The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1387  Wednesday, 6 June 2001

[1]     From:   Thomas Larque <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 5 Jun 2001 16:49:39 +0100
        Subj:   Re: Tragic Hero

[2]     From:   Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 05 Jun 2001 11:19:55 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1371 Re: Tragic Hero

[3]     From:   Uri Amit <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 5 Jun 2001 16:10:45 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re. Tragic Hero

[4]     From:   Stevie Gamble <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 6 Jun 2001 04:59:22 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1337 Re: Tragic Hero

[5]     From:   David Linton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 6 Jun 2001 10:22:18 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 12.1371 Re: Tragic Hero

[6]     From:   Thomas Larque <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 6 Jun 2001 15:55:25 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1352 Re: Tragic Hero

From:           Thomas Larque <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 5 Jun 2001 16:49:39 +0100
Subject:        Re: Tragic Hero

Obviously I could not expect Ms. Amit to respond in detail to all of my points, but I am surprised to see that in her response she has answered practically none of them.  Her post contains a number of new assertions, but when she tries to respond to criticisms of her theory she seems to do so with excuses rather than evidence, or with more assertions that have no overt connection to Shakespeare's own text.  I will deal with Ms. Amit's other points in a later posting, but now want to consider in detail the supposed "ban..." on 'Merchant of Venice'.  I now have access to my books, having come home, and can therefore make the survey that I would have wished to make before.

One of the things that distinguishes genuine scholarship from other kinds is a willingness to distinguish between a statement of fact and a statement of opinion or a mere supposition.  Ms. Amit fails to make this distinction throughout her work, but most clearly in her suggestion that "After a short period of performance 'The Merchant of Venice' was banned".  I have asked Ms. Amit to provide evidence for this statement (presented as unquestioned fact on her website) and it turns out that she has none.  She has merely made an unsupported guess that the absence of performance records between 1605 and 1701 means that there was an active legal suppression of the play.  Even if this unsupported guess was meaningful, Ms. Amit does not have enough evidence to make a statement of fact on her webpage.  She should therefore replace this with a statement of opinion so as not to deceive readers who may think that her statement is based on genuine documentary evidence when there is none.

Having established that this "ban" is a statement of opinion, and not one of fact, we can then examine the merit of this opinion.  Do we have any evidence regarding 'Merchant of Venice's' legal status between the Renaissance and the first recorded revival in 1701?  Yes.  'Merchant of Venice' was clearly legal in 1598 when it was entered on the Stationer's Register and mentioned by Francis Meres.  It was clearly legal in 1600 when it was printed in Quarto and had clearly been legal for some time before this in order to have been "divers times acted by the Lord Chamberlaine his Servants" as the Quarto states.  It was clearly legal in 1605 when it was performed at Court, and was so well admired by King James I that he demanded a second performance (and James would have had to support any ban, so clearly in James' time there was no question as to the play's legality).  It was clearly legal in 1619 when a Second Quarto was printed.  It was clearly legal in 1623 when it was published as part of the First Folio.    It was clearly legal when it was reprinted in 1632 (in the Second Folio), in 1637 (in another Quarto), in 1652 (another Quarto), and in 1663 and 1685 (in Folio editions).  It was clearly legal in 1669 when a royal warrant gave the King's Company the right to perform twenty Shakespearean plays including 'Merchant'.

Unless Ms. Amit can provide us with an example of a play that was banned onstage but which repeatedly escaped censorship in print (manuscript copies not falling under the same regulations), then her claim that 'Merchant' was banned is clearly groundless as it remained almost constantly in print between 1600 and 1701 - four of the editions being separate Quarto publications of the play by itself.  If Ms. Amit is not to give up her claim, then she must move on to the dubious suggestion that the play was banned from performance, but not banned in print.  Let us examine this claim next.

