Shylock Is Shakespeare
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Marvelously speculative and articulate, Gross’s book argues that Shylock is a breakthrough for Shakespeare the playwright, an early realization of the Bard’s power to create dramatic voices that speak for hidden, unconscious, even inhuman impulses—characters larger than the plays that contain them and ready to escape the author’s control. Shylock is also a mask for Shakespeare’s own need, rage, vulnerability, and generosity, giving form to Shakespeare’s ambition as an author and his uncertain bond with the audience. Gross’s vision of Shylock as Shakespeare’s covert double leads to a probing analysis of the character’s peculiar isolation, ambivalence, opacity, and dark humor. Addressing the broader resonance of Shylock, both historical and artistic, Gross examines the character’s hold on later readers and writers, including Heinrich Heine and Philip Roth, suggesting that Shylock mirrors the ambiguous states of Jewishness in modernity.
A bravura critical performance, Shylock Is Shakespeare will fascinate readers with its range of reference, its union of rigor and play, and its conjectural—even fictive—means of coming to terms with the question of Shylock, ultimately taking readers to the very heart of Shakespeare’s humanizing genius.
Bassanio himself to weigh more carefully what it is he asks of the moneylender. As John Gross points out, the repetitions have in them something of the accountant's manner of summing up the world, telling over its profits and losses, its risks, its currencies, its rates: "But ships are but boards, sailors but men; there be land rats, and water rats, water thieves and land thieves-! mean pirates" (I.J.I8-2o). You might even say that the repetitions reflect a certain poverty or miserliness
sources as Giovanni Fiorentino's collection of comic tales, I/ Pecorone (The simpleton), written in the fourteenth century and published in Milan in 1558. This adds to one's sense of its contingent perversity. In Fiorentino's version of the tale, for example, there is no conversion; the nameless Jewish moneylender merely tears his bond and retreats in a rage. The addition that Shakespeare makes is so blunt that it is hard to know its weight or to find the right language to speak about it.
supposed, one in which it is not clear what constitutes winning. The Venetians keep playing the game even after Shylock has exposed it because Portia teaches them how to turn it against him. Such difficulties are why we need to hold on to things hovering in the shadows. The very analytic power of our hermeneutic techniques is likely to make the play transparent, and so invisible, 149 CHAPTER THIRTEEN whereas it is often opaque, even as it shows how human beings give forms to things invisible,
Jewish secularism, socialism." Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary-these countries, burdened by guilt and an acute sense ofloss, will now welcome the exiles home: "People will be jubilant. People will be in tears. They will be shouting, 'Our 159 CHAPTER FOURTEEN Jews are back! Our Jews are back!"' It is a program that would restore to Jews the nourishments of a Diaspora that were delusively curtailed by the Jewish invention of the state oflsrael, a state that is now "deforming and disfiguring
hearts. Like Shylock, I want their hearts in exchange for my heart, though it is a heart that I know with as little certainty as they do theirs, a heart that is shadowy, opaque, histrionic, and grotesque, a desert ofwounds and a wilderness ofmonkeys. My heart is a nothing more real than any something, mine own and not mine own, dead and alive at once. For what but his own heart does my Shylock ask when he cries, "I would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear: would she were