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#1
Old 09-02-2015, 07:37 PM
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Was Shakespeare anti-Semitic?

Hi,

There doesn't seem to any consensus on Shakespeare's opinion of Jews. Many scholars seems to be divided on the issue. The Merchant of Venice is often cited as either proof of Shakespeare's anti-Semitism or viewed as proof that he wasn't because he showed Shylock's "humanity", citing the oft quoted lines "I am a Jew. Hath
not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions?...." as justification for the manner in which Shylock behaves. What I never see mentioned of is the presence of converted Jews.

Couldn't there would have been people living in England in Shakespeare's day who were descended from forcibly converted Jews(not all of them necessarily whole-heatedly true converts to Christianity)? And besides, for anti-Semitism to be prevalent in a country doesn't require the presence of Jews. There were centuries of anti-Semitic literature and folklore (which Shakespeare would have been exposed to) in England to ensure that.
I look forward to your feedback.
davidmich
#2
Old 09-02-2015, 07:56 PM
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There were Jewish converts in England at the time, and in fact, just a few years before the performance of the Merchant of Venice, one of the big news stories was the execution of Rodrigo/Roger Lopez, the Queen's doctor, a Portuguese convert from Judaism, who was accused of plotting her death.

The Lopez case brought about a revival of anti-Semitic sentiments in England, and caused a encore performance of Marlowe's "The Jew of Malta", and probably was one of the reasons that Shakespeare wrote "The Merchant of Venice".
#3
Old 09-02-2015, 08:15 PM
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We're never going to know because really all we know about Shakespeare, aside from some mundane details about his personal life, is through his plays and his poems. And "The Merchant of Venice" is deliberately ambiguous. Shakespeare's plays positively brim with themes related to moderation, temperament, and reason. If I had to guess, and it's just a guess, he would likely have seen a Jew-hating craze as being silly and irrational, and his use of Shylock as a villain while also including his famous speech was a way to both capitalize on the dislike of Jews while asking an uncomfortable question. It's been pointed out that not only does Shylock get the best speech, but the "trial" that brings him low is a preposterous kangaroo affair that would have seemed silly to anyone even then.

But in that time and place, being nice about someone's race or religion wasn't even a thing. "Anti-Semite" in the sense we use the term today makes sense only in the context of a society where tolerance of others is even a common concept, which, then, it wasn't. That certainly wasn't the case in Elizabethan and Jacobian England where, I have to point out, they were living in a world where just being a slightly different kind of CHRISTIAN was enough to fight wars and burn people at the stake, and your social status determined how much and what kind of fabric you could legally wear. Jews were, by law, banned from England. Legal or moral equality in the sense we today know it was as unknown to them as airplanes. Being "anti-Semitic" by our standards was in Shakespeare's time not even a concept; Jews were about one step away from space aliens to an Elizabethan Englishperson.
#4
Old 09-02-2015, 08:32 PM
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When You've Got Friends And Neighbours, You're The Richest Man In Town

Some people think he was jewish, or descended from jews himself. This is as likely as similar claims for many others.

There are also claims that he was black, or catholic, or a woman, or an aristocrat --- on the grounds that an ordinary person of the lower middle-class wouldn't have had the intelligence --- etc. etc.. These too shall pass.



As for 'forcibly converted jews' in England, the jewish population was expelled in 1290; allowed to take money and goods, but with their land and houses confiscated ( of course they could have prudently converted this to cash they could take with them... Those who remained did convert, but that was not 'forcible' conversion, any more than those given the chance to convert to Islam or pay the non-muslim tax.

Any of those still living would have been rather old; but no doubt their descendants had just continued as happy christians, intermarried, and forgotten any jewish heritage. ( Which is why I believe every european must have some jewish blood. ) There were no Marranos covertly practising their rites in secret in mediaeval England.


There were conversos from abroad, as the Captain says, and I've never heard of them being persecuted for that. Most people wouldn't have met jews in the country at large until maybe the 18th century, long after they were allowed back ( and in Scotland, a tiny poor country with few inhabitants, not until the early 19th century ).