Performances of 'Merchant of Venice' were clearly legally permitted after 1669, since the performance rights to the play were legally granted to the King's Company.  The fact that the King's Company did not make use of these rights is hardly surprising, since they performed precisely four of the twenty Shakespeare plays which they owned.  They gave no performances of such works as 'Midsummer Night's Dream', 'As You Like It', 'The Taming of the Shrew', 'Richard III' and 'Antony and Cleopatra', despite owning the rights to these plays.  Gary Taylor points out that "Restoration audiences did not much care for Shakespeare's rambling history plays or his sentimental romantic comedies" - until the tradition of playing Shylock as a tragic figure sprang up 'Merchant' clearly fell into the latter category.

Is Ms. Amit satisfied that any ban which existed had been rescinded by 1669?  Presuming that she is, her supposed ban must have come into effect between 1605 and 1669, and her supposed "evidence" for this ban is that there is no recorded performance of 'Merchant' between these two dates.  How, then, does 'Merchant's' performance history compare to that of other Shakespeare plays in this critical period?  Like Ms. Amit, I will refer principally to F.E.  Halliday's 'A Shakespeare Companion' in my comparison.

Apparently neither Ms. Amit nor Edna Krane (her supposed source) bothered to check the performance history of 'Merchant' against any other Shakespearean play.  If they had done so they would soon have found that a gap in performance between 1605 and 1701 (in adaptation) or 1741 (from the original Shakespearean text) was nothing unusual, and that many of Shakespeare's plays have no performance history at all within this period.  I will now make a list of every Shakespearean play which has no performance history between the publication of the First Folio (in 1623) and 1701.  I will also include in my list plays which had been performed in adaptation prior to 1701 but not in Shakespeare's original text prior to 1741 (giving the dates of the adaptation for reference).


In alphabetical order:

All's Well That Ends Well - No recorded performance before 1741.
As You Like It - No recorded performance between 1603 and 1723 (the only evidence for the 1603 performance being a very dubious letter, never seen by scholars, which Lady Herbert claimed to have in 1865 - many believe this letter never existed).
Comedy of Errors - No recorded performance between 1594 and 1734.
Coriolanus - No recorded performance before 1754 (adaptations in 1682 and 1719).
Henry IV: part two - No recorded performance between 1619 and c. 1700 (circa probably pushing this into 1701).
Henry V - No recorded performance between 1605 and adaptation in 1723 (Halliday gives no date for the next authentic Shakespearean production. Pepys saw a play with the same title, but written by Lord Orrery in 1664, apparently not an adaptation).
Henry VI: part one - No recorded performance between 1592 and 1906.
Henry VI: part two - No recorded performance before 1906 (adaptations, combined with part three, in 1680 and 1723 - Halliday does not give any other authentic Shakespearean production before 1906, but this may be an omission as he does not state that there were none).
Henry VI: part three - No recorded performance before 1906 (adaptations, combined with part two, in 1680 and 1723 - Halliday does not give any other authentic Shakespearean production before 1906, but this may be an omission as he does not state that there were none).
John - No recorded performance before 1737.
Love's Labours Lost - No recorded performance between 1605 and 1839.
Love's Labours Won - No recorded performance.  Ever.
Macbeth - No recorded performance between 1611 and 1744 (adapted by Davenant at "the Restoration").
Merchant of Venice - No recorded performance between 1605 and 1741 (adapted in 1701).
Tempest - No recorded performance between 1613 and 1746 (adaptations in 1667 and 1674).
Timon of Athens - No recorded performance before 1851 (adaptations in 1678, 1768, 1771 and 1786).
Titus Andronicus - No recorded performance between 1594 and "the eighteenth century" (adaptation in 1678).
Troilus and Cressida - No recorded performance before 1907 (adaptation in 1679).
Twelfth Night - No recorded performance between 1623 and 1741 (adaptations in 1661 and 1703).
Two Gentlemen of Verona - No recorded performance before 1762.
Two Noble Kinsmen - No recorded performance between 1619 and 1928 (Halliday mentions no original Shakespearean production, so I have referred to the Arden edition of the play, there may be earlier productions that this does not mention.  Adaptations in 1664).

