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

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Thread: Is The Merchant of Venice anti-Semitic?

  1. #376
    stanley2
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    The last scene of the play begins as follows: "The moon shines bright. In such a night as this, / When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees / And they did make no noise, in such a night / Troilus methinks mounted the Trojan walls / And sighed his soul toward the Grecian tents / Where Cressid lay that night"(MV5.1.1-6). Shakespeare chose this beginning, with it's classical allusions, to further suggest recollection of the conclusion of THE ODYSSEY I should think. Portia's purpose, as in the conclusion of the Homeric poem, is as arbiter.

  2. #377
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Maybe he also wanted to point out the kinship with another play he had written.
    "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

  3. #378
    stanley2
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    Hi Danik. In due course, Portia is also comparable to Penelope in THE ODYSSEY. Each is beset with many suitors. It is then reasonable to compare Bassanio and the hero of the Homeric epic poem. The very uncertainty regarding which character the author intends to identify with the hero of THE ODYSSEY suggests that Shakespeare intends to regard Antonio and Shylock as co-villains.

  4. #379
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Hi, Stanley. I think Portia is the heroine of MV. She is also similar to Penelope in cleverness. Both have to impose their will in a men ruled world.

    Antonio is the great hero of the trial, but toward the end his figure pales. And Bassanio in fact doesn´t shine as a hero with stronger characters like Portia and Antonio beside him.
    "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. #380
    stanley2
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    I'm not quite sure what you mean regarding Antonio(post #379). In the 2000 edition of CliffsComplete we find: "Shylock can be interpreted in many ways on the stage. He can be seen as a simple comic villain who occasionally reveals sympathetic qualities. Or he can be a tragic hero, a spurned and battered victim of oppression, who tries unsuccessfully to to challenge the society that oppresses him." In the court scene, Antonio says: "Let me have judgment, and the Jew his will"(MV4.1.83). Therefore, do you mean to suggest that Antonio and Shylock are both tragic hero's? And regarding Bassanio, the text allows more than one interpretation. As we have seen, one may play Bassanio standing between Shylock and Antonio ready to defend Antonio if Shylock were to lunge at Antonio with his knife. If he were then to kill Shylock with Shylock's own knife, some might recall that Marlowe died in the very same manner.

  6. #381
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    One of the complexities of the play are the changes in the protagonist Antonio, he is the merchant after all. Because of his sacrifice he could be considered a tragic hero until he is rescued from his dead sentence by the noblewoman Portia. But Portia steals his beloved and also his protagonism in the play. As a pale compensation he gets some of his ships and with them his position as merchant back.

    As for Shylock, he is the villain, but Shakespeare grants him some very human speeches.

    Torn between Portia and Antonio, Bassanio is a sort of romantic hero. But he is outshone by the stronger figures of Portia, Antonio and Shylock.
    "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

  7. #382
    stanley2
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    Thanks, then, to CliffsComplete and Danik! I think the phrase "tragic hero" is better than my previous favorite character sketch of Antonio: "The arrogance(and stupidity) of the man is staggering.........What a twit!(see posts #181 and #28).

  8. #383
    stanley2
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    Antonio's line, "bid her be judge / Whether Bassanio had not once a love"(MV4.1.273-4), might recall two more lines from ROMEO AND JULIET. In the first scene of R&J we have Sampson's "Take it in what sense thou wilt"(ROM1.1.25). In the second conversation between Romeo and Juliet we have "At lovers' perjuries / They say Jove laughs"(ROM2.2.92). It is then reasonable to suggest that Antonio may have desired Shylock's wife. And Charles D. has good reason to regard Bassanio as a major character. In the second scene Nerissa tells us that "he of all the men that ever my foolish eyes looked upon, was the best deserving a fair lady"(1.2.105-6). In the court scene, Bassanio's "Why dost thou whet thy knife so earnestly?"(MV4.1.121), recalls the death of Marlowe and the lines from Romeo and Juliet: "O, tell me, friar, tell me, / In what vile part of this anatomy / Doth my name lodge? Tell me, that I may sack / The hateful mansion"(ROM3.3.105-7) and "Give me some present counsel; or, behold / 'Twixt my extremes and me this bloody knife / Shall play the umpire, arbitrating that........"(ROM4.1.61-3). If memory serves, there's a line regarding confession in the popular song SUNDOWN, by Gordon Lightfoot, that might help.
    Last edited by stanley2; 11-05-2022 at 06:41 AM.

