Shylock: A Legend and Its Legacy

Overview

Never has one character of the stage provoked such controversy or achieved such infamy as Shakespeare's enigmatic Shylock. For four centuries the money lender of "The Merchant of Venice" has been reinvented as both villain and victim, as an object of tragedy and comedy, and has been used as an economic symbol and often as a lightning rod for anti-Semitism. But what was Shakespeare's attitude toward the character described on the play's title page in 1600 as "a man of extreme crueltie", and what should be our own?...
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Overview

Never has one character of the stage provoked such controversy or achieved such infamy as Shakespeare's enigmatic Shylock. For four centuries the money lender of "The Merchant of Venice" has been reinvented as both villain and victim, as an object of tragedy and comedy, and has been used as an economic symbol and often as a lightning rod for anti-Semitism. But what was Shakespeare's attitude toward the character described on the play's title page in 1600 as "a man of extreme crueltie", and what should be our own? With brilliant historical perspective and insight, theater critic John Gross explores the complex and influential history that has given Shylock a life beyond the play and established him as a figure of world mythology. Illuminating Shylock's evolution on the stage, his importance to writers and psychologists, and his enduring influence on society and culture, John Gross sheds as much light on our own shifting attitudes and beliefs as on the rich and disquieting figure Shakespeare created.
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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Books of the Century
...[A] singular gift of restoration and a rare example of the gentle power of impassioned reason presented in measured language.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Gross sheds new light on Shakespeare and anti-Semitism in this valuable and entertaining study of attitudes toward the Bard's Jewish usurer. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Amazingly, Shylock is in only five scenes in the Merchant of Venice . Yet, as pointed out by Gross, the theater critic for the London Sunday Telegraph , his impact and significance transcend his physical presence, so much so that his name and ``pound of flesh'' idea are almost universally known. In the first part of this character/cultural study, Gross examines the antecedents of Shylock and the play, and his development within the play. The second part considers ``interpretations'' both theatrical and literary in England and America until World War II; the third part considers Shylock more broadly as a touchstone (e.g., how his ``type'' is used by the Victorians--Trollope's Lopez, Dickens's Riah, Ruskin's use of him in Munera Pulveris ). There's not much new here--Shylock and Merchant of Venice have both consumed tons of interpretive ink--but the book is readable and puts a lot of sundry information in one place. For collections heavy in Shakespeariana and/or Judaica.-- Robert E. Brown, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.
New York Times Books of the Century
...[A] singular gift of restoration and a rare example of the gentle power of impassioned reason presented in measured language.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671883867
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 1/4/1994
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 0.88 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface 9
Pt. 1 Shakespeare's Shylock
1 Where Does He Come From? 15
2 Jews 31
3 Three Thousand Ducats 47
4 "Shylock Is My Name" 63
5 Wife and Daughter 68
6 "I Stand for Judgment" 76
7 Christians 91
Pt. 2 Interpretations (1600-1939)
8 From Comical to Tragical 105
9 Romantics and Revisionists 125
10 Henry Irving 145
11 Stage and Study 165
12 Between the Wars 184
Pt. 3 A Citizen of the World
13 A Legend and Its Legacy 209
14 Other Voices, Other Cultures 234
15 An Extended Family 257
16 Economic Man 285
17 A Father Figure 301
18 Anti-Semites 312
19 Since 1945 324
Notes 353
Index 373
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