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On, “The Merchant of Venice”

I’ve been nominated for an award (woo! yay! nerves! what do I do now!) and I’m working on my response (including nominating other bloggers–SO NERVOUS). While I’m working on that, I figured I should post something, so I’ve finished another entry I was working on. I promised you rants, and here’s the first… uhhh… enjoy?

First of all, let me say, this isn’t so much a post about “TMoV” as an exhortation to NEVER READ IT.

Seriously. Never read it.

“The Merchant of Venice,” while famous for its use of a strong female character several hundred years before that became the norm–if it’s even the norm nowadays–is also essentially a book about why it’s okay to hate Jewish folks. I kid you not, the moral of the story is basically how it’s cool to cheat/deceive/defraud/loathe Jews, because, well, scheming Christ-killer Jew-babies. The awesome twist near the end of the play is where the main character–a Jewish dude, Shylock (the root of the term “sheister” or “sheisty”? a variation on those terms?)–gets tricked by his daughter, et al., and he apparently totally deserves it because a) he’s rich (and everyone knows, Jews only make money because they’re so willing to cheat everyone else) and b) he wants to uphold his (dirty, nasty, baby-eating, Jewish) traditions.

Shylock’s a turd, no question, and he deserves some come-uppance, whether he’s Jewish or a Gentile; but the problem is, the entire play is a long list of examples showing how he’s an awful guy *because* he’s Jewish. Or, you know, a “misbeliever, cut-throat dog”, in the play’s vernacular.

Alternate titles for “The Merchant of Venice” could be: “TMoV: Why Hating Jews is Good!” or “TMoV: 101 Insults for the Jews in Your Life” or “TMoV: How One Old Jewish Dude Totally Got What He Deserved, When His Daughter Ran Off with Some Guy She’d Known for Like a Day, and a Terrible Play Was Written Celebrating How She Escaped Her Father’s Jewishness and (thanks be to Christ) Married a Gentile”.

WTF????

My reaction feels all the worse, because typically, I love Shakespeare. I prefer his sonnets to his plays, a lot of the time, and my favourite Shakespearian play (thus far–I’ve not read that many) is “Julius Caesar”, which may be an odd choice, but… TMoV just left me cold.

Or, you know. Incandescent with rage.

Worst. Comedy. Ever.

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2 thoughts on “On, “The Merchant of Venice”

  1. Even our heroes are human, with glaring flaws. Enjoy Shakespeare’s sonnets and those less offensive anti-Judaic plays. I, too, love Shakespeare’s sonnets and many of his other plays. Similarly, I love Miles Davis’ music in spite of the fact that he beat his wives. That’s coming from a woman who once worked for a battered woman’s shelter and feels quite passionate about violence against women.

  2. Kitt, thanks for commenting. I tried to leave a reply, but the internet ate it, and (rare, for me) I don’t recall what I said well enough to just retype it, 95% verbatim. I mostly just agreed with you–one of the skills required for having lifelong heroes, is learning how to accept their flaws along with their gifts/goodness.

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