Most christians --- not just in Britain --- would have been exposed to the myths against jews ( Christ-killers etc., child murderers --- Hugh of Lincoln ) but not felt at all deeply about these probably mythical beings, except in those parts of the continent that had them as neighbours and resented them. I understand some jewish sects resented their christian or muslim neighbours as a balance, and might have been equally intolerant had they been the majority. People suck regardless of their religion.
#5
Old 09-02-2015, 08:51 PM
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By modern standards, he would almost certainly qualify as antisemitic, but then, who in his day wouldn't? He certainly had at least some sympathy for the Jews, though, and his play is a lot more understanding than Marlowe's.
#6
Old 09-02-2015, 09:49 PM
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There were Jews in England who converted at sword point to save themselves during the Coronation Massacre. They may have just surrendered. But this was forced conversion nonetheless.

http://ddickerson.igc.org/cliffords-tower.html
CORONATION OF KING RICHARD I
"Many who essayed to escaped were ruthlessly butchered; others, among them Jacob of Orleans, slew themselves when the alternative was baptism. A few Jews, however, saved themselves by this alternative; one of these [was] the rich Benedict of York . . . . The riot lasted twenty-four hours; the chief justice and some noblemen, whom the king sent to quell the disorder, were forced to withdraw. "
#7
Old 09-02-2015, 10:58 PM
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It's possible to read Shylock as being in the wrong by pursuing his "bond" without it being a reflection on his whole faith.

I read of a production which used a nice touch: during the trial scene, Shylock's friend Tubal was onstage with him, pleading for him to forget the bond and not take his rage out on Antonio. When it became clear that Shylock was hell-bent on his revenge, Tubal stormed out in disgust.

The Michael Radford film in 2005 did something similar in the trial scene--having Shylock's neighbors pleading with him to accept the money and forget the bond. Both of these are a nice shorthand for "Judaism isn't the problem--Shylock himself is."

Last edited by Hermione; 09-02-2015 at 10:59 PM.
#8
Old 09-02-2015, 11:00 PM
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#9
Old 09-02-2015, 11:03 PM
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Originally Posted by davidmich View Post
There were Jews in England who converted at sword point to save themselves during the Coronation Massacre. They may have just surrendered. But this was forced conversion nonetheless.

http://ddickerson.igc.org/cliffords-tower.html
CORONATION OF KING RICHARD I
"Many who essayed to escaped were ruthlessly butchered; others, among them Jacob of Orleans, slew themselves when the alternative was baptism. A few Jews, however, saved themselves by this alternative; one of these [was] the rich Benedict of York . . . . The riot lasted twenty-four hours; the chief justice and some noblemen, whom the king sent to quell the disorder, were forced to withdraw. "

That would have been almost exactly 100 years before their expulsion in 1290. As far removed from Shakespeare's time as his from us.
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#10
Old 09-03-2015, 02:17 AM
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Originally Posted by davidmich View Post
Hi,

There doesn't seem to any consensus on Shakespeare's opinion of Jews. Many scholars seems to be divided on the issue. The Merchant of Venice is often cited as either proof of Shakespeare's anti-Semitism or viewed as proof that he wasn't because he showed Shylock's "humanity", citing the oft quoted lines "I am a Jew. Hath
not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions?...." as justification for the manner in which Shylock behaves. What I never see mentioned of is the presence of converted Jews.

Couldn't there would have been people living in England in Shakespeare's day who were descended from forcibly converted Jews(not all of them necessarily whole-heatedly true converts to Christianity)? And besides, for anti-Semitism to be prevalent in a country doesn't require the presence of Jews. There were centuries of anti-Semitic literature and folklore (which Shakespeare would have been exposed to) in England to ensure that.
I look forward to your feedback.
davidmich

As has been stated there were numerous converted Jews particularly in London. It's also impossible to tell what Shakespeare's personal beliefs were on almost any subject. The few things we can tell suggest that in his actions in life were well within the compass of your average Elizabethan mindset - in his Will he attempted to leave his goods & property to male members of his family over female ones, he hated paying taxes, and his sonnets may show misogynistic tendencies (if the sonnets are to be taken as auto-biographical).

