Non-Denial Denial of Love

At the opening of The Merchant of Venice, Antonio cannot explain his sad state. His friends attempt to explain his sadness, citing his business risks (his merchant ships on excursions); when Antonio tells them that his “merchandise makes (him) not sad” (I.i.45), however, they jump to a different conclusion: “Why then you are in love” (I.i.46). In an interesting example of antilabe (shared line), Antonio answers, “Fie, fie!” (I.i.46). What makes that interesting is the syllable count of the line:

 ~     /   /   /  ~   /
Why, then you are in love.

                                 ~    /
                                Fie, fie!

There are only eight syllables, meaning Antonio must pause a beat before answering.

Is this a non-denial denial of love?

As If Anti-Semiticism Wasn’t Bad Enough

So, if The Merchant of Venice is not an anti-Semitic play, then it’s peopled by anti-Semites. What’s more is that they’re equal-opportunity racists as well.
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Prelude to the Trial

Not sure if one entry can do it (especially on a busy day like today), but let’s dive into the trial scene from The Merchant of Venice.

By far the longest scene in the play–dwarfing Act Three, Scene Two’s depiction of Bassanio choosing the right casket by nearly 130 lines–Act Four, Scene One is, at 455 lines, also the longest Act Four, Scene One in the Canon.

If any opening could further paint Shylock negatively (and Antonio positively) in preparation for the Jew’s comeuppance, this is it. The Duke of Venice announces his pity (“sorry” [IV.i.3]) for Antonio, and describes Shylock as

A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch
Uncapable of pity, void and empty
From any dram of mercy.

— IV.i.4-6

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Podcast 53: The Mechant of Venice… the DVDs, Part One

This week’s podcast continues our month-long discussion of The Merchant of Venice with some reviews of DVDs of Merchant productions, and we finish up with our usual recap of this week’s blog entries.
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Hate of Jews

I really don’t want to get into the question of whether or not The Merchant of Venice is an anti-Semitic play (at least not at the moment). But I think it’s safe to say that the Venice of the play is a very anti-Semitic place.
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Yesterday, we saw Antonio’s Christianity as the root cause of Shylock’s antipathy toward The Merchant of Venice. However, at the end of the entry, we hinted at another reason, and here it is:

I hate him for he is a Christian,
But more for that in low simplicity
He lends out money gratis and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice.
If I can catch him once upon the hip,
I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.
He hates our sacred nation, and he rails,
Even there where merchants most do congregate,
On me, my bargains and my well-won thrift,
Which he calls interest. Cursed be my tribe,
If I forgive him!

— I.iii.38-49

Continue reading “Gratis”

Shylock: A First Vision

When we meet Shylock (talking to Bassanio in Act One, Scene Three of The Merchant of Venice), he is in pure money-lending mode–discussing the amount, the length, and surety of the loan (and pondering the risks). When Bassanio asks Shylock if he would like to have dinner with him and Antonio, Shylock responds,

Yes, to smell pork; to eat of the habitation which your prophet the Nazarite conjured the devil into. I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following, but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.

— I.iii.31-35

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Jews: A Shakespearean History

OK, let’s get going on this whole antisemitic angle of The Merchant of Venice … or at least the whole Jewish Question.

Shylock is a Jew. He is the antagonist of the play, and thus a major character.

But what did Shakespeare know of Jews?

Not a whole lot.
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