The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1456  Monday, 11 June 2001

[1]     From:   Florence Amit <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Sunday, 10 Jun 2001 05:03:21 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1387 Re: Tragic Hero

[2]     From:   Thomas Larque <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Sunday, 10 Jun 2001 14:54:44 +0100
        Subj:   re: Tragic Hero

[3]     From:   Florence Amit <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Sunday, 10 Jun 2001 23:37:40 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1387 Re: Tragic H

[4]     From:   Florence Amit <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 11 Jun 2001 09:49:55 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1387 Re: Tragic Hero

 [Editor's Note: As much as I appreciated Florence Amit's tenacity and Thomas Larque's diligence, this thread has become a private conversation among four members and I am applying what I call the Engler Rule (i.e., a topic must be of interest to more than just a handful of member.) and pulling the plug on this discussion unless other members wish to contribute. --Prosper, the Tyrant]

From:           Florence Amit <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 10 Jun 2001 05:03:21 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1387 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1387 Re: Tragic Hero

Dear Mr Larque,

"Il Pecorone"  may have had some plastic surgery done on it. . It is easy to call a villain a Jew, particularly if the story is taken from a Jewish tale where "Il Pecorone"'s Jew had been substituted for a kabbalistic evil spirit or Satan, if I may surmise.  Nonetheless, what makes this particular villain interesting is, in a way, what makes Shylock in his DISGUISE, interesting, if disguise is acknowledged.  For they both have a sphinxal function, that according, to the best folkloric wisdom literature, corrects the badness of the heroic characters by putting them through a series of trials, like do the witches in Macbeth. The Jew of Il Pecorone causes Gianneto and his Lady to become concerned over another person, while Shylock works a change on Antonio's stance regarding the legitimate concerns of a Jewish family. The folkloric means employed in both cases show parodies of the blood libel. Beyond that, why do I suspect a Jewish source? Besides textual oddities, like the many opening addresses that show courtesy to God, while never referring to His Son or the Virgin, as well as other mannerisms, there is the nature of the heroes psychic inflations which make me think that the moral questions inherent could be an exercise from a Jewish source. Even the notion of patronage for example,  must be stripped of its ego satisfying aspects,  according to Jewish teachings. The Tale contrasts respect and consideration for a sibling and responsibility toward one's heirs with uncontrolled appetites that are willy-nilly satisfied at great cost to others. In an essential way the story has the atmosphere of the "Fairie Queene" rather than "The Merchant of Venice", that has behind it real historical stresses. Since you have already read a certain essay of mine, you will know that I do not think that Bassanio is essentially as self-indulgent as he seems. Instead of being subject to the sphinx, like Gianetto, he is, for reasons beyond self, a conscious party to that reducing process that Antonio must undergo. Portia's role of Sofia
 law, is more allegorical than real. She may best be understood by reading the books of Daniel Banes.  "Shylock, Shakespeare and Kabbalah" if you can get it and "The Provocative Merchant of Venice" Chicago, 1975 part IV. I will discuss this elsewhere along with the connotations of Belmont, the celestial.

You asked if the Jew of "Il Pecorone" is disguised in the way that Shylock is. If absurdity ought to be weighed, he is in disguise. However, in folklore, absurdity is not an element for finding out the truth.  The truth is in the message and the characters are symbolic. It is a genre where frogs can become princes and princesses made into swans. Therefore, a European compiler regarding the libels against the Jews may well make his Jewish sphinx as devilish as the devil, in full sincerity. He need not be in disguise except to the extent that the whole genre disguises reality.

"The Merchant of Venice", although rich in reference, is essentially about real people where absurdity carries weight.

Shylocks nature is derived from sources that Jews respect. I believe that the following is one of them:

"Everything is given on pledge, and a net is spread for all the living; the shop is open the dealer gives credit, the ledger lies open, the hand writes, and whosoever wishes to borrow may come and borrow. But the collectors regularly make their daily round and exact payment from man, whether he be content or not; and they have that whereon they can rely in their demand. The judgment is a judgment of truth, and everything is prepared for the feast"
       Rabbi Akiva, Aboth III.