The plays that do not make the list are:

Cymbeline - No recorded performance between 1634 and 1761 (adaptation in 1682)
Hamlet - No recorded performance between 1637 and 1661.
Henry IV: part one - Regularly revived in this period.
Henry VIII - No recorded performance between 1628 and 1664.
Julius Caesar - No recorded performance between 1638 and 1672.
Lear - No recorded performance between 1606 and "soon after the Restoration".
Measure for Measure - No recorded performance between 1604 and 1720 (adaptations in 1662 and 1700).
Merry Wives of Windsor - No recorded performance between 1638 and 1660.
Midsummer Night's Dream - No recorded performance between 1604 and 1662 (adaptations as early as 1642).
Othello - No recorded performance between 1636 and 1660.
Pericles - No recorded performance between 1631 and 1660.
Richard II - No recorded performance between 1631 and 1738 (adaptations in 1680 and 1719).
Richard III - No recorded performance between 1633 and 1845 (adaptation in 1700).
Romeo and Juliet - No recorded performance between some time before 1597 ("often plaid publiquely" according to the Quarto) and 1662.
Taming of the Shrew - No recorded performance between 1633 and 1844 (adaptations in 1667, 1715, 1735 and 1754).
Winter's Tale - No recorded performance between 1634 and 1741.


Unless Ms. Amit is willing to admit that 'Love's Labours Lost', 'Antony and Cleopatra', 'As You Like It' and many other Shakespearean plays were banned - sometimes with no recorded performance at all prior to the 18th Century - then her claims about 'Merchant of Venice' are groundless and show a huge double-standard.  If Ms. Amit holds to her view after reading the list that I have shown above, then she is quite obviously willing to claim the banning of one play on the basis of "evidence" that she clearly rejects when present in exactly the same form for others.  I have shown that twenty-one of Shakespeare's plays have gaps in performance history very similar to that present for 'Merchant of Venice' compared to only sixteen which do not.  Can Ms. Amit really ignore evidence of this kind?  Unfortunately I suspect that she will be only too happy to do so.

Thomas Larque.

From:           Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 05 Jun 2001 11:19:55 -0700
Subject: 12.1371 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1371 Re: Tragic Hero

This, from me, appeared in Tuesday's post.

>I have forwarded Ms. Amit's message to my neighbor, a rabbi with a Ph.D
>in Hebrew.  He pointed out her Hebrew mistakes in the past.  If he has
>time to look at her message, and if he finds other mistakes, I'll
>forward them to the list.

He did read Ms. Amit's comments over.  He chose not to give a detailed reply, and considering the sheer bulk of her message, that is understandable.  He sent this to me by way of a general answer.

>Just in general, there seems to be some loose swapping in or out of
>consonants (as before) to find the desired text.   Very big no-no.  You do
>not mess with Hebrew consonants unless you have a damned good reason for
>it.  It would be roughly equivalent to willy-nilly shuffling
>syllables in English.  More problems could be cited if I could find the
>stomach to plow through the damned thing again.

>I'm also a little unclear on the way this person uses
>translations to ascertain the spellings.  The whole thing (granted, I have
>little context here) just does not hang together.  There's simply no solid
>context for Shakespeare
>slipping Hebrew into his plays.  And of course, as we discussed earlier,
>there is zero evidence that Shakespeare
>learned or cared about Hebrew.  I mean, in those times it
>would have been a pretty big deal.

Hard to know how much of the rest of his message to quote.  Some of the language was very harsh to Ms. Amit as a person and "pseudo-scholar."  Since I don't have the heart to pick on Ms. Amit further, I'll let it go at that.

All the best,
Mike Jensen

From:           Uri Amit <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 5 Jun 2001 16:10:45 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        Re. Tragic Hero

[1]Graham Hall's, little "trinket" about the earrings is just what an alert mind ought to notice, Thank you for it . Here is a related question. Shylock's turquoise - that he had received from Leah: (III,i, 3) What may be its secret meaning? According to my sources, turquoise was a specific code term in Hebrew communications during those days of insecurity. Does anyone know what it may be?

[2] Stuart Manger puts me on one side and Thomas Larque on another, whom he would join. So he sends a little barrage down on me, - as an obedient soldier.

I thought that Thomas Larque and I were both investigating literature. I feel that he was in that mode for a while, until he could no longer wait for discussion and too precipitously put conclusions forth about me. I believe that we may resume discussion, agreements and disagreements, when he feels like it.  Yesterday some hacker did not let the "tragic hero" posting to arrive in my mail box. I do not know if Mr. Larque sent me a posting or not. Please excuse me for not answering if a letter was sent.

I will not trade foolishness. However to answer the thought about Elizabethan playwrights bending to the lowest common level, I trust Shakespeare's integrity after long examination, but his audience much less.  Marlowe suits what Manger describes.

[3] I agree with Thomas Larque and M. Jensen that I must examine Edna Krane's sources in detail. I will return to the forum with more information - not just negation. If the sources are not adequate, I will definitely adjust my opening, web site statement.  However, the reading that I put forth is not influenced by the plays banning or its permission to be seen.

I love Shakespeare's efforts and I will not be intimidated from showing what they tend to be to the best of my ability. What does this destructive person, Jensen, have regarding Hebrew? Just what I have given him. That is what he will show his "Rabbi". Last time when it was a PhD. student, he wanted to destroy my position  with the use of two words. Now are there forty - mostly from Shelomo Yehuda Schoenfeld,  who has been accepted by some very good scholars?  I have hundreds of Shakespeare's Hebrew meanings to top that.  Previously I thought that Shakespeare's' Hebrew  would be obscured under a storm cloud of misinformation through Jensen - that I would do future investigators more harm than good to let that happen  So I asked Prof. Cook to stop it and I left.  But one cannot appease a tyrant. So fire away - Rabbi for Rabbi. Do your worst.

The obsurism, and superficiality that Jensen engenders does this forum no good. Who wants to encounter snarls every time he and especially she, would offer an original insight? I have cut myself down to just "TMOV" because it is still a travesty against the truth . Until someone can take my place, or the climate of understanding changes, I am in this for the duration. But if Jensen would find a therapist it would be a lot easier on all of us.

With best wishes to the forum,
Florence Amit

From:           Stevie Gamble <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 6 Jun 2001 04:59:22 EDT
Subject: 12.1337 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1337 Re: Tragic Hero

>I endorse Mike Jensen and Thomas Larque.
>Florence Amit reminds me of Nelson putting the telescope to his blind
>eye and saying: 'what ships? I see no ships'. Thomas Larque's posting
>was among the most thorough, most patent, most courteous, best
>researched, scholarly demolition job I have read on this web in months.
>AS Mike Jensen so lucidly says, Ms Amit seems completely unable to face
>the fact that,  yes, maybe Marlowe and Shakespeare were writing plays
>that really and accurately reflected current attitudes to Jewish
>communities in their midst.

Actually, I thought that Mike Jensen's comments were a great deal more accurate than this re-write of his views; there wasn't a Jewish community in the midst of English societies at the time.

>This is not a play with hidden Jewish messages: how on earth could any
>audience then or now be expected to spend scholarly time and effort
>poring over Ms Amit's Byzantine hypotheses: Shylock is seen in the play
>as unequivocal villain,

No. Shylock has some of the most moving lines in the English language, and unless you posit a totally incompetent playwright, incapable of grasping the effect of his own creation on his audience, you cannot sustain the contention that Shylock is, or is intended to be, seen in the play as an unequivocal villain.

>rejected father, a victim of the most appalling
>Christian bully-boy tactics, vengeful, calculating, jubilant in victory,
>and relishing every chance of cutting Antonio's flesh - it is NOT a jest
>The ingenuity of his revenge on the Christian community is no
>work of impulse, but a carefully calculated plan,

No. There could not have been a plan, carefully calculated or otherwise, whereby Antonio would fail to keep his bargain, and it is Antonio who forces up the stakes in his encounter with Shylock, not the other way around. As for the notion that Antonio is 'the Christian community' I see no evidence in Shylock's lines, or elsewhere, to substantiate this. Antonio is Antonio.  Shylock proffers two reasons for wishing to do Antonio down; the first is that Antonio is proffering free credit and thus bringing interest rates down.  The equivalent for a 21st century London playwright would be the Chairman of Barclays putting out a contract on the Chief Executive of the Nationwide Building Society for undercutting the mortgage market; not the most convincing of scenarios.

