1. The Merchant of Venice--preliminary notes
    1. Three classes
        1. relation to previous plays
        2. structure
        3. theme and backround
        4. dramatic devices
        1. quiz : discussion of characters and passages
        2. Artemis performance; contrast to BBC--the trial scene
        1. performance in class--The final scene--themes and devices
    2. Earlier play: simpler language and dramatic situation and psychology; more pointed and ambiguous moral issues
      1. two old folktales
    3. Relation to The Tempest:
      1. Prospero--virtue and vengeance: OT King-God who becomes human and merciful and yielding; someone wronged who forgives.
      2. speech on the quality of mercy: p. 116--theological preoccupation
        1. legal and moral issue of justice and mercy; new beginnings; generosity
        2. the laws and the covenants. Old covenants, i.e. vows and pledges cannot be kept by changeable men; will turn against them as in IV
      3. Shylock as Pharisee who insists on letter of law
    4. Sh. and Bible: quote from Luke on Tempest; the storm in MV
      1. reference to Jacob and to Isaac
      2. Jesus as savior in secret disguise--Odysseus and Portia; error; costume
      3. NT as progress--mercy over justice; NT as hypocritical; Jews as scapegoats
    5. Setting: Venice and Belmont
      1. Free City as in Othello
        1. ethnic minority, prejudice, social roles: victim and criminal
        2. based on trade: Merchant=wealth; issue of usury and interest; legalism; survival of city based on contracts and accounts; business world
        3. trade is romantic; romance is financial; family and friend and lover relationships all in terms of money
      2. Belmont: romance, poetry and music and moonlight: a retreat; aristocracy, leisure, non-work, fairy tale
    6. Themes
      1. Shakespeare and the Other: Othello, Caliban, Shylock, Edmund--vehicle for sympathy and hatred
        1. Portia is prejudiced against the Moor 2.7.79 and other nationalities
      2. The Jew and Gentile
        1. Biblical framework: the christ-killers
          1. "The Jews" in Matthew and Acts; merciless, law bound, accursed, cruel, vengeful, abandoned, hard-hearted. Shift from from Jews to Gentles (Gentiles) in acts; look up passages
          2. Those who are given the message and persist in resisting
          3. Hard Jewish heart p.112
          4. Antonio as Christ figure: patient: "I do oppose my patience to his fury--p. 109
          5. Forced conversion at end and Jessica's abandonment of Judaism is positive
        2. Historical framework: the misers--connection to Kathe Kollwitz story
          1. Jews banished from England for 300 years-since 1250, occupied role of money lenders; financiers of capitalism and crown when usury was outlawed. Thrift, literacy, international, diasporic connection; ambivalence toward capitalism and gain and thrift and banking; intrinisically hypocritical--nobles and clergy; tension with merchants; scapegoat of Christians; importance of Venice as center of international trade
          2. Only way they were permitted to make a living; couldn't farm or own land or enter crafts or church
          3. mythical beasts in media; the blood libel: entrapping christian children and using their blood for passover sacrifice; pogroms; forced to wear yellow cloths on arm [Hitler]
          4. Roderigo Lopez, Eliz.'s physician executed for poisoning
          5. Marlowe's Jew of Malta: Barabbas
            1. Machiavel villain hero
            2. Christians no more sympathetic; deserve what they get; all motivated by gold; they're hypocritical
        3. Shylock as evil
          1. sober, cautious, thrifty, revengeful, alien, holds expansive spendthrift life in contempt; masques, etc. also flowery speech; plain dress
          2. good for him means good for his bond only; doesn't understand mercy; cruel and vengeful; wishes his daughter dead
          3. confuses human and material losses: Gobbo and Jessica
        4. Shylock's wrongs-
          1. who has compassion for him when his daughter leaves? Solanio and Solerio's cruelty
          2. Antonio's spitting
          3. the law: Christians are no less legalistic and materialistic
        5. Shylock's arguments
          1. natural antipathy "humor" 111
          2. they accept slavery 112
          3. he's been taught cruelty by Christians
          4. on "Christian husbands": Bassanio and Gratiano both willing to sacrifice wives to save Antonio--[critiqued by wives and by Shylock] 119
        6. Hypocrisy of Christians:
          1. Bassanio and Lorenzo and Gratiano woo for money, sort of
          2. Launcelot is scoundrel and of bad conscience as is Jessica and Lorenzo
          3. Solerio and Solanio are trivial and cruel
          4. Antonio is both sacrificial but effete and questionable in motive and somewhat underhanded in motive--his life worth nothing; his pound of flesh already lost at beginning with Bassanio's marriage
      3. risk and investment; gambling
        1. wager Antonio for Portia and Portia for Antonio--in terms of money as medium of exhange for love
