View Poll Results: Is the Merchant of Venice anti-Semitic?

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Thread: Is The Merchant of Venice anti-Semitic?

  1. #181
    stanley2
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    oops

    The line in KING LEAR from Kent is actually a bit later, Act 1 scene 4. Now, one comment earlier in this thread, "The arrogance(and stupidity) of the man is staggering.........What a twit!" might stimulate one to respond as it is about Antonio. Perhaps Professor Bevington's introduction to the play is the best. He uses the terms "paradox" and "undoubted ironies." The beginning of the play is also stimulating: "In sooth I know not why I am so sad............And such a want-wit sadness makes of me / That I have much ado to know myself." The phrase "want-wit" allows one to argue that Antonio finds himself "lacking in good sense"(Bevington's gloss). Professor Goddard's comments are also interesting as he suggested that Antonio's sadness may be in part attributable to a long standing romantic passion.

  2. #182
    stanley2
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    The "strange nature" of the suit

    In his book THE AGE OF SHAKESPEARE, Professor Kermode wrote of the trial or court scene: "The trial is folklore, and the judgment comes from a folklore lawyer, but the issues are real enough." Therefore, the scene is exciting. Further review, I think, allows one to suggest that only Shylock, Antonio and Portia make it so stimulating. The Duke gives us a clue regarding why he is allowing the case to be presented: "The world thinks, and I think so too, / That thou but lead'st this fashion of thy malice / To the last hour of act, and then 'tis thought / Thou'lt show thy mercy and remorse more strange / Than is thy strange and apparent cruelty"(4.1.16-20). That is, he hopes that the proceedings will resolve, at least in part, the conflict between Antonio and Shylock. When this is not happening, he turns things over to Portia. Her "the Venetian law / Cannot impugn you as you do proceed"(4.1.180-1), is one of the "thousand raw tricks"(3.4.77) that she warns us she may "practice." It also allows her famous "quality of mercy" speech that may be be intended to save the life of Shylock. Bassanio's "You shall not seal to such a bond for me!"(1.3.150) may mean simply that he regards the proposed terms as "bad form." Therefore, Shylock and Antonio alone regard the forfeiture to have any legal standing.

  3. #183
    stanley2
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    MV andAYL

    And Danik, one of your comments in kev67's Sonnet thread(5/13/2019) might remind one that "The lunatic, the lover, and the poet are / Are of imagination all compact" (MND5.1.7-8). Lancelet the clown is a kind of lover: "Adieu. Tears exhibit my tongue. Most beautiful pagan, most sweet Jew!...........these foolish drops do something drown my manly spirit"(MV2.3.10-14). In AS YOU LIKE IT, Rosalind says: "But cousin, what if we assayed to steal / The clownish fool out of your father's court? / Would he not be a comfort to our travail?"(AYL1.3.126-8). Celia replies: "He'll go along o'er the wide world with me." The clownish fool is Touchstone, whose speech sometimes echos that of Lancelet. Touchstone's call, "Holla, you, clown!"(AYL2.4.63) might recall Lancelet's "Sola, sola! Wo ha ho! sola, sola!(MV5.1.39). And who do we find speaking with Jessica in the scene right before the trial scene? It is Lancelet, and therefore the author does suggest what I have set forth.

  4. #184
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    I donīt remember my comment any more, stanley. My point about Shakespeare with you is, that one can compare his works minutely, but without disregarding the specificity of each text.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  5. #185
    stanley2
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    Ok

    I'll try to do so. I remember your comment as it is part of a very fine discussion of the Sonnets and pointed the way back to AS YOU LIKE IT. Your comment(#172) here that Antonio is saying that Shylock's demand is legal brings about the question of why does he say so. Back in the first scene of the play Solanio says "Why, then you are in love." His reply, "Fie, fie!," has been glossed as the first hint that he is gay. He may instead prefer not to confess an adulterous desire that he is ashamed of. If this desire was for Shylock's wife, we then have yet another motive for revenge. We then might ask again why Portia suggests that Shylock's demand is legal: "A pound of that same merchant's flesh is thine. The court awards it, and the law doth give it"(4.1.297-8). One answer is that it is allowed by the fairy story element of the play. Another, then, is that Portia, who seems to know everything that's going on in Venice, is aware that Antonio desired Shylock's wife and therefore recommends mercy.
    Last edited by stanley2; 05-04-2020 at 10:06 PM.

  6. #186
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Thanks for considering my comment, stanley. As I stated already I donīt think that the enmity between Shylock and Antonio has anything to do with Shylocks deceased wife. The reasons for the hatred, to my mind, are, on both sides, prejudice and commercial usages. Shylock states explicitly: “I hate him for he is a Christian, / But more for that in low simplicity/ He lends out money gratis and brings down/The rate of usance here with us in Venice”.

    In regard to Antonioīs love life I am more inclined to think that he has a love interest in Bassanio.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  7. #187
    stanley2
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    And

    I caught a performance of the 1994 Goodman Theatre production in Chicago. One critic wrote: "At it's best a fascinating mess." The actor playing Antonio was excellent, however. At one point there was a pause in the dialogue. From where I sat though, Antonio and Bassanio were hidden by stage props. I then said to myself: "Oh! Antonio MAY be gay!" Since then I've encountered nothing to counteract the thought that this was surely the author's intention. On the other hand, one of the comments here from a while back reads: "There are so many ways to look at the play that I'm not sure Shakespeare himself quite had the whole situation sorted out." Shylock's lines, "I hate him for he is a Christian / But more"MV1.3.39-40) recall Romeo's "Here's much to do with hate, but more with love. / Why then, O brawling love, O loving hate, / O anything, of nothing first created! / O heavy lightness, serious vanity, / Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms........"(Rom1.1.178-182).

