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Gabriel writes...

Hi Greg,
I was going through the old archives and found that you had a hard time reading MERCHANT OF VENICE because of the anti-semitism you find in it. Well, I just thought you might like to check this out: one of my soon-to-be professors wrote a book called SHYLOCK AND THE JEWISH QUESTION, where he argues that MERCHANT... is not, in fact, an anti-semetical work at all. I didn't read that book, but I just thought to shed some new light or somehting like that. Oh, and if you do want to check this book out, the author's name is Martin Yaffe.

Greg responds...

Thanks, I've heard of that book. Haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

In the long run, however, I personally don't think MERCHANT OF VENICE succeeds as an anti-semitic work. In fact, quite the reverse it winds up on the whole playing as, uh, pro-semitic?

But there are clear anti-semitic assumptions built into the work. Built into how Shakespeare was raised. Things that he doesn't know how to escape, may not even want to escape... but largely overcomes -- in spite of his intentions, to my mind. Because his power in drawing characters is so tremendous that he doesn't know how to create the stock Jewish villain without giving that character real life.

Response recorded on July 20, 2001