Florence Amit


From:           Thomas Larque <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 10 Jun 2001 14:54:44 +0100
Subject:        re: Tragic Hero

A couple of points on Ms. Amit's recent posts.

Marilyn Bonomi says:

"I'm sorry but I do not see what the discussion of Noah's Biblical sons has to do with the MoV discussion that others are conducting."

The answer is that Ms. Amit is defending her theory that Shylock's second "countrym[a]n", "Chus", is in fact a Turkish ambassador, referred to by his title, and not - as scholars have universally believed - the personal name of another Jew drawn from Genesis, just like Tubal's.

Sadly Naheeb Shaheen's admirable "Biblical References in Shakespeare's Plays" and the three volumes that made it up are all out of print and apparently unavailable on the second-hand market (apart from the occasional "History" volume - if anybody can point me towards a copy of "Biblical References in Shakespeare's Plays" on the market then I would be eternally grateful).  If anybody has access to the compilation of all three books, or to the volume on "Comedy", I would be very grateful if they would look up "Chus" and see what Shaheen has to say about the edition of the Bible that Shakespeare is likely to have used to produce this reference.  My own brief researches suggest that at least it cannot have been Shakespeare's favourite Geneva Bible, which uses what Ms. Amit considers the correct transliteration from the Hebrew - "Cush", not "Chus".  The most significant edition to use the (apparently traditional) spelling is probably the Vulgate.  Here, for those with Latin, are the relevant sections on "Chus".

[Gen 10:6] filii autem Ham Chus et Mesraim et Fut et Chanaan

[Gen 10:7] filii Chus Saba et Hevila et Sabatha et Regma et Sabathaca filii
Regma Saba et Dadan

[Gen 10:8] porro Chus genuit Nemrod ipse coepit esse potens in terra

... and here, for those without Latin, are the same passages from the Douay-Rheims Catholic translation of the Vulgate.

6 And the sons of Cham: Chus, and Mesram, and Phuth, and Chanaan.

7 And the sons of Chus: Saba and Hevila, and Sabatha, and Regma, and
Sabatacha. The sons of Regma: Saba and Dadan.

8 Now Chus begot Nemrod: he began to be mighty on earth.

A posting in the SHAKSPER archives confirms that Shaheen does not believe that Shakespeare ever used the Douay-Rheims Catholic translation of the Bible, but I would suspect that there will be some evidence of him using readings traditionally found in the Vulgate (however circuitous the path from the Vulgate to Shakespeare).

Ms. Amit condemns the Vulgate, Douay-Rheims and all others that use the "Chus" version of the name as "awful transliterations".  This they may be, but their transliteration was one that was accepted and acceptable in Shakespeare's time.  Glancing through Shakespeare's Biblical references I seem to have traced at least two more examples of Shakespeare using a Vulgate form of a name rather than the "corrected" Geneva version.

The clearest of these examples is the reference in "Henry VIII" to "Saba".  This is the Latin form of the more correct Biblical version "Sheba" and appears in both the Vulgate and the Douay-Rheims editions of the Bible.

[1Kgs 10:1] sed et regina Saba audita fama Salomonis in nomine Domini venit
temptare eum in enigmatibus

1 And the queen of Saba, having; heard of the fame of Solomon in the name of
the Lord, came to try him with hard questions

The Geneva, on the other hand, has:

1 And the quene of Sheba hearing the fame of Salomon (concerning the Name of
the Lord) came to prove him with hard questions

Another more controversial example is Falstaff's use of the name "Achitophel".  I must admit to being puzzled as to whether or not this is the Vulgate version of the name.  Three internet encyclopedias (Encyclopedia.com, Slider.com Encyclopedia and The Columbia Encyclopedia) agree that "The Vulgate form of the name is Achitophel", but two online copies of the Vulgate text state that the name is "Ahitofel".  Perhaps somebody who knows about the state of the Vulgate in Shakespeare's time will tell us which form was used.  The Douay-Rheims (which normally follows the Vulgate) certainly uses the same spelling as the Quarto and Folio editions of Shakespeare's play.