The "hath not a Jew hands" speech is primarily concerned with what we would today call animalistic, natural senses - pain, sight, death, poison, cooling, warming etc. It is not about conscience, charity or any sort of personal quality of the individual or group.

Im one of those who rails against the attempt at creating Shakespeare in our own image. The Victorians tried to do it, as did the Edwardians, the Nazis, liberals, conservatives, reactionaries, libertarians, feminists, Semites, anti-semites and so on. We all want Shakespeare to confirm our own beliefs.

If you were to put a gun to my head I would say Shakespeare was perhaps less anti-semitic than most of Elizabeth society, but I cannot say he was entirely without anti-semitic prejudice. He was a man of his age as much as he was for all time.
#11
Old 09-03-2015, 02:58 AM
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Originally Posted by RickJay View Post
Being "anti-Semitic" by our standards was in Shakespeare's time not even a concept; Jews were about one step away from space aliens to an Elizabethan Englishperson.
Diverging from the Shakespeare topic; but this brings to mind a a delightful reminiscence I read, by a woman born into the tiny Jewish community in the Irish Republic in the mid-20th century. In her classes at school, she was the single exception on an otherwise 100% Catholic scene. A former schoolfellow said to her -- in a completely non-hostile way -- "We loved having you as a classmate. It was fascinating -- like having a Martian with us in the class". The lady's response was along the lines of a slightly bemused, "Well, thank you, I suppose".
#12
Old 09-03-2015, 05:51 AM
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RE OP: Oh, for goodness sake ...
#13
Old 09-03-2015, 06:38 AM
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I agree that we shouldn't judge Shakespeare (or Chaucer for that matter think: "The Prioress's Tale") by our moral standards of today. There was no virtue in tolerance of other beliefs. Although there were people who spoke out against the harsh treatment of Jews, those same people still held what we would call anti-Semitic views.
#14
Old 09-03-2015, 07:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Fuzzy_wuzzy View Post
The Victorians tried to do it, as did the Edwardians, the Nazis, liberals, conservatives, reactionaries, libertarians, feminists, Semites, anti-semites and so on.
Don't forget the Klingons.
#15
Old 09-03-2015, 08:51 AM
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, those same people still held what we would call anti-Semitic views.
I've mislaid the email, as you seem to be on top of all this can you remind me who "we" is?
#16
Old 09-03-2015, 09:05 AM
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Sane people who take part in modern society.
#17
Old 09-03-2015, 09:21 AM
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You see I had this idea that Shakespeare was writing fiction and the storylines and characters reflected the society, not the views of the writer.

But now I have seen the light and will attempt to take my place in modern society.
#18
Old 09-03-2015, 10:08 AM
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It does not reflect on Shakespeare (or any other author) at all that he depicts most Christians as despising Jews, because that's accurate. It does reflect on Shakespeare (or any other author) if he himself depicts Jews as despicable.
#19
Old 09-03-2015, 10:16 AM
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Can I press your scholarly insight a little further; did you mean he depicts Jewish characters as despicable? I'm not familiar with his factual works.
#20
Old 09-03-2015, 11:32 AM
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By modern standards, he would almost certainly qualify as antisemitic, but then, who in his day wouldn't? He certainly had at least some sympathy for the Jews, though, and his play is a lot more understanding than Marlowe's.
And how. The guy in The Jew of Malta is ridiculous. The Merchant of Venice looks positively enlightened next to that.
#21
Old 09-03-2015, 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
By modern standards, he would almost certainly qualify as antisemitic, but then, who in his day wouldn't?
Right. The most likely correct answer to the OP's question is "not especially."
#22
Old 09-03-2015, 12:11 PM
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The best answer, as with all things related to Shakespeare, is "it's complicated." Or, to be more specific, "yes by our standards, probably not by the standards of his own society."

