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Home :: Archive :: 2013 :: August ::
Merchant of Venice—Recent Essay & Question

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0386  Tuesday, 6 August 2013

 

[1] From:        William Blanton < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         August 6, 2013 1:43:15 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: SQ MV Essay Question 

 

[2] From:        Hannibal Hamlin < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         August 6, 2013 7:11:15 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: SQ MV Essay Question 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         August 6, 2013 1:43:15 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: SQ MV Essay Question

 

Susan: Great question, great observation!

 

In my (controversial) opinion, Shakespeare did use Shylock’s putative Jewishness as a way to address the serial persecutions of the Protestants by the Catholics and of the Catholics by the Protestants in England during the sixteenth century. As you are obviously aware, it would have been illegal for him to address such a serious matter in a play. Plus, the Master of Revels would have refused to approve the play for production. 

 

Consequently, he set the play in Venice, while at the same time making it clear throughout the play that Venice was really London of his time. He also made Shylock a Jew, while at the same time making it clear throughout the play that Shylock was really the Devil poorly disguised as a Jew. Nearly everyone who had any contact with Shylock recognized him as the Devil. In one of his delightful ironies, Shakespeare has the two Christians in the play (the Duke, as the head of the Protestant Church in England, and Antonio, as the most prominent Catholic in England) compel the Devil to become a full-fledged member of the Christian community, from which he had heretofore been officially excluded. Which is why Shylock answers “I AM content” to Portia’s question.

 

He also has Shylock, as a metaphor for the Protestants, threaten to inflict revenge for his persecution by the Christians (the Catholics). This desire to seek revenge for past persecutions played a large part in the serial persecutions mentioned above (also, one of the main themes in Romeo and Juliet).

 

You may find an article I have written and published on the web to be of interest. It mainly addresses the Trial Scene (I am a retired lawyer), but goes into some detail regarding the erroneous identification of Shylock as a Jew. Shylocke.org. Don’t forget to include the final e; otherwise, you end up on a porn site.

 

Good luck on your journey.

 

Bill

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         August 6, 2013 7:11:15 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: SQ MV Essay Question

 

Re. Merchant of Venice

 

I haven’t read Emma Smith’s article yet, though I will look it up. Responding to Susan Rojas’s summary of the argument, though, I would suggest that the “Other,” termed and conceived as such, is actually a preoccupation of ours, not the Elizabethans. This notion has become so commonplace that we hardly even think about it, but what does it actually mean? No “Others” were walking about in the period, nor were they even written about. Jews, Moors, Turks, Africans, Irishmen, and Women were, and I find it hard to believe that contemporaries would have considered Shylock an “Other” rather than a Jew, as he is labeled so clearly on the title page (and by characters in the play). For Shylock as Jew, the obvious places to begin are Janet Adelman and James Shapiro. It does seem to me possible to read aspects of the Christian/Jew opposition in Merchant more or less allegorically in terms of Protestants and Catholics (as one might in Marlowe’s Jew of Malta). But that doesn’t mean that Shylock isn’t still a Jew or that he would have been considered as anything but.

 

Hannibal

 
 

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