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

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Thread: Is The Merchant of Venice anti-Semitic?

  1. #481
    stanley2
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    Hi Danik! Sometimes I think that Leah ran away with a wandering Portuguese knight. Jessica is following her example. Marchette Chute quoted a few lines from a character in LOVES LABOR'S LOST: "Adieu, valor, rust rapier, be still, drum; for your manager is in love. Yea, he loveth. Assist me, some extemporal god of rhyme, for I am sure I shall turn sonnet." Does Peter Quince, in MND, echo the above ?: "You may do it extempore, for it is nothing but roaring." I think the author recalls the above in MV: "Some god direct my judgement. Let me see / I will survey th' inscriptions, back again"(MV2.7.13-14), two lines from the Prince of Morocco.

  2. #482
    Registered User hellsapoppin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Danik 2016 View Post
    It´s now years ago that Lokasenna left. I used to like his posts.

    The problem I see with Antonio is his antisemitism (which probably was generally shared by the Christian community. The Jews had to live in a ghetto).I´d rather consider that Shylock was also, to a good extent, a victim of prejudice. Would the ill feeling between him and Antonio have existed, without racism? Maybe, because there was also an economic reason. By lending money without demanding interest, Antonio put the Jews in a bad situation, as they made their living out of the interest. And if I rightly remember, at that time Jews were allowed to work only as usurers.

    Viniculture and wine selling were also two principles industries among Jews of that era:


    https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org...d-liquor-trade



    There were also several wealthy Jews involved in the maritime industry as merchants, ship owners & captains, and even a few pirates.
    When stupidity is considered patriotism, it is unsafe to be intelligent

    ~ Isaac Asimov

  3. #483
    stanley2
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    Let's return to the question of Shakespeare's religion. He may have been responding to Marlowe's satirical comment "I count religion but a childish toy and hold there is no sin but ignorance," from THE JEW OF MALTA. Perhaps Voltaire's comment, if God did not exist it would be necessary to invent one(I don't have it in front of me), is helpful here. In HAMLET, thought to have followed a few years later, we find: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, then are dreamt of in our philosophy"(HAM2.1.169 or so).

  4. #484
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hellsapoppin View Post
    Viniculture and wine selling were also two principles industries among Jews of that era:


    https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org...d-liquor-trade



    There were also several wealthy Jews involved in the maritime industry as merchants, ship owners & captains, and even a few pirates.
    Welcome on this tread Poppins. This article about Jewish viticulture and vine trade is very interesting. I wonder how much it might apply to Shakespeare Venice in MV. Clear to me is only that Shylock worked exclusively as an usurer. There is no mention of him having any other occupation in the play.

    @stanley-I wonder if that Portuguese knight would wander all the way from Portugal to UK only to meet Leah.
    Last edited by Danik 2016; 04-06-2024 at 12:15 PM.
    "I seemed to have sensed also from an early age that some of my experiences as a reader would change me more as a person than would many an event in the world where I sat and read. "
    Gerald Murnane, Tamarisk Row

  5. #485
    stanley2
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    In #481, I meant to recall a line from MND: "What's Thisbe, a wandering knight?"(MND1.2.135). The character named Flute has been assigned the part of Thisbe by the director Peter Quince.

  6. #486
    stanley2
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    I've tried to find where the author tells us where Leah may be. I think that he does not tell us specifically, only that it is likely that she has passed on to eternity.

  7. #487
    Registered User hellsapoppin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Danik 2016 View Post
    Welcome on this tread Poppins. This article about Jewish viticulture and vine trade is very interesting. I wonder how much it might apply to Shakespeare Venice in MV. Clear to me is only that Shylock worked exclusively as an usurer. There is no mention of him having any other occupation in the play.

    @stanley-I wonder if that Portuguese knight would wander all the way from Portugal to UK only to meet Leah.



    Actually I was here before: http://www.online-literature.com/for...=1#post1399857


    I believe the only cargo mentioned in Act I, 1 was spices. No viticulture or other industry is mentioned. Also when Shylock loses his case at the end he is clearly broke which suggests he had no other business or resources to fall back on. I also remain convinced MOV was anti Semitic based on extensive research I did on the subject when I wrote my jurisprudence seminar paper in law school all those decades ago. One objectionable phrase widely used during that era involved a chorus or a town crier type saying to the crowd "I hope there is not a Jew among you". Sorry I don't have access to that seminar paper or I would give you a resource to check it out. Anyways, Shakespeare's milieu was one of rampant anti Semitism and he likely capitalized on it in this play.
    When stupidity is considered patriotism, it is unsafe to be intelligent

    ~ Isaac Asimov

  8. #488
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Sorry for taking so much time to answer, Poppins, this post needed some consideration and, as you must have noticed, the tread has long strayed from antisemitism to other matters.

    I din´nt remember it, but I was here too and I supported your answer

    "I agree with hellsapoppin, allbeit the Jew has his saying too. I particularly dislike the characterization of Jessica, his daughter, who is depicted as good, because she robs her father and goes over to the Christians." #450

    My position remains the same. Shylock is a grotesque villain and his daughter Jessica is depicted as a positive character an redeemed because she evades her father ( after stealing money and precious stones) and becomes Christian.