Shakespeare depicts three Jewish characters, all of whom appear in the same play, The Merchant of Venice. One of them, Jessica, is basically depicted as a good person. (She does some things that are morally questionable by early modern standards, such as marrying without the consent of her father and stealing some of his property, but the play itself does not condemn these actions.) Another one, Tubal, is a minor character who doesn't say or do anything that clearly marks him as "good" or "bad" in the text, although, as Hermione points out, directors can make more substantive choices with this character in performance. Then there's Shylock. He's the antagonist, and he's legitimately an unpleasant, bitter, vengeful person who tries to kill Antonio; but, on the other hand, we know enough about the reasons for his anger and vindictiveness to make it clear that "he's just evil because he's a Jew" is NOT the correct explanation for his actions (although Antonio, and other Christian characters, do read him that way). Shylock argues, plausibly, that he's acquired his vengefulness because of his treatment, and the treatment of Jews in general, at the hands of Christians:
Quote:
If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian
wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.
Nothing we see in the play suggests that this argument, or the other examples of Christian hypocrisy that Shylock cites (e.g., slave-owning), are meant to be read by the audience as false. In fact, Antonio admits that he has spit on and kicked Shylock, and would gladly do it again; in the scene that sets up their antagonism, Antonio is clearly asking for exactly what he ends up getting. (Although Shylock seems to dislike Christians in general, Antonio is the only one he actively tries to harm.)

So, I'd argue that Shakespeare does not depict Jews as inherently evil or despicable. He doesn't, however, depict all religions as equally valid -- there isn't ever any real question that Christianity is supposed to be superior. Jessica voluntarily converts to Christianity when she marries a Christian, and the play celebrates this conversion, treating it as part of her happy ending. Shylock is forced to convert, although the play does seem to register that this conversion is morally questionable (Shylock's exit line, "I pray you, give me leave to go from hence / I am not well" can have a LOT of bite in performance). Still, there's nothing in there that suggests Shakespeare meant for us to give these conversions anything other than the standard, early-modern Christian reading: it's good when non-Christians convert to Christianity because this is the only way they can receive eternal salvation. Needless to say, they're usually depicted as WAY more problematic on the modern stage.

There's also some casual, background anti-Semitism in other plays; for the most part, it's depicted rather than endorsed, but in at least one case it comes from a character the audience is clearly supposed to like and admire: Benedick's remark in Much Ado that "if I do not take pity of [Beatrice] I am a villain; if I do not love her, I am a Jew." Shakespeare doesn't seem to have thought his audience would have seen anything wrong with this line. Most modern audiences, obviously, do (and it is generally cut in modern productions).
#23
Old 09-03-2015, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
By modern standards, he would almost certainly qualify as antisemitic, but then, who in his day wouldn't?
Other Jews? Assuming that "everyone" means "everyone except Jews" is an odd bias akin to saying things like "Americans were pretty much OK with slavery in the 1700s", ignoring the fact that millions of African slaves were also Americans and they were not at all OK with slavery.
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Old 09-03-2015, 02:17 PM
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No. But, as read in its original Klingon, he was clearly anti Ferengi.
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Old 09-03-2015, 02:19 PM
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How can anybody know the mindset of somebody who writes fiction? Maybe he wrote from the PoV of an antisemite but wasn't one himself. The fact that his work transcends the test of time and is taught and performed universally says more than whatever his feelings may have been towards a certain racial group. People just like to look for reasons to be offended I guess.
#26
Old 09-03-2015, 02:22 PM
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Actually that makes me laugh.

It's fun to turn the argument around; in a world that was awash in slavery and ignorance the issue is whether Shakespeare was a hand-wringing, card carrying, hair shirt wearing "modern day" liberal.

A: who fucking knows and the question doesn't make sense anyway.

Last edited by up_the_junction; 09-03-2015 at 02:25 PM.
#27
Old 09-03-2015, 02:52 PM
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Enough of the threadshitting. If you think the topic is stupid, don't post about it and stay out of the thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by up_the_junction View Post
RE OP: Oh, for goodness sake ...
Quote:
Originally Posted by up_the_junction View Post
Actually that makes me laugh.

