The Merchant of Venice. Day Two Slide Show ENGL 305 Dr. Fike. Review. MV includes a mixture of classical and Christian elements. Although not officially a problem comedy, it is darker than MSND (festive comedy) and is therefore a good example of what the Bedford calls “mixed modes.”
Day Two Slide Show
In The Merchant of Venice, the antagonistic pair of gendered opposites is the father/daughter syzygy of Shylock and Jessica. The Jew may be so leery of losing his daughter to romance because he has already lost his wife, Leah, to death; therefore, he possessively projects the part of his anima that appropriately attaches to a wife onto his daughter, an imbalance in which disappointment festers. “Just as the mother seems to be the first carrier of the projection-making factor for the son, so is the father for the daughter,” writes Jung (CW 9ii, 28/14). I am suggesting that projection, in Shylock and Jessica’s case, works in the opposite direction as well—the daughter receives the father’s projections. But when Jessica leaves with Lorenzo, taking Shylock’s money and an important anima-token, the ring that Leah gave him, he is deprived of father/daughter relations and reminded of the missing husband/wife conjunction. As a result, he becomes centered on himself and fixed on revenge. For Hillman, Jung’s syzygy theory accounts for such a reaction in the wake of psychological loss: “An animus that loses its soul (anima) connection, that posits itself as independent of the syzygy, is ego … [or] what Jung calls the ‘monotheism of consciousness.’” In Shylock’s case, ego-consciousness manifests as a desire for strict justice. [emphasis added]
“England, or for that matter western Europe, did not have in the sixteenth century banks of the sort we know today. No central banks offered customers the convenience of savings plans or personal loans. Banking functions were evolving in various parts of the economy, but one could not go to one place and conduct one’s financial business with the kind of assistance we know today.
“With regard to the ease with which monetary operations could take place, a considerable difference existed between large-scale and small-scale transactions. A small businessman had no means of transferring money easily. With no paper currency and no regular systems of credit, he had to carry around bags of coins. A large trading company had more scope. It might, for example, set up a system of agents and pay its accounts through bills of exchange, thus keeping the wheels of commerce turning. Since these bills were drawn on a specific mercantile house, the necessary element of faith was easy to achieve.
“On this comparatively large scale, and particularly when the business was being done abroad, loans could be arranged, usually at a reasonable rate of interest because the borrower was not helpless and might seek better terms elsewhere. Nations as well as companies were involved here. The financial wizard Sir Thomas Gresham, for example, spent much of his career in Antwerp negotiating loans for the Tudor sovereigns.
“International finance owed a considerable amount of its growth to the Jewish moneylenders who in many countries of Europe had become an important part of the picture. Holland particularly welcomed refugees fleeing persecution elsewhere, in contrast to England’s continuing medieval bias.
“The association between Jews and lending money on interest, or usury, had been mandated, in the view of many Englishmen, by the Bible itself, which appeared to say that Jews might charge interest from Christians and that Christians should not charge interest from each other. Upon examination one finds that this interpretation depends on a somewhat twisted logic. In Exodus 22:25 and Deuteronomy 23:19, Jews are forbidden to lend money ‘upon usury’ to fellow Jews but are allowed (in Deuteronomy) to enter such transactions with ‘strangers’—interpreted as Christians, although an Old Testament text could hardly be specific about this particular type of stranger. Neither passage goes into the question of what kind of loans strangers are allowed to make to each other.
“Gradually, during the sixteenth century, England’s official attitude toward the charging of interest, whether by Jews or Christians, shifted. The view of capital as a commodity like any other—warehouse space, for example—to be made available for lease on certain terms, began to win practical acceptance, and the notion that money might ‘breed’ other money no longer seemed an offense against nature. Between 1545 and 1552, Parliament allowed certain types of interest-bearing loans to be made, provided the interest charged was no higher than ten percent. (This stipulation referred to transactions within England. Loans arranged in foreign countries, even if English merchants or the English government were involved, had never come under Parliament’s authority.) The ban on usury was renewed in 1552 but was finally lifted in 1571, the same year that Gresham opened the London Royal Exchange—a handsome, four-story building modeled after the bourse at Antwerp, with a central court surrounded by arcaded walkways where merchants might discuss business matters without having to stand in the rain. The building served as a quite practical symbol of England’s increasing prominence in the world’s economy.”
“If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be to him as a creditor, and you shall not exact interest from him.”
“You shall not lend upon interest to your brother, interest on money, interest on victuals, interest on anything that is lent for interest. To a foreigner you may lend upon interest, but to your brother you shall not lend upon interest; that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are entering to take possession of it” (emphasis added).
These themes come together in the passages where Shylock justifies his business practices and where the suitors choose a casket.
Note: Those of you working on the casket scenes will need to divide the questions and passages up. (The casket handout is something one of my former students found; you are welcome to use it, but you may need to look beyond what it lays out.)
Genesis 30:25 to 31:16
What is the relationship between the two texts?
What is Shylock saying?
What is Antonio’s criticism?
How does venturing inform your reading of the two texts?
1.2.12-34: Portia’s father
Why does Portia’s father establish the casket test?
Why don’t Morocco and Aragon choose correctly? Are they appropriate for her?
What about Bassanio? Is he more appropriate for her?
Does Portia play by the rules of the casket test when Bassanio chooses?
How is Belmont unlike Shylock’s house? See 2.3.2 and 2.5.29ff. Compare 5.1.60ff.Group Activity: Ten Minutes, Groups of 3-5 People
“Thus, there is a kind of heavenly aura about the number three as a sign of divine love which unites two lovers into one. It combines the limited nature of each to generate a limitless experience shared by both. It leads to the highest expression of love, which unites all lovers in general. In this sense we can conclude that the presence of the number three as a major motif in the casket scene in MV is a favorable omen for the choice that needs to be made by Portia’s wooers. The use of that number suggests that love, in its noblest form will triumph in the end.”