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

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Thread: Is The Merchant of Venice anti-Semitic?

  1. #1
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    Is The Merchant of Venice Anti-Semitic?

    We are doing a project for my Shakespeare class, and the question is basically, "Does The Merchant of Venice's portrayal of Shylock constitute anti-semitism?"

  2. #2
    Yes, in your culture, you are forbidden to make them villains. They are hero only. And no, that is not equality. That is a form of race supremacy, special elite privilege based on ancestry.

  3. #3
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    QC

    On the face of it "yes," but then remember the prejudices that were still prevalent in Shakespeare's time. And yet The Bard seems to transcend this in aspects of the character of Shylock and I actually have sympathy with him. After all, a deal's a deal!

    JC
    Dear, dear. You really need help.

    Regards
    M.

  4. #4
    Why would I need help? A famous Italian American said recently, when the folk music of his people is played, everyone around believes a MOBSTER GANGSTER CRIME FAMILY EVENT is happening. Ethnic hating Italians is entirely fine. It is a genre. In the Star Wars cartoon, they made a GERMAN ALIEN. A German Alien? Yes, they needed a chemical bio attack villain, so they made the Alien German accent. It is totally ok to ethnic hate Germans. In Israeli culture, you have three options: 1) Silence. 2) Flattery. 3) Be an anti-Semite. Shylock does not flatter their ethnicity = it is anti-Semite.

    Bear in mind, I am the one arguing FOR equality. My side is, everyone gets equal rules equally and equal treatment.

    Your side is: Italians, Germans, Blacks, various other groups SHOULD BE stereotype ethnic villains. But then other groups should get special rules where they never get bashed.

    FACT: What do you call a homosexual pedophile? You call them a heterosexual pedophile. They have protected rights. They can't be villains.

    In Western Civilization, some peoples get one treatment, other people get the opposite.
    I hope you recover your race hate soon.
    I prefer everyone getting equal opportunity.

  5. #5
    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    It is a difficult question indeed and one without an obvious angle, because it depends on what angle you take.

    Keep in mind that when Merchant was first staged in the mid-1590s, Jews had been expelled from England for over 3 centuries. No one in England would have met a Jew, or known what a Jew looked like. This was the same time that the Church portrayed Jews as devils (with actual horns), so believe that a Jew had horns and a tail, and fangs, was not terribly uncommon.

    Also bear in mind other notable portrayals of Jews in theatre around the same time: the most famous is Barabbas from Marlowe's Jew of Malta. Now Barabbas was both a villain and a clown who freely admitted to such acts as poisoning wells. There was no way to look at Barabbas sympathetically - he was evil.

    Shylock transcends Barabbas as a character, but as I have argued before, he is not sympathetic, really. People have twisted his speech in III.i to make him sound sympathetic, but this is really itself a twisted sense of morals. But what Shakespeare does in Merchant of Venice is give us a Jew (Shylock) seen through the eyes of the Christian heroes.

    The scene where Solanio is telling the story of Shylock running around screaming "my daughter, my duckets!" is a perfect example of this: we do not see Shylock doing this, only a report of it. We actually see Shylock doing very little except clinging to his bond. He appears in only 4 scenes - two of which he does nothing that could count him a villain.

    Meanwhile, the Christians who are meant to be the paragons of good are themselves not so. Bassanio is a player, and Portia, that great angel, is a hypocrite. Her "quality of mercy" speech is as perverted (morally speaking) as Shylock's "if you prick us speech" - she is no better. She preaches mercy and then luxuriates in her trap that she sets up for Shylock.

    So do we see an anti-Jewish portrayal of Shylock - yes, but I believe in a way that illustrates how society works not to contribute to it.

    Merchant of Venice is a comedy, or it was. It is now seen as a problem play or dark comedy, but this was not the case. It is not until the 20th century that racial morals enter into it, and the ideal playing of this piece would be as a complete farce where no one is spared - so that the audience may see how base humanity really is.
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

  6. #6
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Dear Charles
    Thank you. A very interesting and balanced reply.

    JC

    1.In your initial response to QueCubed you talk about in your culture. How do you know what his/her culture is?

    2.In your response to myself you refer to, Your side is and then break into some broad generalization that I have a preference for one racial group over a broad spectrum of others. You are ahead of yourself.

    3.As for the bit about the three options in Israeli culture, it is about as simplistic and limited an assumption as one could possibly make, when one is in a sober state of enlightment.

    Regards
    M.
    Last edited by MANICHAEAN; 04-11-2012 at 09:14 PM.

  7. #7
    He asked in English.
    That is how I know what his culture is.
    You are not very good at this.
    Oh wait, this is you,
    English is this thing called a language. There are others.
    You should look up the topic. We have a whole planet and everything.

  8. #8
    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JamCrackers View Post
    He asked in English.
    That is how I know what his culture is.
    You are not very good at this.
    Oh wait, this is you,
    English is this thing called a language. There are others.
    You should look up the topic. We have a whole planet and everything.
    I was in china once and I met this man who spoke English. The strange thing was that he had never been out of China! Isn't that so bizarre?

