William Shakespeares' Merchant Of Venice. Examining antisemitism, gender & blood issues, through the

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    William Shakespeares' Merchant Of Venice, Examining antisemitism, gender & blood issues, through the lens of classical literary genius.

    When examining something as complex as anti-semitism the Merchant of Venice (MoV) can be useful. When politicians and luminaries use race issues for self gain it can lessen general understanding in what is already complex, nuanced, difficult to grasp.

    The drama of Romeo & Juliet involves two people, from two feuding families, the Montagues and the Capulets. When this play was adapted into a modern setting as an urban musical 'Westside Story' the two families were transformed into two street gangs involved in a race war. Puerto Ricans against European Americans.

    This means modernly a problematic racial situation has been purposely inserted into an adaptation of a Shakespeare play purely to heighten the drama. There was no hint of racial enmity in the original tale. Politicians sometimes do the same thing.

    What many (most) academics fail to grasp about the work (Merchant of Venice) is the fact that the female character of Portia in the Merchant of Venice is an ideological foil or counter part to Shylock. When Portia's interests come into conflict with Shylock's, the confrontation occurs in a legal battle where Portia disguises herself as a man. Portia refuses to allow her social circumstances to limit her. At one point she entertains the possibility of marriage to a black prince, noting his skin colour is of no consequence. She transverses gender boundaries to conduct a court case disguised as a man. Whereas Shylock has become bound to his traditions and circumstances and cannot overcome his mistreatment by the, so called 'christians of venice'. He acts out in a predictable manner. Whereas Portia traverses social boundaries, Shylock is tied to tradition and traverses only moral boundaries, eventually allowing his thirst for justice to cross the line into a thirst for revenge. As a woman Portia is bound to a sum of money and set of preordained rules for marriage yet she does not become bitter and resigned, rather crosses cultural and social rubicons to solve her dilema. This is no acidental dynamic within the play and yet when academics seek to make an analysis of the play as regards anti-Jewish motifs they typicallly fail to recognise the qualifying parrallels.

    Individual sensibilities differ when considering stories involving characters whose paths are fixed in cultural, historical and racial circumstance. Far worse that any person could actually be at risk of becoming a stereotype (according to their own cultural circumstances), than a created fiction involving such things. A modern German could become a neo-nazi, an italian American could become a mafioso, A Jamaican could become a yardie gangster. As such, even a villainous person can present with elements of tragic victimhood, unable to overcome circumstance. This is what happens to Shylock who becomes the bitter stereo type of his circumstance and why the character of Portia (an adept at traversing circumstance) is no accidental antetype.

    At the center of the work (MoV) is an attempt at an advocacy of Christianity over Judaism - as an ideology. Shakespeare removes any sense of superficial racism in many different ways. In one instance by having a central female Jewish character 'Jessica' elope with a 'non-Jew'. This sometimes opens up the play for criticism, however it is important to understand that an overly simple historical reading of Jewish people as 'the chosen race' can also comport itself as a literal 'doctrine of racial superiority'.

    Thus it seems fair for Shakespeare to weigh them in the balance as ideologies as it plays out in this drama.

    Female character of Portia is key to understanding the work. Whilst it Shylock's daughter Jessica who elopes and converts to Christianity from Judaism, Jessica cannot convert from her actual racial type and so this renders the idea of literal race objection as impotent. Yet it is Portia who must disguise herself as a man at one point in order to conduct a court case within the drama. The author is inviting us to determine if Jessica is a traitor to Jewish people for eloping as a christian convert. Is Portia also a traitor to women for disguising herself as a man in order to win a court case ? The author is demonstrating to us how a mentally emancipated person sometimes needs to overcome society's restrictions as they relate to personal circumstances. If Jessica is a traitor to Jewish people for converting and eloping, we are being dared by the author to also call Portia a traitor to her gender and race for disguising herself as a man, and entertaining the possibility of marriage to an African..

    The play is a work of self assured genius, confident in dealing with the central themes although it is left to the reader to excuse the author who did not create the real historical situation of segregation in medieval Venice in which the fiction plays out.

    The most problematic character to interpret is Shylock Jessica's father.