  9. #384
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    PHP Code:
    Antonio's line, "bid her be judge / Whether Bassanio had not once a love"(MV4.1.273-4) 
    I think this line refers very explicitly to Antonio's love for Bassanio. The triangle Antonio-Bassanio-Portia forms one of the field of tensions of the play, until Portia affirms her superior claim by creating the dispute of the wedding ring.
    "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

  10. #385
    stanley2
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    Of the last line of the play, editors have given us various notes. Professor Drakakis wrote: "The final word of the play underlines through innuendo Gratiano's sexual fears." Professor Bevington wrote simply, "with sexual suggestion." Others have written "crude joke" and "bawdy pun." To these one might add the phrase "double entendre." We have seen that the character Antonio's speech corresponds to Sonnet 144. Therefore, when one suggests that Shylock is a villain, it follows that Antonio is so as well given his speeches just before and during the court scene.

  11. #386
    stanley2
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    Professor Leggatt, for the Folger edition, wrote: "there are constant echoes back and forth between the play's apparently disparate worlds. Portia gives a ring to Bassanio, who gives it away; Leah gave a ring to Shylock, and Jessica steals it. Keys lock Shylock's house and unlock the caskets of Belmont. Portia calls Bassanio "dear bought"(3.2.326) and Shylock uses almost the same words for his pound of flesh, which is "dearly bought"(4.1.101). Shylock's proverb, "Fast bind, fast find"(2.5.55), could be a comment on the way the women use the rings to bind the men to them. His claim on Antonio's body is grotesque, but the adultery jokes of the final scene remind us that married couples also claim exclusive rights in each other's bodies. Marriage is mutual ownership, and Shylock's recurring cry of "mine!" echoes throughout the play." As we have seen, the "adultery jokes" also suggest that Antonio may have desired Shylock's wife.

  12. #387
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Interesting ideas I only don't agree about bringing in Shylock's deceased wife. I don't think she has anything to do with the animosity between Shylock and Antonio.
    "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

  13. #388
    stanley2
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    It can be interesting to review the character Lady Capulet when studying MV. In Act 3, scene 5, she says to Juliet: "Well, girl, thou weep'st not so much for his[Tybalt's] death / As that the villain lives which slaughtered him"(ROM3.5.79-80). Juliet replies: "What villain, madam?" The lady responds: "That same villain Romeo." Further down she says: "We will have vengeance for it, fear thou not. / Then weep no more. I'll send one to Mantua, / Where that same banished runagate doth live, / Shall give him such an unaccustomed dram / That he shall soon keep Tybalt company." Earlier, she says to the Prince: "Prince, as thou art true, / For blood of ours shed blood of Montague"(ROM3.1.147-8). And on the next page or so we find: "I beg for justice, which thou, prince, must give. / Romeo slew Tybalt; Romeo must not live." We then have the question of whether Lady Capulet has performed the same crimes as Shylock.

  14. #389
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    It seems that in Shakespeare's noblemen plays blood revenge is very common. But in the "civilized" commercial Venice of the Renaissance the slaying during a fight is substituted by the contractual cutting out of a pound of flesh.

    Well, let Antonio and Shylock and the others rest for a while.
    I wish you a Merry Christmas, Stanley!
    "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

  15. #390
    stanley2
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    Merry Christmas Danik and all fans of team Portia. Following Hawkman's notes here one might quote some more from Professor Parrott: ""What the people wanted in a play was first of all action--- serious or comic, but even the serious must be interspersed with comedy...........The clown was always the favorite actor; Tarleton was a darling of the public before Alleyn or Burbage rose to fame. It was customary, indeed, to end every performance with a 'jig,' a comic dance which developed into a rough farce spoken or sung." In Professor Shapiro's fine book, A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, 1599, we find: "No less gnawing a problem for Shakespeare was the clown's afterpiece, the jig. It may be hard for us to conceive of the conclusion of ROMEO AND JULIET---with the image of the dead lovers fresh in our minds-----immediately followed by a bawdy song and dance, but Elizabethan audiences demanded it. Jigs were basically semi-improvisational one-act plays, running to a few hundred lines, usually performed by four actors.........If comedies were about love, jigs were about what happened after marriage---adultery, deception, and irrepressible sexual desire."

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