  8. #188
    stanley2
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    We may both be in the ballpark, so to speak, regarding Antonio: "Two loves I have of comfort and despair, / Which like two spirits do suggest me still: / The better angel is a man right fair, / The worser spirit a woman colour'd ill......."(Sonnet 144). The terms of the bond are first proposed "in a merry sport"(MV1.3.144!).

  9. #189
    stanley2
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    And thanks, Danik, for pointing the way back to Portia: "Tarry a little, there is something else"(MV4.1.302). Or, as Professor Mahon put it: "Again, the most effective readings, of whatever 'school,' take the entire play into account." The late Professor Bloom wrote that the play is "endlessly ironic." Thus we find Nick Bottom, once again: "And yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together nowadays. The more pity that some honest neighbors will not make them friends."(A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM,3.1.138-140). This is from the adulterous episode between Bottom and Titania.

  10. #190
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    You may be right, Stanley, but the fact is I still think Shylocks deceased wife doesnīt have anything to do with the hatred between merchant and usurer.

    As for Portia, I think she went to Venice not only to save Antonio, but also to clear the ambiguous situation between Antonio, Bassanio and herself. It is in this light that I read the humdrum about the rings. Besides testing how important Antonio was for Bassanio, Portia elicited a second pledge from Antonio, that he would warrant Bassanioīs fidelity to her.So Portia killed two hares at a stroke, without being too obvious. She showed what might happen to Bassanio, if he broke his faith to her and she pledged the word of Antonio, incidentally the only one in behalf of who Bassanio might be faithless to herself.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  11. #191
    stanley2
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    A great while ago, Professor Parrott wrote that the Sonnets were mostly written "somewhere between 1594 and 1598; some, it may be, later." This is exactly the period when MND, R&J and MV were written. "Shakespeare followed the fashion, but as usual he followed it in his own way.......The conventional lament that mourns an unrequited love is altogether absent......after a brief period of alienation the poet forgives and rejoins his friend, assured, as a man of the Renaissance would be, that true friendship is a purer, loftier thing than woman's love." In the last scene of MV we find: "I am the unhappy subject of these quarrels"(MV5.1.238). The line just before reads: "For if I do, I'll mar the young clerk's pen." Gratiano's remark is glossed by Professor Bevington: "With sexual double meaning." There are plenty of these double meanings in R&J: "Draw thy tool, here comes of the house of Monatagues"(ROM1.1.30"). As many of us first encounter in CLIFF'S NOTES, Romeo's last lines are more "womanish"(ROM3.3.110) than Juliet's. Therefore, Antonio's "with all brief and plain conveniency / Let me have judgement and the Jew his will"(MV4.1.82-3) allows us to identify his passion with Romeo's. Shylock's "That I follow thus / A losing suit against him"(MV4.1.61), corresponds to Juliet's "And learn me how to lose a winning match(ROM3.2.12), thus indirectly suggesting Romeo's passion. As Isaac Asimov noted, the effects of the "distilling liquor"(ROM4.1.95) that the Friar gives Juliet are fictional, that is, have not occurred in nature. Therefore, we might pardon Romeo for killing himself.

  12. #192
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    But when you take these sentences out of their original context, they can be read in several ways, canīt they, Stanley?
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  13. #193
    stanley2
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    The truth. Here in the Chicago area we've had Roman Catholic holy man Cardinal Cupich performing on Sunday mornings on television for a half hour. If you type in "the who, live at leeds, tommy, go to the mirror," and turn the volume to a middle level, you may agree that the lines "What is happening in his head" and "from you I get the story" might be read as inspired, in part, by studying Shakespeare. Shakespearean baseball fans(I'm referring to Canadian entertainers Wayne and Shuster's comedy sketch from the 1950's) such as myself may find that we are upset with the performance of our team in MV. That is, if the play is simply team Shylock verses team Antonio, we are not happy(Hawkman's "What a twit!," quoted above, is one example). Ron Rosenbaum and the late Harold Bloom are and were fans of team Shylock.
    Last edited by stanley2; 05-31-2020 at 10:51 AM. Reason: spelling

  14. #194
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Iīm afraid, I didnīt understand you. Did you get the impression that for me MV is just Shylock x Antonio?
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  15. #195
    stanley2
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    In post #192, you mention "original context." I noted that the phrase "merry sport" is found in Act 1, scene 3. Therefore, why did Shakespeare put it there? I've been suggesting that context is one way to study this play. In Act 4, scene 1, Antonio says: "bid her be judge / Whether Bassanio had not once a love"(MV4.1.272-3). I pointed out that in Sonnet 144 the poet says the very same thing. In Sonnet 20, we find: "Till nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,........./ But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure, / Mine be thy love, and thy love's use their treasure." In Sonnet 128, the poet envies the wooden keys on a musical instrument that one of his two loves is playing as they get to touch her fingers. In the conclusion we find: "Since saucy jacks so happy are in this, / Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss. " Therefore, it is more likely that Antonio desires sex with women. The fairy story element of the play allows us to, as you suggest, read the matter as we like.

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