The second is because Antonio is a Christian; imagine instead that the Chairman of Zebra Bank plc puts out a contract on the Chief Executive of Abracadabra Building Society because he is a rabid anti-Abracadabran. That is slightly more plausible, and I suspect that Shakespeare lobbed in the Christian lines for the same reasons that our hypothetical 21st century playwright would feel moved to find something a bit less risible than the mortgage market ploy. You may care to bear in mind that Shakespeare's audiences knew perfectly well that Christian lenders charged interest; after all, they were paying it to their own creditors.

>that even his own
>friends warn him off!   He is a thoroughly nasty piece of work - yes,
>broken, maltreated etc., etc. Jewish or not, that callous, cold-blooded
>gleeful vindictiveness,

It's at times like this that I wonder whether we are discussing the same play. He isn't callous, he's not cold-blooded and he's not gleefully vindictive. For that matter, he is the only character in the play who keeps his word. Oh, and he's in tears for most of the play...

>that sheer inhumanity alone would place him in
>Elizabethan eyes right alongside almost pantomimic villains.

Er, pantomimes were not a feature of the Elizabethan theatrical experience; and as to the sheer inhumanity there were many and varied examples of this in Elizabethan life. I suspect that once one's seen the first hanging, drawing and quartering at Smithfield one's perspective on a dagger and a pound of flesh may alter...

>He is
>superbly theatrical

Well, at least we agree on one thing.

Stevie Gamble

From:           David Linton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 6 Jun 2001 10:22:18 -0400
Subject: 12.1371 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.1371 Re: Tragic Hero

The Amit bashing is becoming unbearable.

Could we please distinguish a bit more carefully between attacking (or lauding) individuals and disagreeing with (or supporting) their ideas?  To wit:

Stuart Manger says:

I endorse Mike Jensen and Thomas Larque.

That would be fine if they were running for office. Are they?  Manger goes on to compliment Larque for his "scholarly demolition job."  Sounds like a review for Terminator III.

And is this cheap shot really called for:

Is Ms Amit a closet crytographer for Mossad?

And what are we to make of Mike Jensen's use of psychoanalytic and moralizing expressions in the interest of scholarship?  He says, "I would like to condemn Ms. Amit in the strongest terms possible. . . ."  Well, let's leave that to keepers of the faith.  The references to "passive aggressive" behavior are clever rhetorical turns, but do they advance any arguments?

Lighten up, huh?

David Linton

From:           Thomas Larque <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 6 Jun 2001 15:55:25 +0100
Subject: 12.1352 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1352 Re: Tragic Hero

To deal with some of Florence Amit's other points regarding 'Merchant of Venice'.

Ms. Amit is not entirely correct in saying that we do not know how Shakespeare's company originally staged 'Merchant of Venice'.  It is true that we have virtually no information about this, but we do have one piece of documentary evidence against Ms. Amit's interpretation.  The Quarto states that 'Merchant' contains "The most excellent Historie of the Merchant of Venice.  With the extreame crueltie of Shylocke the Iewe towards the sayd Merchant in cutting a iust pound of his flesh".  Here we have a cruel Shylock whose aim is to cut a pound of flesh from Antonio.  There is no indication here of Ms. Amit's mythical kind father who would not harm anybody and has only his daughter's best interests at heart.  The person who wrote this summary would almost certainly have seen the play performed or been in contact with those who wrote and performed it (in order to obtain the text, which is thought to have been based directly on a Shakespearean manuscript).  His summary, unsurprisingly, supports the traditional view of the play.

