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Slugs leave trails, sheep leave droppings, bees make honey, and humans leave two things: art and garbage. Where these meet is called entertainment.

Robyn Hitchcock


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Saturday, December first, 2007

The Merchant of Venice, 4:1

OK, Portia has won my heart. This scene is marvelous -- I am finding it really consuming to read, it has a command over my attention that the first half of the play did not, really -- I am suspending disbelief in the strangeness of the events recounted, hanging on the edge of my chair thinking What has Portia got up her sleeve and Oh, so that's it! when she plays her card.

The trial scene up to Portia's entrance is just beautiful poetry. Check this out:

SHYLOCK
...
So I can give no reason, nor will I not,
More than a lodged hate and a certain loathing
That I bear Antonio, that I pursue
A losing suit against him. Are you answered?

BASSANIO
There is no answer, thou unfeeling man,
To excuse the current of thy cruelty.

SHYLOCK
I am not bound to please thee with my answers.

BASSANIO
Do all men kill the things they do not love?

SHYLOCK
Hates any man the thing he would not kill?

BASSANIO
Every offense is not a hate at first.

SHYLOCK
What, would thou have a serpent sting thee twice?

ANTONIO
I pray you, think you question with the Jew.
You may as well go stand upon the beach,
And bid the main flood bate his usual height;
You may as well use question with the wolf,
Why he hath made the ewe bleat for the lamb;
You may as well forbid the mountain pines
To wag their high tops and to make no noise
When they are fretten with the gusts of heaven;
...

I'm seeing lots of possibly meaningless parallels to other works. Right now I'm thinking Wow, this is a great trial scene, I really liked the trial scene in Aguirre last night, I wonder if there's any connection... and Shylock begging the court to take his life with his property is reminding me of "Lady Waters and the Hooded One" -- but I don't think either of these has enough substance to make the basis for an actual thought...

posted afternoon of December first, 2007: Respond
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Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Gold, Silver, Lead

I can't get past thinking, every time I read about the contest which Portia's deceased father has designed to screen her suitors, that it is a lame contest. (Leaving aside the misogyny of it -- it should go without saying that the father dictating, from beyond the grave yet, who should marry his daughter is an atrocious idea.) 30% of petitioners for the fair Portia's hand will marry her without even a thought in their head -- and given that the contest seems designed to weed out the greedy and insufficiently thoughtful, that seems like a major bug. There seem to have been a goodly number of suitors around prior to the beginning of the play, so Shakespeare wants us to believe that everyone chose Gold or Silver, like Morocco and Aragon, and that only a "wise man" (if I'm understanding correctly that wisdom is the criterion) can possibly choose Lead. I'm not quite buying that.

Also -- I want to hear some reverse psychology from the guys as they make their deliberations. "Hm, in very sooth I bet her dad/ Would think that only dumbasses would choose/ The lead -- but hark! The silver's rilly cool/ I wonder what his thinking was in that/..." or something.

posted evening of November 28th, 2007: Respond
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Monday, November 26th, 2007

Random thoughts about The Merchant of Venice

  • Jeez, that Portia sure is a piece of work huh. What does Bassanio see in her? (Duh, obviously that she is pretty and wealthy...) I don't have too good of a picture of Bassanio yet.
  • Jessica and Lorenzo, I like them. I get the sense that that is how the author wants me to react, but ok. He is writing well then, to get me to have the reaction he's looking for. (Shades of Roger and Jessica.)
  • Lots of bigotry, right? I always hear about this being the Anti-semitic Shakespeare play but there's plenty of Anti-african sentiment too ("racism" seems like the wrong word somehow?) and of course misogyny.
  • I like the poetry. Something appealing in the movement back and forth between metered dialogue and prose dialogue.

posted evening of November 26th, 2007: Respond

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Shakespeare

I was watching (the fantastically good) Bad Education the other night and saw a preview for the 2004 movie of The Merchant of Venice, and it looked pretty good. So I have added it to my Netflix queue, and today I bought the book to keep me company in the meantime, and this brought to mind my post a few days ago about embarrassment -- because Shakespeare is always a source of worry for me, that I will be found out as insufficiently literate, because I have not read or seen enough of his plays, or do not recognize quotations from them quickly enough. Silly (it goes without saying) but there it is.

Reading the play this afternoon, and getting into the rhythm of the meter more than I can remember having done in the past -- my memory is that when I was reading Shakespeare in high school and college, I was always trying to figure out what the meter should sound like, without much luck.

posted evening of November 25th, 2007: Respond
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