12 Absalom also sent for Achitophel the Gilonite, David's counsellor, from
his city Gilo. And while he was offering sacrifices, there was a strong
conspiracy, and the people running together increased with Absalom.

The Geneva has:

12 Also Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite Davids counseler, from his
citie Giloh, while he offred sacrfices: and the treason was great: for the
people encreased still with Absalom.

Again this shows Shakespeare passing over the Geneva version to use a spelling presumably from the tradition of the Vulgate.

This is not quite a perfect parallel for what Ms. Amit claims could not have happened in the instance of "Chus", since "Strong's Dictionary of Hebrew" makes clear that the correct Hebrew pronunciation of "Achitophel" (akh-ee-tho'-fel) includes the 'k' sound omitted by the Geneva.  In the other instance, however, the Biblically correct "Sheba" is definitely replaced with the Latinised and Biblically incorrect "Saba".

There are various examples of Shakespeare's contemporaries using the forms "Saba" and "Achitophel".  I do not have access to the sort of sources that would allow me to check whether his contemporaries also referred to "Chus".  Ms. Amit has apparently been shown a number of examples of "Chus" appearing in contemporary documents.  She denies that Shakespeare could have used this version of the name on the grounds that he would have used the correct Hebrew transliteration.  Since Shakespeare's expertise in Hebrew is what she is trying to prove, this is circular reasoning.  Most scholars would agree that there is no evidence that Shakespeare refused to use sources, such as the Vulgate, which misused Hebrew.

The "mistake" of "Chus" for "Cush" is at least based on traditional texts accessible to Shakespeare.  What of Ms. Amit's suggestion that "Chus" is the name for "an envoy of the Turkish Sultan"?  The only Renaissance English source that Ms. Amit is able to provide is Ben Jonson's "The Alchemist" (which, incidentally, was first performed long before 1670 - the date she gives it on her webpages).  Here Ben Jonson uses the title of a Turkish translator which entered the English language as a word (later "to Chouse") meaning to cheat, as the Turkish translator cheated various merchants and then fled.  The spelling that Jonson uses is "chiaus".  In modern historical texts Ms. Amit has found "chaus" and "cavus".  All seem a fair distance from "Chus".

The traditional interpretation of "Chus" as a Biblical name is based on sources which use exactly this spelling.  Ms. Amit's argument - on the other hand - presumes a new spelling for a word, apparently never used before or since.  Which is the weaker presumption?

Most significantly, as I have pointed out before, Ms. Amit constantly refers to Shakespeare's character as "a Chus" or "the Chus", Jonson uses "a chiaus", and presumably all of Ms. Amit's other sources use either the definite or indefinite article to make clear that they are referring to one of a number of chavuses, and that this is a title not a name.  Shakespeare's use of "Chus" not only follows a name and is presented in an identical form, but lacks an "a" or "the" preceding the word - which makes it reasonably clear that the word used is a name not a title.  Ms. Amit compares the position of "a Chus" with that of a Papal Nuncio.  Can she imagine Shakespeare referring to "my countrymen Angelo and Nuncio" rather than "Angelo and the Nuncio" (Shakespeare's only use of the word, in Twelfth Night, comes in the form of "a Nuncio...")?  Once again Ms. Amit's interpretation forces us to read the English language against the basic rules of English grammar.  The fact that Shakespeare's text and the English Language are so commonly against her interpretation would certainly have persuaded any sensible researcher to give the interpretation up long ago.

Before finishing my posting I will make a brief reference to Ms. Amit's earlier claim (quoting Schoenfield) that Bassanio's words to the leaden casket "Thy plainness moves me more than eloquence" are "not precise English.  'Plainness' is not the opposite of 'eloquence'.  In fact they act in quite different spheres.  However, when translated into Hebrew it makes sense".

