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

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    2 25.00%
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    6 75.00%
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Thread: Is The Merchant of Venice anti-Semitic?

  1. #121
    Registered User Delta40's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mutatis-Mutandi View Post
    I'm kind of confused as to how so many people see Merchant as not being anti-semetic. The time it was written and how racism may have been common back then, the author's intent, etc. make no difference in the actual work. Shylock was portrayed in many negative ways because he was a Jew. That would seem to me an indication of anti-semitism.
    Do you think it is because when read within a historical context rather than a contemporary one, the reader understands that anti-semitism would not have been considered in the way it is now?
    Before sunlight can shine through a window, the blinds must be raised - American Proverb

  2. #122
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    I'm saying the historical context doesn't change anything about the text. Just because anti semitism was perfectly acceptable back then doesn't make it right, even for back then. We can change how we look at the text, interpret it, but we can't change that Shylock is portrayed the way he is because he is a Jew. I can't think of any context in which one can find that not anti semetic.

  3. #123
    Registered User Delta40's Avatar
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    I think the way we view anti-semitism today is different to how it was viewed back then.
    Before sunlight can shine through a window, the blinds must be raised - American Proverb

  4. #124
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    Quote Originally Posted by Delta40 View Post
    I think the way we view anti-semitism today is different to how it was viewed back then.
    I agree. I'm just saying that it's irrelevant.

  5. #125
    BadWoolf JuniperWoolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mutatis-Mutandi View Post
    I'm kind of confused as to how so many people see Merchant as not being anti-semetic. The time it was written and how racism may have been common back then, the author's intent, etc. make no difference in the actual work. Shylock was portrayed in many negative ways because he was a Jew. That would seem to me an indication of anti-semitism.
    That seems obvious to me as well. That doesn't mean Shakespeare was "bad," or tMoV was "bad," it just adds another layer to the play.
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  6. #126
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    Quote Originally Posted by JuniperWoolf View Post
    That seems obvious to me as well. That doesn't mean Shakespeare was "bad," or tMoV was "bad," it just adds another layer to the play.
    Exactly. If we wanted to label every piece of literature/art that was racist, sexist, or whatever -ist you want bad, it wouldn't leave very much out of that category.

  7. #127
    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mutatis-Mutandi View Post
    Exactly. If we wanted to label every piece of literature/art that was racist, sexist, or whatever -ist you want bad, it wouldn't leave very much out of that category.
    I concur. The portrayal of Shylock is what we would class as anti-semitic. This does not mean that the play is bad or that we are calling Shakespeare a card-carrying member of the KKK- things that we would now call racist were widespread in the past.

  8. #128
    Registered User Delta40's Avatar
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    I guess as discussed before the concern is whether we end up on the slippery slope of de-valuing a great work because of its anti-semitism.
    Before sunlight can shine through a window, the blinds must be raised - American Proverb

  9. #129
    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    I think it is clear that the text is antisemitic. I don't see any reason to believe that Shakespeare was not antisemitic as well.

    The problem is this work is famous enough that it is potentially part of a school curriculum and it can be entertaining. So the question is how to we read this today?

    The Nazis, according to John Gross, accepted Shakespeare. Gross writes, "in September 1939 he was the one author exempt from the official ban on enemy dramatists." http://www.nytimes.com/1993/04/04/th...ted=all&src=pm Also, he writes:

    "The Merchant of Venice" enjoyed special popularity from the outset. In 1933 there were no less than 20 separate productions; between 1934 and 1939 there were another 30. The emphasis was in every case strongly anti-Semitic (how could it have been otherwise?), and there were commentators on hand to make sure that audiences did not miss any of the implications.

    So, one way of reading this is to justify any lingering antisemitism.

    The school district in which I live requires high school students to read the play, but this school district has a high Jewish influence. They make sure none of the antisemitism is missed.

    I have heard that other school districts have passed on making this text part of the required curriculum because of its antisemitism. After all, there are plenty of other things to read.

    As ordinary readers, who aren't required to read it, what should our attitudes to the play be? I think acknowledging the antisemitism is the least we can do.

  10. #130
    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
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    I don't understand why so many people think the play is not antisemitic. What about blackface and the black and white minstrels? I'd say they were pretty racist, even if there might have been some "sympathetic" portrayals. Same with Shylock.

  11. #131
    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kelby_lake View Post
    I don't understand why so many people think the play is not antisemitic. What about blackface and the black and white minstrels? I'd say they were pretty racist, even if there might have been some "sympathetic" portrayals. Same with Shylock.
    I think I agree with you. There are possibly other problems than antisemitism with the play.

    One of the things my daughter has mentioned about her language arts instuctor is that she knows how to get an A on her homework: just identify as much antisemitism, racism, or sexism that she can find in the text and she has the A in the bag. Actually, I'm glad she's learning to be aware of these things.

  12. #132
    Registered User Delta40's Avatar
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    Forgive me for asking this but anti-semitic or not, art should not prevent us from performing what is undeniable harsh truth on the basis of PC should it? I would be disappointed to know that plays cannot expose the realities which exist in the world today. I've written a play which focuses on the stolen children generation, where indigenous kids were torn from their families (only the less black ones) and placed in foster care during the White Australia Policy years. You're not suggesting that such truths be buried, such characters who woud compare 'abos' to an ape to remain silent are you?
    Before sunlight can shine through a window, the blinds must be raised - American Proverb

  13. #133
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    No . . . at least I'm not. Knowing the members of these forums, I doubt anyone else feels differently.

  14. #134
    Registered User Delta40's Avatar
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    Good. It's just that Yes/No said there were other problems with the play.
    Before sunlight can shine through a window, the blinds must be raised - American Proverb

  15. #135
    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Delta40 View Post
    Forgive me for asking this but anti-semitic or not, art should not prevent us from performing what is undeniable harsh truth on the basis of PC should it? I would be disappointed to know that plays cannot expose the realities which exist in the world today. I've written a play which focuses on the stolen children generation, where indigenous kids were torn from their families (only the less black ones) and placed in foster care during the White Australia Policy years. You're not suggesting that such truths be buried, such characters who woud compare 'abos' to an ape to remain silent are you?
    No, these truths should not be buried and a play is a good way to show them. I hope your play is successful.

    What would you think of a play that said it was a good thing that indigenous kids were torn from their families? Or in some way justified what happened?

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