      4. Father-Daughter relationships: Jessica-Shylock vs. Portia and Father
      5. M-F relationships
        1. Woman comes in with power of law; woman lawyers.
        2. Woman also supplies money for bond; and then they use her money to try to pay her p. 124
        3. Bassanio and Gratiano repeatedly failing tests in Act IV, before their wives, though passing test of choice which involves seeing through appearance; the paradox
      6. Love and Friendship
        1. tensions and jealousy; mended with Antonio at end
        2. Portia willing to accommodate Antonio in second place
        3. ring trick: weigh friendship against love
        4. she delivers the good news about ships to him at end
      7. Human frailty in love: Portia's scepticism in I,ii,12-19
    7. Structure: Double Plot
      1. Merchants concerned with money, Women with marriage. Both surfeit with too much--Sadness of Antonio and Portia
      2. Bassanio is link--loved by both Portia and Antonio
      3. Those who sue for money and those who sue for love; dangerous risks for both
      4. Act V recaps the bond plot; Portia threatens to break nuptials without rings; Bass. and Grat. are at risk; Antonio offers bond; Portia puts them on trial like Shylock and uses legal language; reporduces Act IV
    8. Characters
      1. Antonio
        1. his melancholy
          1. love or risk
          2. a tainted wether of the flock 113
          3. welcomes death for Bassanio; Stoic argument 119
          4. asks Bassanio to give away his ring 125
      2. Bassanio--changeable; confused loyalty to Portia and Antonio; several times willing to betray wife, although he risks all for her, including his friendship. He will wager Antonio for Portia and Portia for Antonio
        1. changeability; incapacity to keep vows; covenants
      3. Gratiano--railing against Shylock with fury 114
      4. Portia: Justice as woman; blind, impartial
        1. she torments Antonio and Bassanio
        2. a kind of Prospero--god and director figure
    9. Dramatic techniques:
      1. IV, i--The trial scene
        1. counterpoint
          1. Shylock sharpening knife as Nerissa presents Bellario's letter...suspense p.113--dread and deliverance; the storm again threatening
        2. suspense and pain: knife sharpening; breast bared; touch of steel
        3. Portia's invention: the law applied exactly condemns the accuser p.120; Shylock backs off
        4. From Shylock's cheer to Gratiano's cheer of judge
        5. Shylock backpedals, stripped of more and more power: reversal. He must beg. p.122
        6. Antonio and Duke offer him mercy, but its a terrible humiliation--he has no more wealth, house, work, and must convert to Xty.
          1. Gratiano is utterly merciless
      2. V, i--The moonlight scene
        1. romantic and cynical
        2. Jessica and Lorenzo's irony about stealing form the Jew and their own unreliable vows 128
        3. celebration of moonlight and music 129
          1. divinity is beyond them
          2. melancholy at beauty [like Antonio's]
          3. Orphic hymn to music [why here?]
        4. light in darkness; relativity of beauty; day coming on
        5. muted greeting; attention to Antonio
      3. The rings incident:
        1. Bass. will cut off finger [cf. chop off thy arm if it offend you]
        2. Men humiliated before women for their lack of steadfastness
        3. Doctor for bedfellow; cuckoldry and marriage jokes
        4. apparent betryals but actual loyalties; passing the ring around; cuckolds ere deserving it
        5. good news and revelation all around--off to bed
  2. Richard Levin, Love and Society in Shakespearean Comedy, 1985, Delaware
    1. General note: Levin's "Jewish" reading:
      1. all about outsiders trying to get in and exclusions--like Jews in Hemingway and Fitzgerald. A power-political anti-romantic reading that makes all the Christians aliens and smoothly hypocritical; that makes Portia's "Mercy" "mercifixion" in Harry Berger's term. cf. "Marriage and Mercifixion" SQ (32)1981; that reads from Shylock's and Jessica's point of view.
      2. relate this to Levin's role in modern critical disputes re: feminism, etc. Also to other Jewish readings of MV, like Berger's and Fiedler's in "The Outsider," Norman Rabkin, Robert Ornstein
      3. relate this also to Levin's history with Vergil Whitaker and Davis--was he the replacement of Caesar?