I have not been able to find any Renaissance text, in my library or online, that makes clear the opposition between plainness and eloquence, but I do believe that this opposition was noted in Renaissance times.  A web search shows that a (modern) Ms. S. Adamson gave a lecture on "Eloquence and Plainness: an introduction to Renaissance rhetoric and its uses" which may imply that this opposition was noted in Renaissance texts, and at least makes clear that it has been noted independently in modern English.  Ms.  Adamson's speech does not deal with "plainness" and "eloquence" "in quite different spheres", instead they refer directly to the same sphere, speech.  Shakespeare is clearly referring metaphorically to the way in which the leaden casket speaks to Bassanio, seeking to persuade him to open it.  Plainness may refer to the box's lack of decoration, but also refers to the lack of decoration (eloquence) in its speech.  Shakespeare used "plainness" in the same sense in "King Lear" where Lear condemns Cordelia "Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her".  Cordelia makes it clear that she lacks eloquence, although she uses other words to describe her lack - "I cannot heave / My heart into my mouth", "my love's / More ponderous than my tongue", "for want of ... such a tongue / That I am glad I have not".  Kent, disguised as Caius, is condemned by Cornwall for the same preference of plainness to eloquence "he cannot flatter, he, / An honest mind and plain, he must speak truth".  Far from not being precise English, the opposition between plainness and eloquence is one that Shakespeare frequently uses himself and draws out the very same comparisons that Shakespeare makes with the "plainness" of the leaden casket.  Plainnesss = roughness = lack of ornamentation (which puts off the other suitors), but plainness also = honesty = truthfulness = lack of flattering evasion.  "The world is still deceived with ornament" says Bassanio.  The balance between ornamented speech (eloquence) and unornamented plainness (which, as
 good point to make in English, and does not require Hebrew as an explanation.

Another significant point can be made, however, which is that Schoenfield (apparently without knowing it) is not making use of Shakespeare's original text, but an emended modern version of it.  Bassanio's use of "plainness" is an emendation by Theobald.  Some modern texts, such as the Arden, follow the original Quarto and Folio reading which is "Thy paleness moves me more than eloquence".  Needless to say, should it happen that Shakespeare wrote the words that appeared in print during the Renaissance rather than the words suggested (hypothetically) by Theobald then Schoenfield's entire Hebrew reading (dependent on the Hebrew word for "Plain") comes to nothing.  Shakespeare's original text cannot be interpreted as Schoenfield attempts to interpret it, and if this point is mistaken then many other of Ms. Amit's theories - all based on the presence of Hebrew in the casket scene - would then come crashing down.

Thomas Larque.

From:           Florence Amit <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 10 Jun 2001 23:37:40 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1387 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1387 Re: Tragic Hero

Dear Mr. Larque

I will try to get past the questions we have already dealt with, which reminds me again, that I am obliged to you for your constructive criticism that allows me to make an adjustment, about the berth of the "common ferry" in Venice where Portia would meet Balathazar, rather than at  Padua. About the issue of banning: I agree that I was too hasty to accept the conclusions of Edna Krane, although I think that the question is still open. Judging from my own experiences, a reading that opts for a Jew(s) to prevail over the Christian establishment would not have been received with equanimity. However, I will no longer state it as fact in my web site without further proof. My presentation can only get better, when there is an intelligent mind like yours to make me more meticulous. I hope that my clarifications may help you as well.

I have answered you about Salario's and Solanio's role of tax farmers and the incentive to deceive them. I have explained that they are surely present in III,i when an instructed servant would seem to have called them away. The important clue is that the language of deception continues as before. In it is the deceptive location of Genoa. I have suggested that you recall that Genoa was not a place where a Jew or a crypto Jew would want to stop from the period of Pope Paul IV's ascendancy and onwards. I connect the Genoa deception to the false elopement deception and the equivocal words of Portia when Solanio is present.

Lately I have observed that Solanio seems to have stayed with Jessica and Lorenzo just as had happened before when he was with Salario in III,i,, hiding behind a public fountain, conceivably. Thus the Commedia Delle Arte possibilities continue, of an elaborately covered Venetian head popping up from behind Jessica's skirts and Portia's furniture. He leaves when Lorenzo and Jessica do in III,iv 45.  Whereupon Portia's speech immediately takes on momentum and she plans her journey for the meeting that she will have with her servant, rather than as before, in line 28, when she had said that her intention was to "contemplate" and pray. I read that Lorenzo had succeeded in warning her of Solanio's attendance. He says that in Portia's "presence" she is to have a "conceit", he is advising her that she must act deceptively and that the conceit is to be  "god like"- meaning that she is to seem like a Christian.  (III, iv, 1-5). Lorenzo is purposely obscure.  Realizing that she is under scrutiny she adjusts her words, but she never the less indicates her own perception of the nature of the relationship between Bassanio and Antonio by her mention in line 13 of "souls do bear an egall yoke of love" . An egall in Hebrew is a calf  and Portia says that this love is as if for a yoked calf and not a free soul . She also recalls, "purchasing the semblance of my soul/ From out the state of hellish cruelty". Portia seems to be referring to her own escape from that cruel State, which condones the inquisition. It is very much in line with the Garcia De Luna Nasi analogy of the play.

Hints that I have shown for the location of Belmont I stay with because underlying them is the historical necessity of escaping the inquisition which statistically would overwhelmingly testify to that picture and it is in tune with the Nasi residence of Belvedere which was in Galata near Istanbul. (Not in Montenegro) Yes Negro is a color and a race but it is also a word and I think a part of a title. I see nothing strange in calling a Montenegro girl a Negro by a Wit who might want to infer other connotations as well. (Montenegro is a four syllable name which roles clumsily from the lips if made into an adjective with another syllable added.) Shakespeare's dark Lady was not African although by the terms he uses to describe her she could be. His term of Moor is problematical as well. If being a stickler for a detail means that you wish to avoid the total picture, then so be it. One does not understand a masterpiece by looking at a tiny corner of it through a microscope in order to see the dirt in the pigment.

The nervousness of Shylock over his daughter's journey and her uncertain status is expressed in Shylock's (Hebrew) soliloquy as well as in the conversation with Tubal. If one reads past the surface words and notices the emotion, language is less of a hindrance. I have already transliterated the Hebrew of his prayer for their well being. The ridiculous idea that a gondola would be an event worth recording in Venice is like the recording of a tram ride in San Francisco by a local resident. However, the major proof is that the couple finally shows up in Belmont. If Belmont is over the Adriatic, which to traverse, one must use a "common ferry" then something like it brought Jessica to the environs of Belmont. The implications are there. I do not have the ferry stub. This is a continuation from an intended essay for my web site about Shylock's soliloquy

There remains an even more difficult hurdle, which would seem to contradict the action immediately adjacent to it, according to my considered interpretation.  In Act I scene iii, when Shylock is to make his bond with Antonio,  Shylock is presented by Bassanio with a "good man", who is to serve as the vehicle for getting his property settled by the State Court rather than through the customary casual bureaucracy which in effect would confiscate the out of Ghetto. real estate of a deceased Jew, leaving his heirs deprived.  Unpredictably, Shylock does not immediately conclude the agreement. My understanding is that he is not easy about subjecting another human being to something quite so distressing, even though no real danger can be attached to the exercise.  It is only after Antonio says that he will persevere in his petty persecutions and that he is to be regarded as an "enemy", does Shylock proceed and allows him to thereby briefly taste what persecution and a hard reality is like: 'measure for measure', as say the sages.  Later Antonio would seem to try to get back at Shylock in a manner that is truly revengeful, by the conversion bid.  However, he will have died before that can be enforced, just as Antonio must have known.  This rational, Jewish interpretation, however, seems to be in grim contrast to Shylock's soliloquy immediately proceeding. Which is right?  They both are.  Shylock's words are the perfect confirmation of what I have been maintaining about his humanity.  For Shakespeare is telling his audience YOU, to not believe your eyes and ears when determining the truth about a persecuted minority.  The whole soliloquy is in uninterrupted Hebrew.