It's fun to turn the argument around; in a world that was awash in slavery and ignorance the issue is whether Shakespeare was a hand-wringing, card carrying, hair shirt wearing "modern day" liberal.

A: who fucking knows and the question doesn't make sense anyway.

Last edited by IvoryTowerDenizen; 09-03-2015 at 02:52 PM.
#28
Old 09-03-2015, 03:39 PM
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It's totally idiotic to say Shakespeare was anti-Semitic. Sure, Shylock has often been played/directed as a stereotype - but the actual script of Merchant of Venice very clearly goes directly against the main classic stereotypes.

You know the core stereotype of the cunning, underhanded Jew, all devious and sly? Shylock is the only main character in that play who never does anything devious. He, unlike everyone else, is constantly upfront. Everyone else is going behind people's backs and stealing and splitting hairs and weaseling out of things and pretending to be something they're not and playing tricks to mess each other about. Shylock makes a straight-up bargain and then sticks to it. The people who go all slippery and devious with the small print are the Christians.

There's no way in hell that's just accidental on Shakespeare's part. Shakespeare didn't do accidental, specially not with the very heart of the play.

And while we're at it, you know the physical stereotype of the stooping, whining, obsequious Jew? Here's Shylock:

[...] Moneys is your suit.
What should I say to you? Should I not say,
'Hath a dog money? is it possible
A cur can lend three thousand ducats?' Or
Shall I bend low and in a bondman's key,
With bated breath and whispering humbleness,
Say this:
'Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last;
You spurn'd me such a day; another time
You call'd me dog; and for these courtesies
I'll lend you thus much moneys'?

'Shall I bend low' makes it clear not only that Shylock is aware of the stereotype of the stooping Jew, but that he is not in fact stooping. Same for 'shall I [...] in a bondman's key, with bated breath and whispering humbleness, say this': it's absolutely clear both that Shylock is aware of the obsequious, whining stereotype, and that he isn't doing it.

Again, there's no way that's accidental. Because they had very little rehearsal time, Shakespeare used the dialogue to give his actors clues on how to play the characters. A clue like that in the dialogue is deliberate. Anyone who ignores it to play, direct or imagine Shylock as stooping and fawning is forcing his own stereotypes onto the script.

That's without even starting on the big speech. Or the fact that he makes it clear that Shylock's vengefulness is directly caused by Christian cruelty.
#29
Old 09-03-2015, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by eclectic wench View Post
The people who go all slippery and devious with the small print are the Christians.
Isn't it Shylock's daughter who figures out the "no blood" loophole in Shylock getting his pound of flesh? She's still Jewish at that point in the play, IIRC, so it's not only Christians looking at the small print.

But overall, your point is well made.
#30
Old 09-03-2015, 04:23 PM
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I don't think Portia's father is alive. At any rate, Portia is the one who disguises herself as a judge, not Jessica.
#31
Old 09-03-2015, 04:23 PM
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I thought it was Portia who noticed that. Lemme go check.
#32
Old 09-03-2015, 04:28 PM
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Probably my mistake - haven't read the play since college.
#33
Old 09-03-2015, 04:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Miller View Post
Isn't it Shylock's daughter who figures out the "no blood" loophole in Shylock getting his pound of flesh? She's still Jewish at that point in the play, IIRC, so it's not only Christians looking at the small print.

But overall, your point is well made.
No, that's Portia. (Dressed up as a male lawyer.)
#34
Old 09-03-2015, 05:11 PM
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I think part of the problem is that we're used to thinking of classical dramas, in particular, in terms of The Bad Guys and The Good Guys. If you only think in terms of the conventional pattern (Good Guy wants something, Bad Guy tries to fuck him over, Good Guy triumphs), then Bassanio and Antonio must be the good guys, right, and Shylock must be the villain - so we must be supposed to see everything Bassanio and Antonio do as 'good', and everything Shylock does as 'evil'.

