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

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Thread: Is The Merchant of Venice anti-Semitic?

  1. #361
    stanley2
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    As we have seen, then, Sonnet 144 alone will not allow us to dismiss Antonio as only a buffoonish sidekick of Bassanio. The question of whether he had an adulterous affair with Shylock's wife remains unanswered. Adultery was an important subject regarding the fate of the Queen's mother, some in Shakespeare's audience might have noted. Shakespeare and Marlowe were 8 years old when news of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre must have reached England in 1572. It seems reasonable then that we would find lines such as "Go hence to have more talk of these sad things"(R&J5.3.317) in their work.

  2. #362
    stanley2
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    In a collection put together by the Mahons in 2002 we find an essay by Professor Levith. He recommends the play DOCTOR FAUSTUS by Marlowe as an important part of the context in which MV is found. As Antonio's line "Let me have judgement and the Jew his will"(MV4.1.84) allows identification of both Antonio and Shylock with Doctor Faustus, it is plain that Shylock and Antonio are to be regarded as co-villains in this most unusual romantic comedy.

  3. #363
    stanley2
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    For the Everyman edition, John Andrews glosses Antonio's "Let him alone" speech(Act 3, scene 3) in part as follows: "the merchant conveniently omits mention of the abuse he has heaped on Shylock, with no apologies and with no indication that his attitude and behavior might ever change."

  4. #364
    stanley2
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    Another quote from Bevington's introduction, if I may: "Bassanio's adventure is partly commercial. Yet his pilgrimage for Portia is magnanimous as well. The occasional modern practice of playing Bassanio and Portia as cynical antiheroes of a 'black' comedy points up the problematic character of their materialism and calculation, but it inevitably distorts the play." Some scholars have noted that Shakespeare himself may have played the role of Antonio onstage. It is then no stretch at all to link the character to Sonnet 144.

  5. #365
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    IMO the text of Shakespeare paints Portia and Bassanio as a romantic pair, even if there are riches involved. This is a mercantile play that anticipates the duplicity of the 19 C English novel, where the hero had to prove the purity of his/her love to be then rewarded with riches and the consequent social ascent.

    But Bassanio's journey also has something of the quest of the medieval knight. To win Portia he has to pass a test.
    "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

  6. #366
    stanley2
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    Portia's "Let not that doctor e'er come near my house. / since he hath got the jewel that I loved...........Now, by mine honor, which is yet mine own, / I'll have that doctor for my bedfellow"(MV5.1.223-233) recalls Tubal's "One of them showed me a ring that he had of your daughter for a monkey"(MV3.1.109-10) and Shylock's reply. Lines from the Prince of Aragon are notable here: "I will not jump with common spirits / And rank me with the barbarbous multitudes"(MV2.9.31-2). If one desires to argue that the play favors either Shylock or Antonio, one finds oneself recalling Portia again: "Tarry a little; there is something else"(MV4.1.303). This again is in keeping with Professor Wilson's comments.

  7. #367
    stanley2
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    As noted somewhere, the Prince in R&J says of Tybalt: "Romeo slew him; he slew Mercutio. / Who now the price of his dear blood doth owe?"(ROM3.1.181-2). In due course, some famous lines from Mercutio are spoken during this scene. Among them is: "A plague a both your houses! I am sped."(ROM3.1.90). One thing is clear enough, Mercutio and Tybalt each insist that a duel is required. One then might regard each as equally to blame.

  8. #368
    stanley2
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    Another echo of MV in AS YOU LIKE IT follows: "Was't you that did so oft contrive to kill him?"(AYL4.3.135). This is Celia, daughter of Duke Frederick, speaking to Oliver, brother of Orlando. The line recalls from Portia the lines "The party 'gainst the which he doth contrive.........Thou hast contrived against the very life"(MV4.1.348-356).