I am having the soliloquy checked by a scholar for final corrections.

I have said that the imagery of monkey traded for a ring ties in with the Aeson story mentioned in Belmont, that Jessica will carry on her father's line:
that she is pregnant.

I wish to get this out on time for the "SHAKSPER" posting . I will go over the details of Mr Larque's criticisms and make further comments later. I do not know how to increase my pace and to do justice to the material. In the mean time there are my other writings on my web site.

Florence Amit

From:           Florence Amit <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 11 Jun 2001 09:49:55 -0700
Subject: 12.1387 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1387 Re: Tragic Hero

Edna Krane's  Complaint that King James banned "The Merchant of Venice"

(Edna Krane, "Shylock and the King of England" New York 1996) The quotations are from the introduction which had previously been published in "Midstream" June/July 1993)

I am submitting this not for any confirmation of my own arguments, nor will I try to make a defense for Edna Krane. Instead, because, her conclusions have become known, through me, I feel that I owe it to the forum, to summarize their foundation. Therefore, should these ideas be pursued in discussion, I do not feel obliged to be a part of it.

The basis of Krane's opinion lies with the religious orthodoxy of James I, which is manifested in the rules he put into effect regarding the KING's Men, players and their productions.

What I assess as a social satire full of buffoonery, Edna Krane, considering the sensitivities of the Reformation, which she appends to the Stuart's regard for 'the divine right of kings' believes it to be a political satire. The king would further interpret , she implies, that the ultimate message  in "TMOV" would be a blasphemy against the triumph of Christianity. My view puts such an idea beyond rationality; while Krane, who believes that the play must be political, gives an opening for the expression of James' would be extremism. I have dealt with our differences in my web site introduction to the "Sealing a Silver Casket", essay. Now, as a result of the constructive criticism of Thomas Larque I see that I did not probe deeply enough before I printed her conclusion that the play had been banned. If it is seen that Krane has not proven her claim, I must then adjust my opening web site statement while I still carry on with my own arguments.

On page, viii Edna Krane states her aim:

"...to prove that King James secretly engineered the disappearance of "The Merchant of Venice" because he realized that the play is blasphemous.... I plan to demonstrate that Shakespeare did not get away with his deception ...that there are at least two legitimate reasons for the king's secrecy: James, despite his opposition to "TMOV", has shown what appears from the record to have been a genuine interest in the theater..." "Fearing that his open condemnation of this one play might be used by the Puritans and the clergy to support their ongoing campaign to close down all the theaters in London, he secretly masterminded the disappearance of "TMOV."

Another reason lies behind the possibility of comparing some of the characters to Jesus , (page ix ibid) "When in the Renaissance the Jewishness of Jesus became common knowledge.... he lends himself to misinterpretation.... The big difference between Shylock and the hero of medieval romance literature is that the romantic hero can be clearly recognized...whereas the Renaissance hero ...can be either "tragic" or "comic" (Northrop Frye "Anatomy of Criticism, Princeton, 1970, p.175) depending on how he is portrayed on the stage. Reacting to the incongruities of the faith [Marlowe and Shakespeare] ironically portrayed their Christ figures as perfectly innocent victims" An associated motive would be that (p.x ibid) "that that the Belmont segments and the Venice segments make the play analogous to the Christian Bible"

Interim Summary:

Why is the condemnation opaque: James liked the theater and he did not want to strengthen the Puritans.

Why was the play condemned: Jesus is portrayed controversially; If Belmont is the Bible, what is Venice and where?

Krane asserts that (p.ix) "Only those who are aware that in sixteenth century England religious satire had been officially tantamount to treason and thus punishable by death can properly measure Shakespeare's audacity in writing "TMOV"...."

If this is true, it would make James' view of the play very critical and it strengthens Krane's contention.