If you read the script without trying to force it into that pattern - just read what's actually there - it's much more complex, and it's hard to argue that any of the main characters is being portrayed as 'the force for good' or 'the force for evil'. They're people.
#35
Old 09-03-2015, 07:26 PM
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I thought these points were quite useful in getting to grips with the Shylock character.

Fretful Porpentine

"So, I'd argue that Shakespeare does not depict Jews as inherently evil or despicable. He doesn't, however, depict all religions as equally valid -- there isn't ever any real question that Christianity is supposed to be superior."

Shakespear's audience (Christian) would have thought of themselves as superior to Jews. So the play reflects his time.

eclectic wench

"Shylock is the only main character in that play who never does anything devious. He, unlike everyone else, is constantly upfront."

If Shylock had simply be the stereotypical Jew, it would just have been another "The Jew of Malta" and we wouldn't be really discussing it today. The fact that he does play the stereotypical Jew out for his "pound of flesh" but not in the stereotypical cartoonish way Jews were often portrayed in his day, gives his character more depth and a human quality.
#36
Old 09-03-2015, 07:29 PM
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I think, ultimately, Merchant has a Christian message. Shylock is the stereotypical Jew; stubborn, defiant, and ultimately with a rules-based mindset. The play is the triumph of Christianity over Judaism; the triumph of mercy over law What makes Shylock a villain in the play, and he is the villain in the play, is that he doesn't accept Christ or the message of Christ. That's the same reason Jessica, while Jewish, isn't the villain, because she's saved by her love for Lorenzo, which is enough to convert her. In Merchant, Jews aren't condemned for being Jews, but for rejecting Jesus. This is also a dig on the Spanish and their persecution of the "New Christians"...the descendants of those Jews who converted to Christianity. And that's seen in the text, where Lancelot torments Jessica, and her defense:

Quote:
Launcelot Gobbo. Yes, truly; for, look you, the sins of the father
are to be laid upon the children: therefore, I
promise ye, I fear you. I was always plain with
you, and so now I speak my agitation of the matter:
therefore be of good cheer, for truly I think you
are damned. There is but one hope in it that can do
you any good; and that is but a kind of bastard
hope neither.
Jessica. And what hope is that, I pray thee?
Launcelot Gobbo. Marry, you may partly hope that your father got you 1850
not, that you are not the Jew's daughter.
Jessica. That were a kind of bastard hope, indeed: so the
sins of my mother should be visited upon me.
Launcelot Gobbo. Truly then I fear you are damned both by father and
mother: thus when I shun Scylla, your father, I
fall into Charybdis, your mother: well, you are
gone both ways.
Jessica. I shall be saved by my husband; he hath made me a
Christian.
Launcelot Gobbo. Truly, the more to blame he: we were Christians
enow before; e'en as many as could well live, one by
another. This making Christians will raise the
price of hogs: if we grow all to be pork-eaters, we
shall not shortly have a rasher on the coals for money.
#37
Old 09-03-2015, 08:22 PM
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Quoth John Mace:

Other Jews? Assuming that "everyone" means "everyone except Jews" is an odd bias akin to saying things like "Americans were pretty much OK with slavery in the 1700s", ignoring the fact that millions of African slaves were also Americans and they were not at all OK with slavery.
I expect that even many Jews of the time were probably antisemitic, though not of course in the same ways that Christians were. Certainly, many blacks in the age of slavery were racist against blacks. But no, not all of them in either case, and certainly there were a significant number of Jews who weren't antisemitic. And probably at least some non-Jews, too, though they might have had to keep that secret.
#38
Old 09-04-2015, 03:09 AM
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Enough of the threadshitting. If you think the topic is stupid, don't post about it and stay out of the thread.
This is as good analysis of this thread as is Chronos' verdict of Shakespeare - it's not good. And it was Chronos who stated - out of no where - that only "sane" people would hold the revisionist view. Others have mentioned Kilingons.

Until I spoke up uneducated revisionism prevailed in this discussion. Thankfully, more informed views have subsequently intervened.

I have attacked no one while helping to bring the discussion to firmer ground.