Ms. Amit has not responded to my comments about the apparently unstageable nature of her reading (in which Ms. Amit believes the audience had to be assured that just about everything that anybody said to anybody else, or to themselves, was a lie - and the truth is never openly stated).  Her recent post, however, adds to this unstageability.  If Shylock's English soliloquy is actually pidgin-Hebrew, who among the audience would actually notice such a thing?  The vast majority of Shakespeare's audience would have known no Hebrew, and the rest would have been listening to English words and would have been very unlikely to be listening for fragments of another language.  Thousands of Jews and Hebrew speakers must have watched Shakespeare's play during the last four hundred years - I have been studying the comments of some of these upon Henry Irving's performance.  Apparently, despite this, Ms. Amit is the first ever to have understood "Shakespeare's Hebrew" in this scene, and she could only do so by reading and re-reading the text.  How is anyone supposed to have noticed this in performance?

I am not quite sure how to express my disbelief in Ms. Amit's interpretation of this passage.  What working playwright would have written an aside for one of his characters (unheard by any of the other characters) which is entirely deceptive to his English audience, telling all but a tiny (and in truth, non-existant) elite the exact opposite of what his words mean when translated into a pidgin form of a foreign language?  Who, by this theory, did Shakespeare write his play for?  Certainly not the Globe audience, who will mostly have spoken only English.  Nor for Jews, as there were none in England.  For the occasional passing Biblical scholar?  How many of these Hebrew experts would have listened to English and heard Hebrew?  If we are to judge by subsequent generations listening to the play, then the answer is none (except for Ms. Amit - reading the play repeatedly in her study, not hearing the words for the first time in performance).

If Shakespeare's true meaning lies in the Hebrew, moreover, then the English that he writes should show some evidence of forcing and the Hebrew should be clear and exact.  I await Mike Jensen's expert friend's comments upon the Hebrew, but it is obvious that the English is clear, exact and appropriate to the play and the character.  If it was nothing more than plain text for a coded message in Hebrew then this would be almost impossible.  Ms. Amit's Hebrew message, on the other hand, reads as gibberish in translation.  The English is clear, the Hebrew is forced.  Is it not obvious, therefore, that the English was written first and the Hebrew has been planted there (rather obviously by Ms. Amit rather than by Shakespeare)?  And once again we are forced to ask ourselves why Shakespeare should have a character lying to himself in soliloquy - especially if that lie is directed at the majority of the audience, while the tiny minority (Ms. Amit and no-one else) is directed towards the truth in Hebrew.  Shakespeare was a commercial playwright, he would not have written a play that nobody could understand.

Ms. Amit ignores all of my points about Salerio and Salanio, and merely restates her belief in their hostility towards Lorenzo without dealing with the evidence against her.  Again she refuses to engage with the text, which clearly contradicts her.  Why does Lorenzo call the two men his "sweet friends"?  Why does Salerio beg Lorenzo to accompany him to Belmont if he hates him?  Ms. Amit does not, and cannot, say.  If she were to answer these points we could only expect more evasions, excuses and inventions which have nothing to do with the text.

She adds that Salerio and Salanio are tax-collectors.  This seems to be yet another addition to the text, but in this case Ms. Amit produces no "evidence" for this theory at all.  There is nothing in Shakespeare's text to suggest such a thing, and nothing that Ms. Amit seems to have found in her fanciful interpretations of Shakespeare's text.  It simply suits her reading for them to be tax collectors and so she makes them tax-collectors.

Jessica's comments to Launcelot about her husband having made her a Christian are apparently a joke (everything that does not suit Ms. Amit is a joke or a lie).  I doubt that I am alone in not seeing the supposed humour.  Any sensible researcher would surely realise that if everything in a play has to be read as a joke or a lie to suit a particular reading, then that reading is invalid.

Somehow in Ms. Amit's mind Jessica's statement (possibly alone in soliloquy) that she is ashamed to be her father's child is converted into a statement that "For Shylock she cannot but feel the deepest gratitude for arranging her well-funded departure and pulling off the scheme that will give her the standing of a dowered bride."  Ms. Amit does not explain quite how this conjuring trick is performed, she simply reads Jessica's comments as meaning the exact opposite of what she actually says and then goes further and adds pure invention.  Nowhere does Jessica state her gratitude to her father.  Nowhere is it stated that he provides her with a dowry.  These "facts" exist in Ms. Amit's imagination, but not in the play.