How did James enact the "ban"?  Krane says, (p.x) that his intention for control and censorship   is that in "one of his first acts upon becoming king on 7 May 1603 he issued a warrant licensing the acting company of which Shakespeare was a member to "... exercise [at the king's command] the arts and faculty of playing ...for our solace and pleasure."

Krane recalls that it took 18 months for the Shakespeare's plays to be demanded and then they were played rapidly over a ten week period . These plays were "Othello", "The Merry Wives of Windsor", "Measure for Measure", "The Comedy of Errors", "Loves Labours Lost" and "Henry V" After which another ten weeks elapsed  and only then on 24 March 1605, "The Merchant of Venice" came "under the King's scrutiny."

"the word 'scrutiny' is used advisedly because only two weeks later  - on 26 March 1605 - the king commanded that "The Merchant of Venice" be shown again" Krane argues against the idea that it was because of pleasure that the play had a second showing. She argues " except for "The Tempest" and "The Winter's Tale" , which were given single showings FIVE YEARS LATER (in 1611), no play of Shakespeare's was shown at court during  the remainder of James reign.

Krane believes that James was familiar with Shakespeare's work before his 1603 warrant and had " figured out that the "MOV" villain was Institutional Christianity"(p.xi) and therefore did not approve of the playwright. She says, "By the times that James died in 1625 TMOV had been taken out of circulation (The last quarto dated 1604). And because Shakespeare was in disfavor,  "So had the of the great series of plays Shakespeare had written during the king's reign, Of these, none was in print except an unauthorized edition of "King Lear". She believes that the posthumous folios were the result of this condemnation by the crown.

(p.xi ibid) She notices that Shakespeare stopped acting shortly after the warrant was published and believes that Sonnet CXI alludes to his disgrace.

"The Merchant of Venice" , she believes was the "harmful deed" for which Shakespeare's name receives a brand".

The clearly unreliable justice system that is manifested in "TMOV" Krane sees mirrored in a book by Sir Henry Finch (1558-1625) " The Art of Law and The Law of God. He  disdains "the general corruption of the religion of God under the Popish and anti- Christ tyrant." Finch envisioned a kind of ideal 'Sanhedrin', Church -State in England. However such ideas could not be tolerated under a king who "indiscriminately persecuted both Roman Catholic and Protestant dissenters."  Finches  revised his book but he was imprisoned without trial in1621 on the grounds that his work was "too serviley addicted" to the Jews.

p.xii Thus James' familiarity with the Bible and "his real pleasure to engage in an intricate theological discussion" (Marchette Chute, "Shakespeare of London, N.Y. 1949, p. 261)  enabled him to recognize in Shakespeare an "addiction" similar to Finche's.

James convened  the Hampton Court conference with the Churchmen of England in 1604 from which "was born the King James Bible" (Chute ibid). Krane believes that the two command performances of TMOV influenced the tenor of James' discussions  there. At nearly the same time  there would have been a stir about  a pamphlet, originally circulated on a date before 1606 that is described by Israel Gollancz in his 1864 Globe edition of Temple note from where " The Merchant of Venice borrowed the name Shylock from a pamphlet  titled "A Jew's Prophesy" or "News from Rome" whose title character Caleb Shillocke, a wise and perspicacious man, "foretold" ten prophesies to frighten Christians into mending their ways." Krane says James removed the pamphlet from circulation.

Finally Edna Krane makes her case quite convincingly, I would say, by relying upon a bill (to be seen in E.K. Chambers, "The Elizabethan Sage", vol.4 (New York Oxford) that Parliament passed in 1606: "for the preventing and avoiding the great abuse of the Holy Name in stage plays." She ascertains that "so cleverly is the bill worded that despite that it mentions no particular work, it virtually assured the immediate exclusion of "The Merchant of Venice" from any stage in England for generations to come. For the bill was intended and worked as a threat not merely to the author, the producers and the actors, but the viewers as well.

The next step is to read Chambers.


I understand that too much Hebrew language bored my permanent debunkers. The idea was not my own, but I will try to limit this if I can. Yet one is always free to press the delete button.

Florence Amit

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