    2. SM: Places to go--Jewish vs. Xtian readings of the Bible in MV--cf. Barbara Lewalski, "Biblical Allusion and Allegory in MV," SQ 13 1962
    3. Introduction: the anti-festive, anti-romantic view--love and marriage privilege those with status, money and power, while those who lose are the social outsiders; love is the search for success
    4. Odd Man Out in Venice
      1. conventions of romantic comedy: three marriages, handsome hero, charming and rich heroine; stage villain meets defeat
      2. But here victors forfeit sympathy; they calculate their success; loss of one character is the gain of another.
      3. Journey to social success is journey to Belmont
      4. Antonio and Shylock share characteristics
        1. parallel studies in loneliness, both excluded by marriage
        2. play, like other romantic comedies, traces process of social inclusion and exclusion
        3. Antonio's implicit homosexuality
        4. All foreign suitors excluded; only white, heterosexual, Christian Venetians accepted
        5. Shylock says he mirrors Venetians and Christians; they deny this
        6. Christians give priority to protecting and enhancing their own social positions, turning on others and casting them out to reassure themselves of their own right to belong.
      5. Launcelot
        1. Going for Bassanio is following "bad angel"--disloyal and betrayal of master and father
        2. Bad angel says go for it--Master Launcelot 2.2.1-32 vs. honest Launcelot; more friendly counsel of fiend
        3. Wont help his father
        4. Falsely rationalizes leaving Shylock; not getting enough to eat is false; shifts guilt
        5. Shifts blame to others and mistreats victims to establish distance and transfer his discomfort to them
          1. not country yokel like his father
          2. uncomfortable with identification with Jews
        6. parallels between his journey and others'
      6. Salerio and Solanio
        1. resent Antonio's greater wealth--1.1. 59--"wortheir friends
        2. worry him about his ships
        3. they're also gay; jealous of Antonio; compare selves to gossips; dont marry, but stick together [Rosencranz and Guildenstern]
      7. Gratiano
        1. puts down Antonio for being "old maid"--not festive enough
      8. 1.1 Bassanio encounter
        1. waited for interview
        2. B's excuse: courting only for money
        3. Antonio hurt by this, saying he'll give him as much money as he needs; asks for chance to prove his love; willing because of his depression, to forfeit life itself for Bass.
        4. B. distancing himself from Ant. because of his shrinking funds and because homosex. is going out
        5. His decision--man of highest social rank--affects all other males: either they will marry or be excluded
      9. 1.3 Encounter with Shylock
        1. His reactions here are affected by his treatment; he has conflicting motives
        2. He's considered forgiving Antonio
        3. He defends taking interest as being similar to "venture"--what he has in common with Antonio
        4. Antonio's distinction is lame; he attacks and provokes Shylock to enhance his own stature before Bassanio
        5. When asked by Shylock to be treated like a human, Antonio refuses
        6. The merry bond may at this point be inducement to Antonio to treat Shylock well
        7. Antonio's lending money gratis, gets him social goodies; Shylock's merry bond is a gratis lending for social acceptance
        8. There is no crisis yet, because neither Shylock nor Antonio feel irreversibly excluded
      10. Act 2's diverse activities: preparations for masquing and for departure for Belmont
        1. Both Gratiano and Bas. set out to seek fortunes; Lorenzo claims its mere accident brought him there and he didn't mean to get Jessica's fortune--he talks about playing thieves for wives
        2. Bassanio's party announces his new decision and direction; everybody else responds
        3. Salerio and Gratiano put down marriage
        4. Wind shifts, just as Gratiano says does fortune does to men in pursuit of her through marriage; fortune is marriage deity in Venice