    Considering the antisemitic milieu of Shakespeare, nothing of these surprises. What may be new is that for a moment Shakespeare considers the matter from the Jews point of view

    "To bait fish withal; if it will feed nothing else,
    it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me and
    hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses,
    mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted
    my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies—
    and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not
    a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions,
    senses, affections, passions? Fed with the
    same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to
    the same diseases, healed by the same means,
    warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer
    as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not
    bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you
    poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall
    we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will
    resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian,
    what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong
    a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian
    example? Why, revenge! The villainy you teach me I
    will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the
    instruction."
    https://www.folger.edu/explore/shake...f-venice/read/
    "I seemed to have sensed also from an early age that some of my experiences as a reader would change me more as a person than would many an event in the world where I sat and read. "
    Gerald Murnane, Tamarisk Row

  9. #489
    Registered User hellsapoppin's Avatar
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    ^Good quote above. But what a remarkable contrast between the famous quality of mercy speech and the ill treatment accorded to poor Shylock. He sure could have used of that "mercy".
    When stupidity is considered patriotism, it is unsafe to be intelligent

    ~ Isaac Asimov

  10. #490
    stanley2
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    Speaking of "irony"(post #488), in his book THE SHAKESPEARE WARS, Ron Rosenbaum regards John Gross' book as follows, "perhaps the definitive treatment of the question." And here in this thread, Danik noted that the "original context" of the play is important. We then might pick up Professor James Shapiro's fine book A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 1599. This was the year that the little book THE PASSIONATE PILGRIM was published. Sonnet 144 is found there. As we have seen, the poem links the author with Antonio. This also was the year when AS YOU LIKE IT was first performed. Shapiro noted that A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, MV and other works were published the next year, 1600.

  11. #491
    stanley2
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    I meant to type in #448, not #488 above. I included the astonishing lines from John Gross in, I think, post #472. The context in which it is found might bring to mind Sonnet 145. In turn, Sonnet 145, I think, is interesting if one compares it to MV. Professor Kenneth Gross wrote: "Shakespeare's sonnets seem to belong to the mid 1590s(though the dating is a murky matter), roughly contemporary with THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, written around 1596. This may account for the play's peculiar crossing of concerns with the sonnets, its way of echoing their paradoxical, self-enfolding, and self-canceling pictures of desire, their jamming up together of the language of possession and dispossession, praise and slander. The sonnets are texts in which, as W.H. Auden says, the poet explores the shapes and limits of his own poetic powers. I have sometimes imagined what it would be like to hear the sad, self-wounding merchant Antonio recite sonnet 87 to Bassanio, for whom he hazarded so much, as the young man turns away to another, richer love, or to hear Shylock repeat these lines to Antonio after Shylock's own bond with hated merchant is voided in court, and the cost of that bond becomes so nakedly clear. 'Farewell, thou art too dear for my possessing.' Could Shylock speak this line to his absent daughter Jessica, converted to Christianity and enriched with his gold, spending it so carelessly?"

  12. #492
    stanley2
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    If I may return to "The quality of mercy" speech(MV4.1.181-202). Shylock replies: "My deeds upon my head! I crave the law." This echoes a speech from Egeus, Hermia's father in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM: "Enough, enough, my lord. You have enough; / I beg the law , the law, upon his head"(MND4.1.154-5). And Professor Gross' notes above might recall more from Act 3, scene one: "The thief gone with so much, and so much to find the thief, and no satisfaction, no revenge, nor no ill luck stirring but what light's o'my shoulders. no sighs but o'my breathing, no tears but o'my shedding"(MV3.1.80-84). This might recall lines from R&J: "There on the ground, with his own tears made drunk"(R&J3.3.86) and "Hold thy desperate hand. / Art thou a man? Thy form cries out thou art. / Thy tears are womanish, thy wild acts denote / The unreasonable fury of a beast"(3.3.112-114).

  13. #493
    stanley2
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    In Wikipedia we find that Sir Philip Sidney was "an English poet, courtier, scholar and soldier who is remembered as one of the most prominent figures of the Elizabethan age." In the second scene of MV we are told that Bassanio is a "scholar and a soldier"(1.2.102). Sidney had died from an infection caused by a battlefield wound some years before the play was written. Therefore, when Salerio recounts the emotional departure of Bassanio for Belmont,"I think he only loves the world for him"(MV2.8.50), there is nothing odd about the matter. In the court scene, Antonio says "bid her be judge / Whether Bassanio had not once a love"(MV4.1.273-4). Given the fact that Sonnet 144 was published in 1599 and MV first published one year later, it is reasonable to suppose that Antonio loved both Leah and Bassanio.

  14. #494
    stanley2
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    When Bassanio chooses the correct casket(MV3.2.107), Portia says: "How all other passions fleet to air, / As doubtful thoughts, and rash-embraced despair, / And shuddering fear, and green-eyed jealousy!" In the court scene we find: "You'll ask me why I rather choose to have / A weight of carrion flesh that to receive / Three thousand ducats. I'll not answer that, / But say it is my humor"(MV4.1.40-3). If Antonio does not know why he is melancholy, it follows that Shylock may not fully know why he seeks to murder Antonio. He may be a jealous lover like Romeo: "But if thou, jealous, dost return to pry / In what I farther shall intend to do, / By heaven, I will tear thee joint by joint / And strew this hungry churchyard with thy limbs"(R&J5.3.33--6).

  15. #495
    stanley2
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    And once again, in AS YOU LIKE IT we have:: "Farewell, good Charles. Now will I stir this gamester. I hope I shall see an end of him; for my soul, yet I know not why, hates nothing more than he"(AYL1.1.155-8). As this echoes both the first line in MV and Shylock's aside(1.3), one might suggest that if Antonio is gay then so is Shylock.

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