    Seriously though...what?
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

  9. #9
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    Is The Merchant of Venice anti-Semitic?

    We are doing a project for our Shakespeare lecture which basically asks, "Does Shakespeare's portrayal of Shylock constitute anti-Semitism? Can art transcend contemporary bigotry?"

  10. #10
    BadWoolf JuniperWoolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JamCrackers View Post
    FACT: What do you call a homosexual pedophile? You call them a heterosexual pedophile. They have protected rights. They can't be villains.
    What?
    __________________
    "Personal note: When I was a little kid my mother told me not to stare into the sun. So once when I was six, I did. At first the brightness was overwhelming, but I had seen that before. I kept looking, forcing myself not to blink, and then the brightness began to dissolve. My pupils shrunk to pinholes and everything came into focus and for a moment I understood. The doctors didn't know if my eyes would ever heal."
    -Pi


  11. #11
    Please don't play stupid. You can do it fine naturally. Since you demanded me to explain it, I shall. DICTIONARY: Homosexual: having a sexual attraction to persons of the same sex. What sex is a man? Male. What sex is a boy? Male. Sexual attraction male to male is homosexuality? Yes. Priests who attack boys are homosexuals? Yes. Priests who attack boys are pedophiles? Yes. Does Western society go around complaining about the epidemic of homosexuals attack boys in pedophile assaults? No, they do not. No one makes bad jokes about priests attacking GIRLS now do they? No, they don't. It is a predatory homosexual behavior. We just never call it that because in our society, people with elite rights never get to be villains. Only people with second class rights are villains. Christian is second class: YES, you can be called a Christian Pedophile. NO, you can't be called a homosexual pedophile.

    I do understand where my opponents are coming from. Western society is entirely hypocritical. Everything a Westerner says is a lie in reverse. If a Westerner wants to stop bullying? He will bully you to stop. If they want to stop hate, they will hate you because 'you deserve it.' In my society, you never ever need to tell anyone what your sex is, what your race is, what your religion is. In my society, you are just a human, with exactly the same rights as another human. The question is: is Shylock anti-Semite? Yes it is. Why? Because Judaism is in the protected class. Being hypocrites as I said, what will I be told? I will be told they are not in a protected class, but - they are - and I must be punished for breaking that rule. I said something, anything, that was not pure flattery, thus I am filled with hate. Feel Free: what is it 500 years? Nice. You can use the entire Earth and the last 500 years. Think on that 500 years. Name every Jewish villain ever put in fiction in the last 500 years anywhere on Earth. Before you lie that you won't because it would take too long, I am telling you in advance I know you are lying. You can't make the list, because it will make you lose the debate. Who will you name? Blofeld from James Bond? All you can do is list a few exceptions that make the rule. There are enough German, Italian, or Black villains to fill a phone book. Yes, I said something not flattering so yes you are angry that it is anti-Semite to say anything not flattering. That is what I accused in the first place. Proving me right won't hurt that much.

  12. #12
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    What is it with this slew of new members recently coming on the boards and immediately taking to insulting long-term members and calling their intelligence into question without the faintest idea of who they are talking to, or how intelligent or educated that person might be. It strikes me as pre-pubescents gone on rampage. Too many Fruit Loops for breakfast?

    Is Shylock an antisemitic character? Considering that he is but a single Jewish villain out of a rather sizable body of villains, I would suggest no. I would also suggest that Shakespeare's characters are almost always too complex to be reduced to a simple stereotype. At the same time... all artists are formed by the beliefs and values of their time and place. Elements that we would find antisemitic, sexist, racist, nationalistic, imperialistic would have been accepted as status quo for those in another time and place. What is necessary to remember is that we don't stand in high judgment of the "inferior" thinking of the past. Much that we accept would undoubtedly have been thought of as morally suspect by any number of past cultures, and much that we believe in or accept now will undoubtedly be looked upon with disdain by future generations.

    This is one of the reasons that aesthetic judgment needs to be kept separate from judgment rooted in non-artistic considerations: morality, ethics, social, economic, or political considerations, etc... This is not to say that we should simply skim past those elements that raise questions... but we should place these moral issues within a historical context and question just how central they are to the work of art as a whole. Is making an antisemitic comment a central aspect of The Merchant of Venice? Or could the villain have just as likely have been Spanish, or Dutch, or French?
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
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  13. #13
    BadWoolf JuniperWoolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JamCrackers View Post
    Please don't play stupid. You can do it fine naturally. Since you demanded me to explain it, I shall. DICTIONARY: Homosexual: having a sexual attraction to persons of the same sex. What sex is a man? Male. What sex is a boy? Male. Sexual attraction male to male is homosexuality? Yes. Priests who attack boys are homosexuals? Yes. Priests who attack boys are pedophiles? Yes. Does Western society go around complaining about the epidemic of homosexuals attack boys in pedophile assaults? No, they do not. No one makes bad jokes about priests attacking GIRLS now do they? No, they don't. It is a predatory homosexual behavior. We just never call it that because in our society, people with elite rights never get to be villains. Only people with second class rights are villains. Christian is second class: YES, you can be called a Christian Pedophile. NO, you can't be called a homosexual pedophile.
    That's because the gender of the children isn't the problem. It's the CHILDREN part that's the problem. They aren't called "heterosexual" or "homosexual" pedophiles, they're just pedophiles. The crime is equally wrong whether the children are male or female. Also, there are many more female victims of statutory rape than there are male so clearly pedophelia isn't correlated to homosexuality. And homosexuals are elite? That's a new one. They aren't allowed to get married in most places, so they aren't even legally equal.
    Last edited by JuniperWoolf; 04-12-2012 at 01:48 AM.
    __________________
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    -Pi


