Sunday, May 20, 2007

Merchant of Venice - Echoes


A benefit of having to read a folio of Shakespeare plays at the same time is that sometimes the plays seem to talk to each other. As I said earlier, I'm reading Othello even as we discuss Merchant of Venice. And I noticed the following (identified by italics):

SHYLOCK (arguing that Jews are human and that mistreatment by Christians will have consequences):
[Antonio] hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies – what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? 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?If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge! The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.
(Merchant of Venice, Folger edition, 3.1.53-72)

EMILIA (Iago's wife, arguing that women's faults are a product of their husbands' transgressions):
But I do think it is their husbands' faults
If wives do fall. Say that they slack their duties,
And pour our treasures into foreign laps;
Or else break out in peevish jealousies,
Throwing restraint upon us. Or say they strike us,
Or scant our former having in despite.
Why, we have galls, and though we have some grace,
Yet we have some revenge. Let husbands know
Their wives have sense like them. They see, and smell,
And have their palates both for sweet and sour,
As husbands have.
What is it that they do
When they change us for others? Is it sport?
I think it is. And doth affection breed it?
I think it doth. Is 't frailty that thus errs?
It is so too. And have not we affections,
Desires for sport, and frailty, as men have?
Then let them use us well. Else let them know,
The ills we do, their ills instruct us so.

(Othello, Folger edition, 4.3.97-115)

Wow. Setting aside for a moment the transposition of husbands for Christians and wives for Jews, how are these not the same speech?


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