Last edited by up_the_junction; 09-04-2015 at 03:13 AM.
#39
Old 09-04-2015, 03:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Captain Amazing View Post
I think, ultimately, Merchant has a Christian message. Shylock is the stereotypical Jew; stubborn, defiant, and ultimately with a rules-based mindset. The play is the triumph of Christianity over Judaism; the triumph of mercy over law What makes Shylock a villain in the play, and he is the villain in the play, is that he doesn't accept Christ or the message of Christ. That's the same reason Jessica, while Jewish, isn't the villain, because she's saved by her love for Lorenzo, which is enough to convert her. In Merchant, Jews aren't condemned for being Jews, but for rejecting Jesus. This is also a dig on the Spanish and their persecution of the "New Christians"...the descendants of those Jews who converted to Christianity. And that's seen in the text, where Lancelot torments Jessica, and her defense:
I cannot agree. The audience is supposed to have sympathy with Shylock. Even in the case of Jessica, her selling of his late wifes ring is supposed to be a bad thing.
#40
Old 09-04-2015, 04:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by up_the_junction View Post
This is as good analysis of this thread as is Chronos' verdict of Shakespeare - it's not good. And it was Chronos who stated - out of no where - that only "sane" people would hold the revisionist view. Others have mentioned Kilingons.

Until I spoke up uneducated revisionism prevailed in this discussion. Thankfully, more informed views have subsequently intervened.

I have attacked no one while helping to bring the discussion to firmer ground.
Threadshitting is declaring the topic too stupid or wrong for discussion, which is actually what you did.

No one accused of attacking anyone and contrary discussion is not prohibited. You did not move the discussion forward; you tried to shut it down with your responses.

Any further discussion of my moderation should be taken to ATMB.

Last edited by IvoryTowerDenizen; 09-04-2015 at 04:44 AM.
#41
Old 09-04-2015, 05:54 AM
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http://slate.com/articles/arts/c...ck.single.html
"The most common defense of Shylock rests on a reading of his best-known speech, which asks plaintively "If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?" This speech, the reading goes, is a multicultural plea to see all people, Jews and gentiles, as equals. The problem with this interpretation is that, like so many of Shylock's monologues, this speech is actually a piece of rhetoric. In this case, it is a piece of rhetoric designed explicitly to justify one simple point: Not that Jews are like everyone else, but that Jews, like everyone else, are entitled to their revenge. Shylock's series of questions are a preamble to this crucial point: "And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that."

...Shylock may have started as a simple archetypeóbased on Marlowe's prototypical Jewish villainóbut Shakespeare couldn't help but make him more complex and compelling. Other productions that have set out to be faithful to the original play have gone further in portraying Shylock as a vile stick figure, but that too does the play a disservice.
.. He is not a likable hero, but no victim either.
#42
Old 09-04-2015, 06:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IvoryTowerDenizen View Post
Threadshitting is declaring the topic too stupid or wrong for discussion, which is actually what you did.

No one accused of attacking anyone and contrary discussion is not prohibited. You did not move the discussion forward; you tried to shut it down with your responses.

Any further discussion of my moderation should be taken to ATMB.
It's not worth it, which is part of the point.

To conclude, we're left with the authoritative view that "sane" "modern day" people treat the dramatic works of Shakespeare, and in particular the views and actions of dramatic characters, as Shakespeare's personal views and therefore he was an anti-Semite.

And just as a reminder, this board is about fighting ignorance.
#43
Old 09-04-2015, 08:26 AM
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Who claimed that? All I said was that the views Shakespeare held of Jews are views that sane modern people would regard as antisemitic. And sane modern people do indeed find it antisemitic to regard Jews as money-grubbing usurers.
#44
Old 09-04-2015, 09:03 AM
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Mod Hat On

up_the_junction: Enough of this hijack.

You are confusing debate with threadshitting (and now being insulting). If you cannot distinguish between the two it is best you refrain from posting in this thread.

Anymore discussion about this needs to be taken to ATMB or a warning will be issued.

Everyone else: Let's drop the hijack regarding what "sane people" believe and get back to the topic at hand.



