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Merchant Of Venice Conclusion Free Essays - StudyMode
Yet that formal resolution has not defined the play’s actual impact—not now, not when I first read it as a college freshman, and probably not even in Shakespeare’s time. As I grasp more fully after a lifetime of immersion in Shakespeare, the uncomfortable experience I had when I was seventeen—the troubled identification with the play’s villain, even in the midst of my pleasurable absorption in its comic plot—did not finally depend on my particular identity or history. The cunning magic of the play was the disturbance it arouses in everyone. If Shylock had behaved himself and remained a mere comic foil—like Don John the Bastard, in “”—there would have been no disturbance. But Shakespeare conferred too much energy on his Jewish usurer for the boundaries of native and alien, us and them, to remain intact.
Shakespeare could in principle have heard about it, when he sat down to write his comedy; the ghetto had been in existence for some eighty years and there had been many English travellers to Venice. Indeed, there is evidence that the playwright took pains to gather information. For example, he did not have his Jewish characters swear by Muhammad, as fifteenth-century English playwrights did. He clearly grasped not only that Jewish dietary laws prohibited the eating of pork but also that observant Jews often professed to find the very smell of pork disagreeable. He marvellously imagined the way that a Jewish moneylender might use the Bible to construct a witty Midrashic justification of his own profit margin. He had learned that the Rialto was the site for news and for trade, and that Shylock would conduct business there.
Script of Act I Merchant of Venice The play by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare managed to register Shylock’s mordant sense of humor, the pain that shadowed his malevolence, his pride in his intelligence, his little household economies, his loneliness. We come to know these qualities for ourselves, not as mere concepts but as elements of our own experience. There’s good reason that most people think the Venetian merchant in the play’s title is the Jew.
The life that sweeps across the stage here includes, as well, sudden glimpses into parts of an existence that the plot by itself did not demand. When Shylock learns that his daughter exchanged a turquoise ring for a monkey—a turquoise ring that she stole from him, and that had been a gift from his dead wife, Leah, his anguish is unmistakable. “Thou torturest me,” he tells the friend who brought him the news. “It was my turquoise; I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor. I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys.” Are such glimpses enough to do away with hatred of the other? Not at all. But they begin an unsettling from within. Even now, more than four centuries later, the unsettling that the play provokes remains a beautiful and disturbing experience.
The Merchant of Venice - UK Essays | UKEssays
But Shakespeare seems not to have understood, or perhaps simply not to have been interested in, the fact that Venice had a ghetto. In whatever he read or heard about the city, he appears to have been struck far less by the separation of Jews and Christians than by the extent of their mutual intercourse. Though Shylock says that he will not pray with the Christians or eat their nonkosher food, he enumerates the many ways in which he routinely interacts with them. “I will buy with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following,” he declares. To audiences in England—a country that had expelled its entire Jewish population in the year 1290 and had allowed no Jews to return—those everyday interactions were the true novelty.
Shakespeare himself may have found it disturbing. He set out, it seems, to write a straightforward comedy, borrowed from Giovanni Fiorentino’s novella “Il Pecorone” (“The Big Sheep”), only to find himself increasingly drawn into the soul of the despised other. Shylock came perilously close to wrecking the comic structure of the play, a structure that Shakespeare only barely rescued by making the moneylender disappear for good at the end of the fourth act.
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