Again Ms. Amit assures us that Jessica lapses into Hebrew in her avowed intention to become a Christian and Lorenzo's wife.  Ms. Amit's reading of this passage, with Hebrew translation in place, runs "O Lorenzo / If thou keep promise I shall end this strife / Become a [Read!  The subject of a judgement] and thy loving wife".  Once again the English is clear, obvious and relevant to the play.  The Hebrew, unless it loses a great deal in translation, is meaningless gibberish with no connection with the text at all.

Ms. Amit continues to cross out large chunks of Shakespeare's text and write in her own whenever it suits her.  She is unable to explain Shylock's supposedly dishonest statements to Tubal, who he obviously would not attempt to trick, so Ms. Amit claims that Salerio and Salanio must have remained in hiding to listen to the conversation.  This is, once again, pure invention.  Nothing more than an excuse for Ms. Amit's failed reading.

By Ms. Amit's reading not even the word "Ducats" means what it says.  It is another Hebrew reference to time.  But Shakespeare's concern with ducats (as opposed to any other currency) is drawn directly from "Il Pecorone" where Ducats are, unsurprisingly, the currency used for the transaction.

Regarding Portia's Christianity, Ms. Amit unconvincingly argues that the references to "'church' can be torn apart linguistically", which she apparently thinks she has done by suggesting that "KiRK" (the Scottish word for Church?) means 'like empty' in Hebrew and "c'sh ruch" means "when there is spirit" (does Ms. Amit not realise that if she is able to find several different interpretations that suit her reading, but are mutually exclusive, this suggests that her interpretations are inventions?).  Quite why an openly Jewish woman living in a non-Christian country should need to use such evasions is not clear.  Ms. Amit tells us that Portia is being "devious ... because of Salario.  Portia tries to keep things within his world of associations", but two of the three clear references to Portia's Christianity occur when Salario is absent.  "It is true that Portia passes chapels", Ms. Amit tells us, "Evidently they are landmarks in the countryside".  Is this an attempt to explain why Portia kneels and prays at holy crosses?  If so, it fails on two counts.  Crosses are not chapels, and Portia does not pass these crosses she uses them for a religious ceremony.  An ineradicably Christian ceremony.

For the monastery, Ms. Amit resorts once again to invention.  Perhaps Salerio is in hiding! (haven't we heard this before? and wouldn't Salerio, who came as a "messenger from Venice" to summon Bassanio have returned to Venice with him?)  But since Portia's foreign nature is no secret, what exactly is he hoping to hear?  Presumably Ms. Amit will still need to have Salerio skulking around the bushes in the later scene where Portia's worship at crosses is mentioned to Jessica and Lorenzo and nobody else.  "There is a monast'ry two miles off / And there we will abide" is apparently "a clever way of saying that she will abide two miles distant from the monast'ry", but apart from defending Ms. Amit's much loved theory what is the purpose of this "clever" deception (actually, in Ms. Amit's reading of the lines, an incompetent failure to understand the working of the English language)?  Why would Portia invent a lie about her whereabouts that requires her to lie about her lie?  Ms. Amit admits that in Shakespeare's own text (rather than her imagined variation on it) there is nobody onstage for her to deceive.

The question "are not monasteries just for monks?" is easily answered.  No.  To quote a couple of Benedictine websites "Next to the Holy Sepulchre there was a Benedictine Monastery called St. Maria Latina. Like all Benedictine monasteries it also had a house for the guests and visitors".  The Benedictine 'Rule' has a Chapter specifically set aside to "The Reception of Guests" beginning "Let all guests who arrive be received as Christ, because He will say: "I was a stranger and you took Me in" (Mt 25:35). And let due honor be shown to all, especially to those "of the household of the faith" (Gal 6:10) and to wayfarers".  Modern monasteries often still offer spiritual retreats to laymen of exactly the kind that Portia describes in 'Merchant'.

Thomas Larque.

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