  9. #369
    stanley2
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    And thus Shylock is identified or associated with or echoes an astonishing array of characters before and after MV. Little wonder, then, that Professor Kenneth Gross suggested that Shylock is Shakespeare. Antonio is perhaps as baffling given that his first lines in the play associate him with Romeo and Dick3. Yet, as we have seen he is also identified with Jaques in AYL. His "I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano, / A stage, where every man must play a part, / and mine a sad one"(MV1.1.77-8) is plainly echoed in AS YOU LIKE IT: "All the world's a stage"(AYL2.7.138).

  10. #370
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Hi, stanley! First time I see Richard !!! called Dick3.
    "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

  11. #371
    stanley2
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    P.B. placed it on one of the Sonnet threads

  12. #372
    stanley2
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    Therefore, Professor Parrott wrote that "Shylock is as human as any of his Christian adversaries." This, in due course, recalls the obscurity of the Duke's "I am sorry for thee. Thou art come to answer / A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch....."(MV4.1.3-4). One might also return to Hawkman's post #50 where he tells us that he was hard pressed to identify a 'hero' unless it is Portia. We must then add that her cousin was at least consulted and that Bassanio has an important part to play in the court scene. This is in keeping with the idea that the author designed the play to foster discussion. And, once again, Oliver's "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"(AS YOU LIKE IT, ACT 1 scene one) echoes through the plays to Romeo: "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"(ROM3.3.107-10).

  13. #373
    stanley2
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    The last lines of Fitzgerald's translation of THE ODYSSEY are then worth another look: "Athena / cast a grey glance at her friend and said: / 'Son of Laertes and the gods of old, / Odysseus, master of land ways and sea ways, / command yourself. Call off this battle now, / or Zeus who views the wide world may be angry.' / He yielded to her, and his heart was glad. / Both parties later swore to terms of peace / set by their arbiter, Athena, daughter / of Zeus who bears the stormcloud as a shield- / though still she kept the form and voice of Mentor." Professor Drakakis suggests that Shakespeare may have been inspired by a portion of THE ODYSSEY found in a translation of Ovid 's METAMORPHOSES. We are then left with the question of which character did Shakespeare have in mind to match Odysseus? I think it is plain that any of at least three is reasonable.

  14. #374
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    I agree with Professor Parrot, whoever he is. Shylock is a complex character, who however stands up to his point of view. And as Gladys states on page 1 his punishment was disproportionate to his crime. Which made me think that the play took in consideration anti semitic audiences.
    "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. #375
    Registered User hellsapoppin's Avatar
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    stanley2,

    "Shylock does indeed suffer from his enemies, and his sufferings add a tortured complexity to this play--- even, one suspects, for an Elizabethan audience."


    Indeed. As I have posted previously, Portia (disguised as a presiding jurist) knew that the "argosies" did land safely so that the terms of the guarantor contract had been met. Yet, she violated the law by lying in court when she pretended that they did not make landfall safely and when she rendered her judgment. As Christians, no doubt, they were greatly moved by her "quality of mercy" speech:


    The quality of mercy is not strained;
    It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
    Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
    It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
    'T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
    The throned monarch better than his crown:
    His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
    The attribute to awe and majesty,
    Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
    But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
    It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
    It is an attribute to God himself;
    And earthly power doth then show likest God's
    When mercy seasons justice.


    Beautiful sentiments for sure - an example of what Christian mercy is supposed to be. Based on these words, one would have thought that Shylock would be shown at least some measure of leniency. But does she render any mercy towards Shylock? No she does not. Instead she renders a harsh punishment which was tantamount to a death sentence. On the one hand these so called Christians call for mercy but then they engage in severe, unjust, and, as I posted previously, illegal retribution.

    For those who were anti Semitic at that time, the outcome was undoubtedly a just and desired one. But a true Christian, whether in that audience or even today, would be outraged at the hypocrisy, the Pharisaism, and the injustice imposed upon Shylock.
    When stupidity is considered patriotism, it is unsafe to be intelligent

    ~ Isaac Asimov

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