  14. #14
    No, the children is not the problem. As an expert on history and human behavior, I can assure you that sex with children has been in practice since the Stone Age. In various cultures, it was common practice. I'm sure Ancient Rome did their share of it and it wasn't a crime. Why is this important? Because to a person who lives in reality and not politically correct fantasy land, we are talking about human behavior. What behavior? The orgasm. I assume you know what an orgasm is. Some like to argue rape is about 'hate' and not orgasms. I have never heard of the no-orgasm rapist, but I assume it could be possible, just utterly unlikely. Orgasm is the original human drug. It is pleasure. The human ape wants to ring his pleasure bell. The pedophile is a sexual predator, an orgasm predator if you will. It is about fantasy. It is about the term erotic. We agree that FANTASY EROTIC URGES that involve, dead people, children, rape, various bad things - are bad. They are things people should not do, but they do anyway. In terms of the human animal, what is the situation? A 'bad' human has fantasy erotic sexual urges directed toward their victim. In this specific case, these are MEN (males) who experience fantasy erotic urges toward BOYS (males). It is a homosexual pedophile urge. They DESIRE another male. They are males who desire interaction with a male body.

    Are homosexuals elite? 100% yes.
    If you murder a homosexual, it will be a 'hate crime'. You murdered an elite citizen and your punishment will be increased accordingly. If you are a homosexual pedophile, (you are the ideal expert to argue this), if you are a homosexual, a regular one for many years, the very moment you get arrested for raping a boy, the same second you get arrested, you are no longer homosexual. Were you homosexual for decades? Sure. Yep. And after police grab you raping a boy... POOF! you are no longer homosexual. But, why? Why all this trouble? Why do you care? Why is it an uphill battle to call homosexuals equal? That is what equal means. There are like anyone else. They can be a criminal like anyone else. They can be a homosexual bank robber, a homosexual terrorist, a homosexual drunk driver, and yes a homosexual pedophile. If you had the character to live in truth like I do, you could just admit the truth, which I know you do know. IT IS A SOCIAL THOUGHT CRIME IN YOUR CIVILIZATION TO MENTION THEIR TITLE IN ANY NEGATIVE FASHION, period. Ever. Not ever. If you EVER! say the word homosexual, you will say it in some flattering fashion, is some positive reaffirming way, or you are a hate thinker. Don't flatter yourself that you make any decisions in this world. YOU DON'T. People with power you don't have forced you to behave this way. No one ever has or will ask your opinion. YOU DON'T GET AN OPINION. You do what you are told, behave as you are told, or your mentally challenged buddies will outcast you as a hate heretic. Nothing we talk about will change that. Personally, my dream is you could grasp I am not waiting for your agreement. Do you really think I believe you are first regular Joe I have ever met who would be capable of shrugging off their social conformity? You have better odds of growing deer antlers out of your skull, than 'change'. No one changes. Me? I was trained from a young age to think for myself. That is why I stand alone speaking the obvious cruel reality of nature. That is why you defend the television culture who informed you what you think. What will you say? You wrote what they say on TV? No, you didn't. People not you made all these decisions. People not you decided that Merchant of Venice was 'anti-Semite' years ago. YOU DON'T GET AN OPINION. There have been college plays of it cancelled before. Class rooms have banned the book before. Elite Social Classes in your culture get 'hero only/victim only' treatment. They are never ever stereotype villains. Oh sure, you villain second class groups all the time, without shame. Second class humans don't get 'hate protection'. You can rip them to shreds.

    Here I am, just say it about me: "JamCrackers, you are filled with hate, homophobia, and dozens of other insulting terms, because you said the name of a protected elite class in unflattering terms. Mention them as spectacular gifts, or mention them not at all."

  15. #15
    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
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    Is Shakespeare anti-Semitic simply by reflecting, in his characters, the attitudes of typical Venetians to Jews?

    Is his treatment of Shylock unsympathetic? I suspect the audience, even in Shakespeare's time, may feel some empathy for Shylock because the injustice Jews chronically experience is persuasively presented by Shylock himself. Shylock's final punishment seems disproportionate to his crime. And besides, Antonio is hardly a likeable character.
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

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