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Lecture 7- "Merchant of Venice" Part II

by: Miranda Browning

Lecture 7- "Merchant of Venice" Part II ENG 209

Marketplace > North Carolina State University > English > ENG 209 > Lecture 7 Merchant of Venice Part II
Miranda Browning
GPA 3.6

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Will help in completing Merchant of Venice Quiz and Weekly Summary Blog #4
Intro to Shakespeare
William Shaw
Class Notes
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This 2 page Class Notes was uploaded by Miranda Browning on Thursday September 8, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to ENG 209 at North Carolina State University taught by William Shaw in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 6 views. For similar materials see Intro to Shakespeare in English at North Carolina State University.


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Date Created: 09/08/16
Lecture 7- “Merchant of Venice” Part II  Picking up where we left off in lecture 6—according to John Barton, it was important to play the ambiguities! Within the Text  Bassanio- on one hand, the idealized courtly lover- trying to win Portia’s hand by guessing the correct lead casket as part of the lottery. But look at his motivation… o “In Belmont is a lady richly left”—not that he is in love with Portia, but that she is rich. o Going to Belmont to find some money and needs the means to get there. Gores to Antonio to ask for the money, but all of his “fortunes are at sea.” o Has no money, wasted it in protical ventures, and wants to leave to try and win the hand of Portia in the lottery. Thus, his primary motivation is money.  Portia—beautiful woman who has been constrained by her father’s will. Patriarchal situation even after her father’s death, so that the person has to be of the value of the father’s choosing (Bassanio is the only one able to meet those values). o Complains about and mocks all of those trying to court her. Saying negative things about each one. o All of the suitors are held up to scorn and mockery, except for Bassanio when she hears of him. o Sense of racial prejudice with the Prince of Morocco—with the color of his skin. o Also somebody who is willing to be sardonic and willing to inflict pain on Shylock and discomfort on Bassanio (through the game with the rings)  Act 4- comes in disguised as a lawyer, and tells Shylock that he must be merciful. o Think they are offering him a path to salvation. But is such a required conversion going to work, or are they more trying to strip him of his culture, identity, essential belief. o Seems very unchristian and unmerciful o She was right in trying to stop Shylock from executing Antonio, but after she had done that—it could have been left at that. o Everything after becomes a kind of taunting and takes on the face of being malicious.  Antonio—through the eyes of Shylock o “I hate him for he is a Christian” -Shylock  Shows Shylock is a bad light, as someone who is vengeful and hateful.  But, because of Antonio’s actions to hurt him financially with his business. o “you spit, you suprn’d, you call’d me dog” –actions that Antonio has done to Shylock  He does not apologize for these actions, but instead says he would not hesitate to do such things again.  He may be loving and care for his Christian friends. But, he becomes rather cruel/harsh to those people who are not of his own kind o We see through this that Shylock’s behaviors are motivated. Shylock has reason for acting the way he does and wanting to execute Antonio. o Shylock: “He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies—and what’s his reason? I am a Jew.”  As a means to feed Shylock’s revenge  One of the most famous speeches in Shakespeare’s work—interpreted as someone pleading his own humanity. And at this time, the Jews would have to argue for their own humanity.  Saying he is a human being and he deserves to be treated like so. Because he has not been, he is right in his choice for revenge.  In this speech he is also declaring that he plans to kill Antonio.  People see the play in one way or in another—they tend to see it as a play about anti- Semitism. Either a play showing the Christians as superior. Or (especially after WWII) and in productions since the Holocaust—will find sympathy with the character of Shylock.  Back to the idea of “trusting Shakespeare.” Such that, both Christian and Jew are flawed human beings. o A play about forgiveness/mercy o But also a play about hypocrisy—such that, those who call for forgiveness and mercy are at the same time the ones treating other human beings in terrible ways. o Shylock makes an argument that he was not born evil or a villain. But, those people who have treated him so poorly have made him the way he is. o A play that can lend itself to propagandistic uses.  Dr. Shaw plays a clip from a film by Michael Radford–not a production that plays the ambiguities, it avoids them. It should become clear right away, the way he chooses to perform the play. o Very favorable to the Jewish community and unfavorable to the Christian community— wanted to work with the assumption that the Christians were filled with hypocrites. o Notice the music—Hebraic hymns which played while the Jews were being mistreated, and while the books were being burned (to remind us of the book burnings in Germany during the Holocaust) o Jews (in their red hats and badges) are circled and being mistreated by Christians. o We see religious services of both Christians and Jews  Should create an uneasy feeling—both praying to a God to fill them with spiritual nourishment. o Bolted door: important symbol in this film o Bassanio traveling in a gondola down the river, sipping wine, in the company of his friends (often prostitutes, who are associated with Christians)  Shows clip of the first meeting between Antonio and Bassanio o Surprised at the kissing scene at the end of the clip we see o Antonio is sad because he knows the man he loves is looking for another woman—thus, this relationship is not going where he wants it to go. o Critics have suggested Antonio’s affection for Bassanio is homoerotic—but nothing mentioned in the play o Long passage by Gratiano: “let me play the fool”  In the text: Antonio knows that he will not have this close companionship with Bassanio anymore if he seeks marriage with Portia (could interpret this in a homoerotic way, but the text does not necessarily indicate that)  No stage direction of the two kissing—this is an adaptation for the director! In order to pursue a certain type of thesis- trying to show Christians as religious hypocrites, people who are violent and cruel against Jews, and the two most important characters in the play have a sort of homoerotic relationship (as a violation of their own codes and beliefs).  Director here has taken a very pro-Jewish interpretation and in some way finding sympathy for the Jews by diminishing the character of the Christians.  The clip is interesting nonetheless!


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