Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Snack of Shylock

So I admit I haven't finished reading or watching The Merchant of Venice yet, but I have listened to this version of Shylock's monologue several times, as I find Al Pacino puts the necessary passion and humanity into Shylock's words that should be there. For a little background info, Shylock (a Jew) lender has a deal with his borrower Antonio (a Christian), which Antonio signed and agreed to.  The deal is a pound of Antonio's flesh for payment if he cannot pay back the borrowed amount.  When disaster strikes and Antonio cannot pay in the allotted time what he owes Shylock, the Jew is confronted by a few of Antonio's friends, trying to dissuade him from following through with his harsh agreement.  For a little more religiously toned background info, Antonio and Shylock dislike each other because of their religions.  I've read some thoughts that Shakespeare was anti-Semitic, and other thoughts that say that he was actually trying to show the humanity in "heathens."   My personal take is that of tolerance of all people, despite religion.  Also, I noticed that Shylock is seeking to have Antonio (the Christian) keep his word legally, but also ideologically.  Read the last 6 lines below!
Shylock: To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else, 
it will feed my revenge. 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. Hath 
not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, 
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? 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? and if you wrong us, shall we not 
revenge? 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. If a Christian 
wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by 
Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you 
teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I 
will better the instruction.

1 comment:

  1. I've also seen a lot of things on Shakespeare as to his ideological preferences, whether he was trying to promote tolerance of others or not. I agree that the argument that he was trying to show the humanity of others could be made from Shylock's speech, but what do you think of the fact that the payment was "a pound of flesh?" Do you think Shakespeare might have been displaying anti-Semitic prejudice here? (You could even point out the fact that Shylock is a moneylender, a Jewish stereotype).