    Shylock is certainly modernly useful to racists as a mean money lending stereotype. Is this the intent of the author ? Or the limit of the expression of the character ? The Jews were under restriction from land owning. Money lending was permissible. This speaks to circumstance over character. The very opening of the play shows Shylock being mistreated, spat upon. It is no accident that we are introduced immediately to this terrible abuse. As the very first scene the author has only one intention. We are instantly drawn to sympathise with Shylock as he suffers this disgusting attack. Furthermore if this is the behavior of 'christians' what is the author telling us about them ? Later this same person, Antonio - who abused Shylock goes to him for a loan in order to help his friend (Bassanio) woo a woman. We are further shown how frivolous these people are when Shylock demands a literal pound of Antonio's flesh if he cannot repay the loan. Antonio agrees to this under contract. If Shylock is set up as a stereotype his nemesis is literally being offered as his antetype, a ' frivolous insincere Christian'. If Antonio is abusive, irresponsible and insincere we sympathise with Shylock.

    If the author has presented a stereotype in Shylock as a cautious, finance hungry Jew he has also done similar with the counterparts. The 'christians of venice' are frivolous disingenuous and insincere risking vast sums of money, life and limb to woo women. The responsibility for the treatment of Jewish people in the 15th century Europe is neither the doing of the author of the play nor the Jews who lived in that historical circumstance. Neither is the author much commenting upon the origins of the Jews being ghetto-ised and receiving ill treatment.

    A pound of flesh is contracted from Antonio,

    Portia disguised as a man adjudicates the court case between Shylock and Antonio. She manages to get Antonio off the hook by suggesting Shylock can remove a pound of his flesh but not a drop of blood. There being an absolute distinction in tora between blood and flesh. This invokes the idea that those attempting to adhere only to laws will ultimately fail a theological difference between new and old testaments.

    Shylock is far more the victim than he is villain. Shylock loses everything. His fortune, his daughter, his standing, his humanity. Where Shylock is the villain we have been invited to sympathise and understand, it is due to him having suffered abuse.No individual human is responsible for the circumstances in which they are born or raised up.

    Is Shakespeare a racist who wants to leave us with the sense of a destroyed abused mean Jewish man ?

    The author of the Shakespeare works (Probably Sir Francis Bacon and the Rosecrusian society) does something familiar. There is a brief flirtation with Shylock and Antonio where Shylock confesses he would love Antonio as a friend, if he could, and yet Antonio prefers to be his enemy. A classic tease at the avoidance of inevitable tragedy as signature in these works. Shylock could have come to some other arrangement with Antonio regarding the debt. Like Portia he could have been creative. There is also a whimsical sense to the 'christians of venice' they actually plunder Shylocks fortune. How christian is that really ? The 'christians of venice' are frivolous, abusive, insincere thieves. The author is inviting us to constantly sympathise with Shylock whilst at the same time never dismissing that he does have a part in his own demise.

    The truth is that the play is - to some degree, written as 'purposely unfinished' like the EU parliament building in Brussels built to imitate the unfinished biblical tower of Babel..

    Was Shylock left forever to destitution or eventually was he cared for again by his daughter and son in law. Or some other outcome.

    Merchant of Venice Post WWII Nazi-ism.

    The doctrine of the Jews as the chosen people easily comports as a doctrine of Jews as 'master race'. It is a Giant step for mankind but a small mistep for an idiot like Adolf Hitler.

    It is quite likely that the German economy pre WW2 was (as was the complaint of the Nazi movement) being artificially collaped by international finance interests. If Germany were really a failed state how was it possible for it to rise up and convincingly stage an attempted overthrow of the whole world for 6 years ? Far from being an economic weakling Germany was a powerhouse of the scientific and artistic renaissance and a challenge to British Imperial interests.

    To dislike the effect of the powerful elite British Crown or the house of Windsor is not the same thing as disliking the British people generally [unless people are made to believe that]. As such, to dislike the effects of the powerful elite Rothchilds and Rothchild bankers is not the same thing as disliking Jewish people. That is something Hitler tried to make people believe, to conflate those things. It would also be in predatory bankers interests to make people believe it. To criticize Rothschilds or the State of Israel is to be antisemetic. These conflations lead to political opportunism.

