Posted at 11.18.2018
Many texts are classed as racist solely because they contain some aspect of racism, whether or not this is intended to be taken virtually. Specifically, The Vendor of Venice is often considered anti-Semitic, and thus deemed in a worse light than other, less contentious, Shakespeare performs. However, it is questionable regarding the extent to that your play can be considered totally anti-semitic, or whether it is merely a public commentary, still relevant today.
The most important criticism regarding Anti-Semitism inside the Merchant of Venice is the display of Shylock. His portrayal as the stereotypical Elizabethan Jew has caused much controversy, gaining further poignancy after the play's use as Nazi propaganda. However, the bardolatry evident in society has limited our ability to see the play as racist, preferring at fault the anti-semitic position on alternative influences, and flawed interpretation. However, there are certain instances in the Product owner of Venice that are surely anti-semitic, such as Lancelot's assertion 'the Jew my expert. . . is a kind of devil'. There is absolutely no effort to disguise the hatred for Shylock, even though being Lancelot's professional, he should rightly command word some degree of value, yet he is ridiculed for his incapability to control, probably the reason why he requests such a barbarous forfeit.
Consequently, Shylock can be regarded as comical; an almost pantomimic villain. Yet there are few more disquieting speeches in Shakespeare than Shylock's to Solanio and Salerio (III. i. 49-68). For whilst his first claims are eloquent and justifiable: 'I am a Jew. Hath a Jew not eye?', forcing sympathy from the audience, his words cover a darker sentiment. He must remind the Venetians that he too has 'hands', 'organs', 'proportions' and 'senses', and therefore seems the same feelings and aches and pains that they themselves do, showing himself an theoretical similar. Yet this isn't a speech of exaltation for distributed experience, nor a fitness to power acknowledgement of his mankind. On the contrary, Shylock's monologue is anguished, highlighting a deep-rooted desire for vengeance, as seen when he states 'if you incorrect us, shall we not revenge?'. The use of first person adds a sense of imminency, which makes it more personal, forcing the audience to evaluate their own position. Furthermore, the utilization of rhetoric increases sense of internal conflict, challenging a sympathetic response, yet that he goes on to convey 'the villainy you train me, I'll do', shows too little culpability for his revengeful activities, but that he blames his dependence on assault and revenge on his maltreatment, and thus Christians. Regardless of the empathy were required to feel, the finishing a reaction to this talk is more one of pity; whilst Shylock's motivation is understandable, the perpetuation of malevolence and racism is not, turning us resistant to the Jew, and Judaism as a whole.
It could be argued, however, that anti-semitism is perpetuated by the individuals within the play, and the viewers' interpretations, instead of the play being anti-semitic as a whole. For example, whilst many personas have reason to despise Shylock, due to his insufficient mercy, the fact he is hardly ever described by his actual name, and simply as 'Jew', means that his malevolence can be an embodiment of his Judaism. Furthermore, this derogatory recommendation (with parallels evidently attracted between the otherwise called Jew of Venice and Marlowe's obviously anti-semitic The Jew of Malta), 'benefits significance as it is repeated; it becomes a term with connotations that infuse it with additional interpretation'. Consequently, it is not necessarily the take action of the disparaging use of 'Jew' that can be construed as anti-semitic, however the repetition of the insult. This is comparable to the use of the word 'the moor', in Othello (oddly enough, the expression 'the moor' was also used offhandedly within the Vendor of Venice, highlighting the candid fashion in which racism was used in Elizabethan world). Whilst the manifestation is obviously racist, it is the recurrence of the term, such as at the climax of Othello, when Othello is at his weakest ('the Moor may unfold me to him' ), that creates the entire disparaging impact.
It could be argued, however, that alternatively than an anti-semitic play, The Product owner of Venice could be classed in modern conditions as Brechtian, in the sense that societal imperfections concerning racism as a whole are highlighted, causing the audience's reflective detachment from the performance. For instance, the Prince of Morocco, an evidently reputed individual, areas 'mislike me not for my complexion', demonstrating his potential to objectively take notice of the racism that was commonplace at that time, forcing the other individuals into recognition of these discrimination. The use of the non-public pronoun, as opposed to Shylock's previous use of the collective 'we' is interesting, as it highlights the sense of personal victimisation the Prince seems, and is demonstrative of a far more personal vendetta. However, it is questionable as to whether this affirmation is targeted at the other individuals, or at the audience, with the racism of the heroes embodying the views of the public during writing: 'Lancelot's image of the Jew as the devil incarnate conforms to a common medieval notion'. This questions whether the play was made as a vessel by which society's failings could be highlighted, or as truly anti-semitic, which during writing could have been wholly acceptable, and therefore the play's moral stance could have been less poignant.
That is not to say that because racism, and in particular anti-semitism, was socially satisfactory that it was morally correct. On the contrary, Shakespeare frequently refers to equality between religions. For example, when Antonio expresses 'The devil can cite scripture for his purpose, and evil heart producing holy see', he offers weight to the dichotomy of the play, demonstrating how Jews and Christians will both dispute that their interpretation of scripture is accurate, solely because they naively assume the other perspective is that of the devil. Shakespeare highlights that scripture is in fact subjective, and open to various interpretation, a deep ambiguity that is also true on the Vendor of Venice.
Furthermore, there is certainly equal hatred from both sides, with Shylock proclaiming 'he hates our sacred region ', mixing his own private thoughts with anti-semitism, but also 'I'll get in hate, to feed after the prodigal Religious '. Here, he accepts a dinner invitation solely to gas the mutual spiritual hatred. That there surely is so much past animosity between the two parties proves that the invitation cannot be taken as a real gesture, but merely as a cloying flattery, and thus he responds with hatred. This further emphasises the contextual view of competition overriding intent and personality, a sentiment properly summed when Lancelot leaves 'a abundant Jew's service to become the follower of so poor a gentleman'. Evidently, Lancelot has chosen faith over prosperity, preferring a 'poor Gentleman' over 'Jew'. Interestingly, although Shylock has admittedly treated him badly, Lancelot criticises the faith, rather than the individual. However what is most significant in this assertion is the assessment between the referral to a Religious as a 'poor gentleman' versus simply 'Jew'. Therefore the impossibility of direct distinction, denoting an inequality between the two. It could be argued that there is no need to identify a gentleman as Christian as Christianity would have been typical at the time, perhaps everyone was assumed a Religious, yet in any event, to be Jewish is portrayed as abhorrent.
Consequently, Shylock's obligated transformation to Christianity is one of the most disturbing moments in literary background. Although it could be construed for Shylock to access heaven, and therefore an act of compassion and approval, the fact that it's foreshadowed when Antonio expresses 'the Hebrew will transform Christian, he becomes kind', creates a sense of inevitability, and thus a sense of resolution when it occurs. That Antonio also suggests 'he will transform kind' is a further insult, the implication being that personality is situated upon competition and religion, and therefore Shylock can't be considered kind or equal until he relinquishes his faith.
Yet there are flickers of moral justice within the play, specifically visible in the type of Jessica, insinuating that the play is a tool to point out society's moral injustices. For instance, she expresses 'I shall end this strife, become a Religious and a adoring wife' showing how she prises love and family above race, and can recognize the racist Venetian ideals in order to find love. That Shakespeare also satirises the stereotypes of several nations, creates a link with the audience, and whilst also gaining popularity, adds a sense of quality and societal relevance beyond your play's limitations.
Ultimately, The Vendor of Venice is a play not centralised around the glorification, or acceptance of anti-semitism, but about highlighting racism all together. Whilst, recently, Shakespeare has been overly revered, the play is undeniably captivating and thought provoking. Whilst it may well not be an anti-semitic play, or even a play wholly about anti-semitism, The Product owner of Venice can be an accurate sociable commentary on human being character, still relevant today.