“Shylock, Shakespeare, and the Jews: Antisemitism in the Merchant of Venice”
May 05, 2011
Prior to Pesach, I participated in a panel entitled “Shylock, Shakespeare, and the Jews: Antisemitism in the Merchant of Venice” at The Museum of Jewish Heritage. Also participating in the discussion were Barry Edelstein, who has directed The Merchant of Venice at The Public Theater, Columbia University Professor of English and Comparative Literature James Shapiro, and New York Times theater reporter Patrick Healy, who moderated.
Shylock is definitely portrayed as the greedy, selfish, loathsome and alien, but Shakespeare has given the character one of his best-remembered soliloquies: “Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? … 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?” One could certainly not attribute an enlightened “righteous gentile” status to Shakespeare, but we must credit him with providing a far more nuanced portrayal than otherwise might have been expected at the time. (You can read more about this event here.)
Or view the entire panel debate below: