The nature of anti semitism in the merchant of venice a play by william shakespeare

In fact, the most quoted Shakespearian lines about Jews are usually considered philosemitic: I am a Jew.

The nature of anti semitism in the merchant of venice a play by william shakespeare

What the Yiddish Actors Saw By David Basch for there is not a man that has not his hour, and there is not a thing that has not its place. What is ironic about this high status is that it yet allows for the taint of an unseemly anti-Semitism alleged to be found in his play, The Merchant of Venice.

This intrudes as so disturbing and inconsistent a blot on his reputation that it has encouraged attempts to soften its impact if not to entirely explain it away.

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The most common strategy used for this has been to suggest that it would have been virtually impossible for even the best of men to altogether escape the Elizabethan period's unsavory attitudes toward Jews.

Hence, a balanced view would be contented by the fact that the poet's genius occasionally overrode this hateful bias by his strong expressions of sympathy for the Jew in his play. In fact, there is no shortage of episodes that tell that this play does not neatly fit into the category of anti-Semitic literature.

Episodes, such as Shylock's famous speech, "Hath not a Jew eyes? Especially interesting are scenes in the play that seem critical of Shylock's enemies. For example, there is one in which Jessica, Shylock's apostate daughter, is eloping with a Christian and has just finished robbing her father.

At that very moment, one of her companions praises her deed, declaring, "Now, by my hood, a Gentile and no Jew. Can anyone believe that the great poet did not know the implication of this line? Hardly so, since, after all, he is known to have taken infinite care in choosing his words.

This would be puzzling in this play if the intent were to express a raw anti-Semitism. But the problem with this charitable view of Shakespeare is that, again and again, it runs up against Shylock the money lender's infamous "bond of flesh" penalty clause.

This is a clause that he suddenly introduces into his loan agreement with Antonio, the Christian merchant. It stipulated that, in case the merchant defaulted on his loan, Shylock had the right to take a pound "from his flesh.

On the surface, this bizarre clause suggests some secret, diabolical intent on the Jew's part, something evil coming from a cruel heart. As scholar James Shapiro observed Shakespeare and The Jews, this kind of thinking about Jews as demonic, scheming, and cruel had a long history in England, though Jews had been banished from the country for almost years.

What is more, at the time of Shakespeare's play, hysteria concerning Jews was reaching new heights as a result of a trumped up plot against Dr.

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Ruy Lopez, Queen Elizabeth's physician of Jewish descent, alleging that he tried to murder her. Given this background, it would not seem unlikely that Shakespeare either had succumbed to such attitudes about Jews or would have put it in his play as something of timely interest for his audience.

While this lapse may diminish the moral stature of the poet, it at least seems to have afforded his genius an opportunity for some redemption by spurring him to add the countervailing human touches that have been observed.

Shylock - Wikipedia Shalah is the grandson of Shem and the father of Eberbiblical progenitor of Hebrew peoples. Sitemap Depending on whom you ask, it also remains one of his most repulsive. Antonio borrows the money for his friend Bassanio, who needs it to court the wealthy Portia.
Shylock - Wikipedia What the Yiddish Actors Saw By David Basch for there is not a man that has not his hour, and there is not a thing that has not its place.
Reprints › Shylock flat out states that he believes that Antonio treats him poorly because Shylock is Jewish.

Nevertheless, to this very day, the play carries a lingering anti-Semitic flavor. It is therefore interesting that, what comes as a surprise to many who are exposed to the play for the first time, is how pleasantly engaging is the talkative Shylock in his meeting with merchant Antonio and his friend Bassanio as they discuss a loan.

It is after much spirited discussion that ends up in a conciliatory, friendly mood between them that Shylock, in finalizing his surprising offer to give Antonio a free loan, introduces the bond of flesh penalty.

William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice () - Rotten Tomatoes

He refers to it as a "merry sport" something not to be taken seriously. So impressed is Antonio with Shylock's kindness in giving him a free loan that he dismisses Bassanio's concern about its ominous nature, telling him that he will soon be able to repay it. However, the implications of this strange agreement are only later revealed with the unfolding of unforeseen events.

In an unanticipated run of bad luck, all of Antonio's ships are lost and he is forced to default on his loan.

Also, Shylock's young daughter has fled with a Christian and Shylock blames Antonio for helping this elopement that took away Shylock's "own flesh and blood. In doing so, irrespective of the provocation, Shylock places himself well beyond the pale of human decency.

Of course, Shylock's extreme vengeful reaction appears to audiences as nothing less than what would be expected of a Jew in applying a harsh biblical, "eye for an eye" standard the symmetry of Antonio's flesh in place of his daughter's.

This surely appears as meat thrown to feed the raging anti-Semitic imagination of the audience, done through the courtesy of no less a dramatist than William Shakespeare.

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Enter now Abraham Morevski, Yiddish actor and theorist. His thinking could well have emerged from a still older tradition in Yiddish theater, in which another actor, Jacob Adlerhad played Shylock in a Yiddish version of the play on New York's lower East Side. In Adler's staging, Shylock was played as not intending to collect on his bond, however much he made the merchant squirm.Howard Jacobson is, one is informed, in the process of rewriting The Merchant of Venice.

The nature of anti semitism in the merchant of venice a play by william shakespeare

He says “Shakespeare probably never met a Jew; the Holocaust had not yet happened, and antisemitism didn’t have a name. Shylock is a character in William Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice (c.

). A Venetian Jewish moneylender, Shylock is the play's principal antagonist. His defeat and conversion to Christianity form the climax of the story. For extensive analysis of Shylock and Shakespeare's depiction of Jews please see Three Interpretations of Shylock and Setting, Atmosphere and the Unsympathetic Venetians in The Merchant of Venice How to cite this article: Mabillard, Amanda.

Was Shakespeare anti-Semitic? Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. The Merchant Of Venice By William Shakespeare - William Shakespeare printed the Merchant of Venice in , it can be said to be one of his most contentious dramas ever written.

The Merchant of Venice is probably the most controversial of all Shakespeare's plays. It is also one of the least understood. Is it a comedy or a tragedy? About Yaron Brook Yaron Brook (PhD, finance, , University of Texas at Austin) is president and executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute.

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