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

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Thread: Is The Merchant of Venice anti-Semitic?

  1. #346
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Good discovery, stanley2!
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  2. #347
    stanley2
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    The last play Shakespeare is thought to have written all by himself is THE TEMPEST. In the epilogue we find: "Now I want / Spirits to enforce, art to enchant; / And my ending is despair / Unless I be relieved by prayer, /Which pierces so that it assaults / Mercy itself, and frees all faults. / As you from crimes would pardoned be, / Let your indulgence set me free." Professor Greenblatt wrote: "For Prospero[the character that speaks the epilogue], whose morality and legitimacy are repeatedly insisted upon, this guilt does not make entire sense, but it might have made sense for the playwright who peers out from behind the mask of the prince"(see post #302).
    Last edited by stanley2; 04-07-2022 at 01:08 PM.

  3. #348
    stanley2
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    S.T. Coleridge said that Hamlet finds himself in "stimulating" circumstances. So too is the invasion of Ukraine. One might note memorable lines from HENRY THE FIFTH: "But if the cause be not good, the King himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in a battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all, 'We died at such a place'; some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of anything, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the King that led them to it; who to disobey were against all proportion of subjection"(HV4.1.140-153).

  4. #349
    stanley2
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    In the Signet Classic edition is an excerpt from William Hazlitt's comments on the play(1818): "When we first went to see Mr. Kean in Shylock, we expected to see, what we had been used to see,............We were disappointed, because we had taken our idea from other actors, not from the play..............so rooted was our habitual impression of the part from seeing it caricatured in the representation, that it was only from a careful perusal of the play itself that we saw our error. The stage is not in general the best place to study our author's characters in. It is too often filled with traditional commonplace conceptions of the part........" This is consistent with the idea that Shakespeare was himself well aware that his work is best understood by both seeing it performed onstage and in the study as such critics as Joseph Wood Krutch noted. Here in the Chicago area a group of actors have presented readings of the plays that have been very helpful.

  5. #350
    stanley2
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    Another passage from AS YOU LIKE IT is helpful: "Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile, / hath not old custom made this life more sweet / Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods / More free from peril than the envious court? / Here feel we not the penalty of Adam"(AYL2.1.1-5). The speaker's brother is one of the plays villains. The meaning of "court" here is not exactly the same as in the court scene in MV, yet there are echoes to the earlier plays. "Envious" might recall from R&J: "An envious thrust from Tybalt hit the life / Of stout Mercutio"(ROM3.1.167-8). There is irony too as the character who replies to Duke Senior's famous speech suggests: "Happy is Your Grace / That can translate the stubbornness of fortune / Into so quiet and so sweet a style"(AYL2.1.
    18-20). Soon such lines as "I rather will subject me to the malice / Of a diverted blood and bloody brother"(AYL2.3.36-7), referring to the other comic villain of AS YOU LIKE IT, and Rosalind's echo of Portia, "O Jupiter, how weary are my spirits!"(AYL2.4.1) follow.
    Last edited by stanley2; 05-14-2022 at 01:00 PM.

  6. #351
    stanley2
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    In Professor Bevington's 1988 introduction we have: "However much we may come to sympathize with Shylock's misfortunes........[he] remains essentially the villain of a love comedy." This is reasonable when tracking the implications the author has packed his play with. Portia's "Tarry a little" speech must also be noted as Professor Drakakis suggested twenty something years later: "The play turns upon the semantic instability of 'flesh' and 'blood'........Blood.........figures as the juridical absence that ultimately invalidates the Jew's bond." The Nurse in ROMEO AND JULIET says: "I saw the wound, I saw it with mine eyes..........All in gore-blood: I swooned at the sight"(R&J3.2.54-58). She is speaking of the death of Tybalt. One may find oneself regarding Tybalt as the sole villain in the tragedy, for a time. Further study of both plays reveals more implications. Antonio and Shylock are plainly co-villains.

  7. #352
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Antonio and Shylock are plainly co-villains.
    For me Antonio can only be seen as a villain, in that he is a racist. The both sided racist conflict between Shylock and Antonio is one of the main causes of the absurd contract. The other cause, I think, is economical. Shylock hates Antonio, because his generosity ultimately lowers the taxes on the loans.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  8. #353
    stanley2
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    Also of interest, if we return to Father Oakes' article(#305), we find him quoting lines from MEASURE FOR MEASURE: "Mercy is not itself that oft looks so; pardon is still the nurse of second woe"(MM2.1.292-3). This echoes the Prince in R&J(the name of the character in each case is Escalus: "Mercy but murders, pardoning those that kill"(R&J3.1.199). Your comment, Danik, "in both cases there is much more involved"(#274) reverberates.
    Last edited by stanley2; 05-24-2022 at 01:04 PM. Reason: I botched a citation of post #274

