Shylock : "I hate him for he is a Christian".
Submitted by Ianus (Poland), Jan 17, 2009 at 09:36
Duncan wrote :
> His use of the Merchant of Venice to show Shakespeare was antisemetic is simply foolish.<
It is what Shakespeare makes Shylock the Jew say as his introduction (Act 1, Scene 3) :
" I hate him for he is a Christian,
The inner monologue of Shylock sounds hardly innocent or philosemitic, does it?
But perhaps you have some other compelling indications that Shakespeare liked the Jews?
He saw not a single real Jew in England - they came back only under Cromwell - but Shakepseare knew and shared the prejudices of his generation. (I really laughed at the funny ghosts of Hamlet or of Julius Caesar or other tricks Shakepseare applied to attract his audience). Otherwise he would have never become a celebrity he wanted to be.
And what is more important, had a German - for whatever reasons and with whatever background - written "Shylock" , he would be banned and cursed today. But as the Romans said "Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi"...
>He has obviously either misunderstood the play or more probably never read it.<
Or perhaps has understood what you have somehow overlooked ...?
> Shylock's speech is perhaps the most famous anti-racist statement in the english language. (Act 3 Scene 1) "I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passion, fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is. If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge etc.<
The last little word "Revenge" is the key term here. What you praise as "perhaps the most famous anti-racist statement in the english language" ( I myself do doubt if Shakespeare would understand today's politicized English newspeak with its race obsessions and psychoses) is meant by Shylock (or rather Shakespeare) not as the noble declaration of equal rights of all races, but the justification for his dirty and inhuman ( in full accordance with Moses' laws) revenge , namely cutting out a pound of flesh out of Antonio's body, he was going to take. And to see this filthy hidden point here it is worthwhile quoting the end of this allegedly "most famous anti-racist statement in the english language" :
"The villany you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I WILL BETTER THE INTRUCTION ( III,1 72-73 -emphasis mine)
I wonder how many "anti-racist statements" are made today in the same Shylockian spirit - with the desire of "bettering the instruction" ?
Isn't it remarkable that this "justification" of archaic Hebrew revenge was pronounced not by a gentile but by the Jew himself? The gentiles say something different . They show no sympathy for him, cursing "the villain Jew (2.8-4) ; "the dog Jew"(2.8-14) "the currish Jew" (IV,1, 292) ; "the devil himself" (II,2,28) "... the devil ... comes in the likeness of a Jew." (III,1,20-21)
And Shylock's tricky, double-faced and bloodthirsty speech of revenge is opposed to Portia's noble Christian speech : (IV,184-
" The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
Last not least, Shylock's revengefulness and obstinacy -in popular perception so typical of every Jew - is his own undoing. He who has said "I hate him for he is a Christian" is now forced to convert to Christianity. What a mockery !
If all of that doesn't change your opinion on how Shakespeare saw the Jews, then probably nothing will. But it's not my task to change anyone's mind.
With kind regards ,
Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".
Reader comments (2096) on this item
Comment on this item
You can help support Daniel Pipes' work by making a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum. Daniel J. Pipes