    These political flaming footballs are thrown to the masses for self interest and the masses generally do not have either the understanding or the time to properly examine, To the full extent of the metaphor if there is a person throwing a football onto the pitch when the football is on fire, likely does not have the players best interests at heart.

    Historically the Jews needed to read and write to understand the Torah, weigh and measure to provide temple sacrifices and had the possession of most ancient complex law known to man. A history of numeracy and literacy is a beneficial starting point for any people to do well, and part way explanation for success with Jewish intellectuals and academics.

    It wasn't mere ideology that created Nazism. It was bad economic conditions. The German culture's 'Arryan master race' doctrine was more than likely a dumb reaction against a 'choosen people' doctrine. A contest with a perceived enemy.

    The heart of the play, the apex of the drama comes when in a courtroom, a man is freed from a sentence of death by the exposition that blood is a wholly separate entity from flesh. That partaking of one is not the same as partaking the other.



    As the greatest of Jewish men once said.




    Do unto others....
     
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    Jinnvisible

    Jinnvisible Experienced Member

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    This painting of a scene from the Merchant of Venice was created by Maurycy Gottlieb.

    Apparently this artist suffered serious racism for being a diasporic Jew. He won a prize for this painting. Also M. Gottlieb according to wikipedia lost the affections of his intended bride to a banker and lost his will to live.

    The strange real life drama of the artist seems worthy of the drama recorded in the Shakespeare play itself sharing so many of the social dynamics of it.


    Gottlieb was born in Drohobycz (then Galicia in Austrian Poland, now western Ukraine) to a wealthy, Yiddish and Polish-speaking Orthodox Jewish family. He was one of Isaac Gottlieb and Fanya née Tigerman's eleven children. He was introduced to painting in Lemberg by Michał Godlewski. At fifteen, he enrolled at the Vienna Fine Arts Academy for three years. In 1873 he went to Kraków to study under Jan Matejko and became close friends with Jacek Malczewski. However, an anti-Semitic incident at the School of Fine Arts prompted him to leave Kraków after less than a year in spite of Malczewski's protests.[2] He traveled to Norway and stayed in Molde. He returned to Vienna and from there travelled to Munich in 1875 to study under Karl von Piloty and Alexander von Wagner.[3] In 1876 he won the Gold Medal at the Munich Academy for his painting, Shylock and Jessica. In the same year, he moved back to Vienna to attend the workshop of Heinrich von Angeli. He lived and worked in Vienna for the next two years and produced paintings with biblical themes, as well as illustrations for Friedrich Bruckmann Publishing of Munich.[3]

    In the fall of 1878, Gottlieb travelled to Rome, where he befriended Henryk Siemiradzki. At a banquet in his residence at Via Gaeta, Gottlieb met with Matejko, who convinced him to come back to Kraków as one of his best students,[2] to work on a series of monumental paintings including scenes from the history of the Jews in Poland.

    In 1879 Gottlieb settled in Kraków and began working on his new major project.[3] He died in the same year from health complications. Matejko attended his funeral and promised his father to look after his younger brother Marcin.[4]

    Gottlieb won a gold medal at the Munich art competition for his painting, Shylock and Jessica (1876), portraying a scene from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. The painting was exhibited in Lviv in 1877, and in 1878 at Zachęta in Warsaw and widely acclaimed. Gottlieb based Jessica's face on that of Laura Rosenfeld, to whom he had proposed marriage. However, Laura rejected his proposal and wed a Berlin banker. Gottlieb planned to marry Lola Rosengarten, but when he heard about Rosenfeld's marriage, he knowingly exposed himself to the elements, dying of complications from a cold and sore throat.[5]

    Despite his premature death at the age of 23, more than three hundred of his works survive (mostly sketches, but also oil paintings),[1] though not all are finished.[5] After the fall of the Iron Curtain, many Polish collections unknown in the West were popularized, and his reputation grew greatly. His brother Leopold Gottlieb was born five years after his death and became known as a painter as an adult.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maurycy_Gottlieb
     
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