  9. #354
    stanley2
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    It seems to me that one could argue that Antonio's line, "I am a tainted wether of the flock / Meetest for death"(MV4.1.114-5), suggests that he himself feels that we should regard the two of them to be co-villains. One might review such notes here as page 6 where Hawkman says of Antonio: "he is delivered from an unjust punishment for the crime of arrogant stupidity by the letter of the bond and a quick witted Portia." In MEASURE FOR MEASURE(see above), Escalus is allowing the harsh sentence handed down by Angelo against Claudio. This is, once again, a stark contrast as Prince Escalus in R&J is simply banishing Romeo.

  10. #355
    stanley2
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    Portia's "Tarry a little" speech is also an allusion to the liturgy of the Eucharist. This rite is performed by clergy during church services. Study of this play might also recall from R&J: "It strains me past the compass of my wits"(R&J4.1.48).

  11. #356
    Registered User hellsapoppin's Avatar
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    MOV anti-Semitic?

    In all probability, yes. After all, Shakespeare had the option of making this notorious lender a Neopolitan or Parisian or Londoner.

    I wrote a post graduate seminar paper on MOV and reported its many legal flaws. For example, under the law, a presiding judge cannot have an interest or stake in the proceedings. Portia obviously did so as her betrothed was a litigant. As a judge she pronounced a death sentence upon Shylock as conversion to Christianity is considered under Talmudic law to be apostasy tantamount to death. As judge she was presiding over a court of equity, not a criminal court and had no right to pronounce a death sentence or to even charge anyone with attempted murder as she did with the claimant. At the end of the story she reports that the argosies (the ships) did come in safely so that there was no reason to render a judgment against Shylock. The fact that she rendered an unfair judgment on him was a terrible injustice as she and her future husband got all the money and the claimant did not.

    In my research for my seminar paper I learned that there was a common phrase used in the theaters of that era in London which went, "I pray there is not a Jew among you". There were a few Jews in London but I'm sure none would attend a theater with that type of prevailing attitude.
    When stupidity is considered patriotism, it is unsafe to be intelligent

    ~ Isaac Asimov

  12. #357
    stanley2
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    One might quote Marchette Chute's introduction to LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST for young people: "The play is less a story than a game. The plot is as light as a soap bubble, and its charm lies in the kind of dancing light that it throws on some of the subjects which fascinated young men and women in Shakespeare's day. It is almost a Valentine of a play, half a love-Valentine and half a comic-Valentine, and has to be read in the spirit in which it was written............The story opens in the park of the king of Navarre, where he and his lords are discussing a highly idealistic project." This corresponds to Danik and Professors Bevington and Parrott's Antonio the idealist in MV, I should think. Not that any of this is unreasonable, as Professor Parrott said of LLL: "LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST remains the most original and the most delightful of Shakespeare's early comedies."

  13. #358
    stanley2
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    And again Lokasenna's comment(page 2), "The quandry is to decide whether, to borrow from another Shakespeare play, he is 'more sinned against than sinning,'" is apt. William Hazlitt noted the same line from KING LEAR in 1817: "he becomes a half-favorite with the philosophical part of the audience who are disposed to think that Jewish revenge is at least as good as Christian injuries. Shylock is a 'good hater; a man no less sinned against than sinning.'" Therefore, Antonio and Shylock are co-villains. Another noted passage from KING LEAR, "Ay every inch a king! / When I do stare, see how the subject quakes; / I pardon that man's life. What was thy cause? / Adultery? Thou shalt not die. Die for adultery! No: / The wren goes to it, and the small gilded fly / Does lecher in my sight. / Let copulation thrive"(KING LEAR4.6.109-116), is also apt as all the links to R&J, MND and the many sexual suggestions indicate.

  14. #359
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Its 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).Id 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.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  15. #360
    stanley2
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    For her introduction, Professor Crawford included a few notes regarding the historical moment: "Usury, the business of lending money at (often extreme) interest rates, was widely criticized in the period in such tracts as Miles Mosse's THE ARRAIGNMENT AND CONVICTION OF USURY (1595). Usury was in fact widely practiced in England, as evidenced by the fact that Queen Elizabeth officially set the rate of interest on loans at 10 percent." Historian Michael Wood's contention that there are too many unanswered questions left at the end of the play might be a clue regarding how Shakespeare's audience may have responded to the play. One might also note from Professor Bevington: "Shylock does indeed suffer from his enemies, and his sufferings add a tortured complexity to this play--- even, one suspects, for an Elizabethan audience."

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