The Saints' sins
Submitted by Ianus (Poland), Jan 19, 2009 at 18:19
duncan wrote :
>I think to say that Shakespeare is anti- semitic because of statements by the characters of his plays is pretty harsh. Are we to think that Bram Stoker drinks blood because he created a character Dracula or that Goerthe is a Satanist because of having created Mephistopheles. <
I am not so naive as to identify what is said by the characters of a play with the playwright's own views. Yet as so little is otherwise known about Shakespeare -his very existence being a conjecture- I am the more prone to listen to what - and how - is said in his play. It is the work and its spirit that speaks to us.
The point is here that listening to "the Merchant of Venice" you can't escape the sad conclusion that an anti-Semite has written it knowing well his viewers' anti-Jewish expectations and prejudices. He knew the viewers wanted to see no good Jews on the stage and so he showed none. The spectators would never accept a scenario in which e.g. a Jewish debtor would be oppressed by a ruthless Christian creditor demanding a pound of flesh from the broke Jew's body or at worst his beauteous young daughter, in which a defeat of Christian ethics at the hand of the mild Jew would be shown wie Jew finally after many tribulations brings about the Christian's conversion to Judaism and marries his handsome daughter to the reborn Jew in the local synagogue.
Literature which becomes really popular has the fatal flaw that it corresponds and reflects the viewers' and readers' own emotional and cultural background. Otherwise it can't become widely accepted and read. In a religious society the brightest atheist writers have not the slightest chance to be listened to.
And, frankly, I doubt if anyone in his senses -outside the anti-Semitic Islamic world - would dare today write anything similar in spirit to Shakespeare's Shylock. Yet Shakespeare is sort of a literary saint and saints' sins are too willingly overlooked, explained away and hushed up. You can put up with sins, you can't do without the saints. Other mortals - even not less brilliant than the bard of Avon - don't enjoy that dubious previlege of impunity.
>Also Shylock is the villain of the play- he is supposed to be nasty. But what is interesting about his character is why he has become a monster as Shakespeare demonstrates by giving him the "if you prick me speech".<
So now you no longer uphold your previous opinion that Shylock's is "perhaps the most famous anti-racist speech in the english language" ? You admit even that he is depicted as a monster in the play? Remarkable.
Anyway, for me it's more interesting why Shakespeare makes Portia's speech so fine and magnanimous and Christianity so optimistically triumphant at the end of the play over the tamed Jew's double-faced speech and Judaism? ... What's your guess?... Coincidence ? No hidden intention? ... A minor optic disturbance of a great friend of Jews , of the universal genius of humanity, of the greatest Briton of all times, of the greatest writer in the English language and of the world's most outstanding dramatist ?
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 (2097) 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