Quote:
Originally Posted by up_the_junction View Post
It's not worth it, which is part of the point.

To conclude, we're left with the authoritative view that "sane" "modern day" people treat the dramatic works of Shakespeare, and in particular the views and actions of dramatic characters, as Shakespeare's personal views and therefore he was an anti-Semite.

And just as a reminder, this board is about fighting ignorance.

Last edited by IvoryTowerDenizen; 09-04-2015 at 09:04 AM.
#45
Old 09-04-2015, 09:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Who claimed that? All I said was that the views Shakespeare held of Jews are views that sane modern people would regard as antisemitic. And sane modern people do indeed find it antisemitic to regard Jews as money-grubbing usurers.
But Jews were money-grubbing usurers. Money grubbing usury was illegal in England at the time. Shakespeare's own father had been denounced to the authorities as a usurer. According to scripture Jews were permitted to charge interest to non Jews on monetary loans. Those modern people apalled at Shakespeare depicting Jews as usurers need reminding of the usury laws of the time. Laws which lead to Christians to view many Jews as Shylock type characters(not that they necessarily needed much evidence to confirm their anti-semitism).

Please note I am not saying all Jews were usurers. Simply that the usury laws existed, and that Shakespeare might see a terrific drama/comedy/tragedy out of the conflict.
#46
Old 09-04-2015, 05:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidmich View Post
The fact that he does play the stereotypical Jew out for his "pound of flesh" but not in the stereotypical cartoonish way Jews were often portrayed in his day, gives his character more depth and a human quality.
The stereotypical Jew would have been out for money, as much of it as he could get. Shylock specifically isn't in this for the money. When Portia tells him 'Shylock, there's thrice thy money offered thee,' he turns it down.

Look, Shylock is not a nice guy. You don't get the urge to go for a few pints and a chat with him. But 'writing a Jewish character who isn't a saint' is an entirely different thing from 'being anti-Semitic'. It's not like all the Jewish characters are horrible: the play has one 'good' Jewish character (Jessica); one neutral one (Tubal); and one nasty one (Shylock). And in the case of the nasty one, it's made blindingly clear that a) he's nasty not because he's Jewish, but because he's taken so much abuse, and b) he specifically does not conform to the stereotypes.
#47
Old 09-04-2015, 07:15 PM
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I've read arguments that Shylock is just a wronged man who happens to be Jewish,and the argument runs along the lines of "Wouldn't you react like Shylock if others like Antonio had treated you the same way? I don't buy it. The Merchant of Venice was written at a time when anti-Semitism was definitely strong (think: the Dr. Lopez Plot) and religion a mainstay in people's lives. The play without a character like Shylock who plays to a large degree to the stereotypical Jew but with a degree of difference to earn our sympathy only to lose it again when he like the stereotypical Jew won't compromise and show some humanity towards his debtor.
#48
Old 09-06-2015, 03:36 PM
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I don't get why you asked the question to begun with. You seem to have made up your mind that Shakespeare was anti-semitic and Shylock was written as a stereotype with some modifications, to the point where you've got no interest in what the text actually says.

I've never heard of a Jewish stereotype that included 'being a stickler for the law' or 'emphasising justice over mercy'. To the extent that those characteristics are associated with Jewish people, I'm betting it's purely because of Shylock, rather than the other way around. Do you know of a single pre-Shylock reference to any such stereotype?
#49
Old 09-06-2015, 03:42 PM
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Quote:
I've never heard of a Jewish stereotype that included 'being a stickler for the law'...
What, really? Judaism is, at its foundation, a legalistic religion, and Jews are overrepresented among lawyers.
#50
Old 09-06-2015, 03:57 PM
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Nope, never heard it. I'm totally willing to believe I've just missed it along the way, though, which is why I asked davidmich if there are any pre-Shylock references to it.

I've definitely heard of the Jewish-lawyer stereotype, but the version I've always heard has the Jewish lawyer as the slippery type who focuses on loopholes and small print. Which, again, in Merchant of Venice is the province of the Gentile characters and the exact opposite of Shylock.
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