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ENG150Y1 - The Merchant of Venice - Lecture Notes.docx

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William Robins

ENG150Y1 – LECTURE NOTES 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 16 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  Italians rarely allude to Christianity  Even when Antonio is about to die, he doesn’t confess, refer to god  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 (Deuteronomy)  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 money 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 Wednesday, January 30, 2013 Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice – Lecture 2  Portia faces the dilemma between fulfilling her desires and her father’s last wishes  The end of the comedy suggests that necessity coincides with happiness  This conflict also plays out between Jessica and shylock  Shakespeare’s plays were meant for performances, not just as a written text  Written during a time during a written-print culture  Link between the text and performance is focused by Shakespeare  Focuses on interpretation o The interpretation of the letters in the three caskets by the suitors o The “one pound of flesh” in the contract between Antonio and shylock o Both above are motifs from
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