        5. Antonio feels betrayed by cancellation of party.
        6. Shylock accepts invitation in futile attempt at acceptance, tempted by hitherto rejected Christian festivity
        7. Jessica goes to party dressed as man, also with bad conscience and attempt to climb socially; she like Shylock attempts to buy social acceptance with money
        8. Acceptance of this by others testifies to intensity of anti-semitism
        9. Shylock betrayed by both Launcelot and Jessica; party cancelled, he comes home; hears of departure of J and L together with B.; assumes conspiracy
        10. Sol. and Sal. offer parallel portraits of Shylock and Antonio in distress, especially Antonio's tearful farewell, taking pleasure in both
      11. 3.1
        1. Salerio and Sol. rub salt into Shy.'s wounds and set him on revenge against Antonio, since they are left behind and he is most vulnerable
        2. Here is where Shylock speaks his indictment of Christians who teach him revenge
        3. Antonio's letter expresses desperation not only about bond, but about loss of Bassanio
      12. Transition to Belmont
        1. Because Shylock's bond threatens Portia doubly; it represents pact between Jew and homosexual against her marriage
    5. Portia's Belmont
      1. "Launcelot... tries to reaffirm his right to belong in Belmont by declaring Jessica the outsider."
      2. 1.2 Privileged life in Belmont
        1. Portia surfeits on her superfluity; Portia's proverbs on the way of the world
        2. Portia mocks her suitors with national stereotypes (57)--like Venetians; racist comment 129
        3. Regards Bassanio as good catch; Venetian noble who travels with Marquis--113-4
      3. 3.2 The contest
        1. Tries to fix contest through Nerissa with glass of wine
          1. The suitors are not bad; Bassanio not given the condition that he not woo otherwise; he's man with rented limousine and nothing to lose; song gives him hints and states cynical view of love
        2. She is quintessential insider, loath to break law because it benefits her, but ready to bend it slightly; he appreciates only physical beauty of the portrait; interest in "fortune" in both senses; this is Venice's god
        3. Wants him to postpone choice 26 because of distrust; aware of Bassanio's interest in her wealth 154
        4. Her distrust asks for pledge of faith
        5. Gratiano and Nerissa want match only if they can hang onto coattails
        6. Portia doesn't welcome B's. friends, still in control despite her giving herself over to B.
        7. B. admits to her he lied about fortune 255; she's silent
        8. Letter makes her worry about Antonio's grip; her generosity is to outdo Antonio's; wants to hear letter; B. promises fidelity P. will enforce
        9. P. mocks B's masculine bragging of exploits with ladies--cf. Beatrice 258
        10. Bassanio has betrayed both Antonio and Portia
      4. 4.1 The courtroom
        1. Antonio wants to be seeing sacrificing himself [Jesus]
          1. he's Portia's competitor: death will prove to Portia "whether B. had once a love" 276
        2. Shylock's words about Venetian hypocrisy in regard to slavery force us to examine Venice more closely
        3. Duke is biased
          1. speaks first to Antonio before S. arrives
          2. has no compassion for S. and his losses
          3. tries to circumvent the judgement with Bellario his cousin
        4. Venice observes justice only for self-interest
        5. Bassanio says he'd sacrifice his wife to save Antonio 284
        6. Portia condemns Shylock under a law applying only to aliens; clever downtown lawyer's trick
        7. Venice's mercy not merciful, though billed that way; Antonio's generosity provides him with "use" and adds that Sh. must convert; Shylock broken by the mercy
        8. Following his exit, Venetians are smug; Antonio says pay off the judge (!) 406
        9. Courtroom scene demonstrates how privileged can conceal guilt "Through tatterd clothes small vices do appear; Roves and furd gowns hide all"
      5. 5.1 Back to Belmont
        1. two potential outsiders, Jessica and Antonio are included
        2. just after trial as just before, Portia uses ring to test B's fidelity
        3. Belmont must not just welcome but control Venice with threats of exclusion and marginalization
          1. Jessica is never accepted by Portia 3.2.237
          2. Launcelot and Lorenzo render J. other 3.3.83-84
          3. love duet alludes to betraying lovers
          4. Lorenzo's neoplantonic yearnings are not fulfilled 5.1.60; Orphic tribute to music applies not to them
        4. Portia's return has ambivalent tone and atmosphere
          1. cuckoo's voice, light vs. dark imagery; disingenuous scheming
          2. curt greeting to B and none to Antonio
        5. The ring trick
          1. Antonio driven into the open--he confesses to be subject of quarrels 238; binds himself now to assure B's loyalty to P. with surety of soul not body
          2. Antonio must place ring on B's finger--multiple meanings of this gesture.
        6. Portia then distributes wealth--to Lorenzo, B. and Antonio
          1. Her triumph is using manipulation and a series of betrayals--law, privilege, position
          2. Lorenzo: you drop manna in the way/ Of starved people--but relationship of man and God around manna is very troubled and is pure OT