or no less as strangers than any of these other immigrants, and that immigration and the Catholic “threat” were more on the minds of the citizenry than hatred of the Jews specifically. In Merchant various other ethnicities are stereotyped and mocked, though Shylock’s plight is the focus. I am a neophyte in the world of Shakespearean studies, and after reading Smith’s essay and then seeing a production of Merchant at the Stratford Festival, I am wondering if perhaps Shakespeare used Shylock’s Jewishness as a way to comment on not just the immigrant as “Other” but also as a safe way to address religious intolerance and persecution? Obviously using the Protestant/Catholic theme would have been deadly, and Judaism would at least have been familiar to his audience. I appreciate your thoughts and feedback.
Beginning my journey to an MA in English
Florida Gulf Coast University