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ENG150Y1 Lecture Notes - Scapegoating, Black Sheep, Social Order

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William Robins

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Monday, January 28, 2013
The Merchant of Venice Lecture 1
Problematic because
o presented as a comedy, but depicts real conflicts, emotions and feelings that are more appropriate for a
Shakespearean tragedy
o motif of pound of flesh
o representation of Shylock; is it anti-semantic or not; binary thinking
questions cultural otherness and tolerance
Cultural Geography
genoa and venice were the main trade routes during the 16th century; routes reached Islamic lands
venice was very multicultural
Europe looked at contacting with not only the south mediterran area, but also the new world too; like John
Cabot and Christopher Columbus who were from venice and genoa respectively
Venice is the international city; much multicultural contact, problems of multiculturalism emerge; city of urban
trade, mercantile elite
Act 1:
Scene 2
Portia’s suitors of Northern Europe don’t want to take the venetian risk of the three caskets
The fact that Portia cannot speak English, shows that all the characters are depicted as Italians; the play rejects
the language it was written in
There is a distancing effect; audience is led to judge Italians; they are different from the Elizabethan
Play is beyond jews; focuses the meaning of other cultures
Italians rarely allude to Christianity
Even when Antonio is about to die, he doesn’t confess, refer to god
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But they refer to the classical allusions like Dido
Sense of nobility
Act 1
Scene 1
Insurance begins in the medieval times in sea trade
Merchants divided the wealth in many ships, so if one ship sunk, he wouldn’t suffer Antonio did this
Merchants also shared the funding of cargos
Term risk means how wealth can be divided
Uncertainity vs risk
o Frank knight: risk means in some cases a quantity susceptible of measurement
o It will appear that a measurable uncertainity or risk proper, as we shall use the term, is so far different
from an unmeasurbale one that it is not in effect an uncertainty at all
“fortune” is used to refer to the exposure of risk
An emblem of fortune is adventure
Another emblem is shipwreck, beyond control and measurable
Antonio follows this, by dividing his goods in ships, he is dividing the risk
Loaning money at this time was a way to preying upon the poor, making them poorer; so religions at this time
stated that there were moral implications with loaning
o Examples
Mosaic law
To a foreigner you may charge interest, but to your brother you shall not
Sermon on the moutn
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend o them without expecting to get
anything back (luke)
This biblical idea is linked with Aristoliean ethics
Interest rates constantly changed, therefore the play was written in a time where the people were unsure about
the moral implications of loaning
In London, there were several Italian merchants who loaned money
Act 1
Scene 3
There is previous animosity between Antonio and shylock
o Shylock gives reasons such as Antonio lending money without interest which makes him get less
o Cultural animosity
Antonio has scorned shylock; shows deeper problems and hatred to pursue revenge for shylock
Shylock proposes to loan money to Bassanio without interest but wants Antonio’s flesh if he is not paid back
o Making up some bond but with a sense of spite and anger of being scorned
Antonio takes this bond as an act of kindness
Crucial loan is associated with forfeiture and not interest, was legal at the time
Starts dynamic of the play
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