The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0807  Friday, 14 April 2000.

From:           Florence Amit <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 14 Apr 2000 12:18:23 +0000
Subject: 11.0768 Re: Merchant Wedding
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0768 Re: Merchant Wedding

I believe that on the level of a physical man and woman the characters
are based on the biographies of Joseph Nasi, Duke of Naxos who married
his heiress cousin Reyna Mendes. The Belmont of the play, which
duplicates' the family chateau of Belvedere at Galata in Turkey, recalls
the Belmonte in Portugal which was a center for Marrano activity before
it was stopped by the Inquisition. Joseph Nasi reconverted to Judaism
and so in regard to the play, we see a delicate problem. Portia requires
his circumcision (and his renunciation of his former allegiance to
Christianity) before they marry.  His presence in Venice is made
impossible because of his physical condition.  This causes Portia to
become his substitute. In order for her to pass the border she takes on
the identity of her servant, Balthasar, which can be spelled to mean a
helper or the possessor of a lack (Suitable enough for a pretended man.)
This is in keeping with my corrective interpretation of the play.

Florence Amit

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