Kelly’s review of The Merchant of Venice > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by Sarah (new)

Sarah You always write the best reviews, Kelly! Well done.

message 2: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Thank you, Sarah, so nice of you, much appreciated! :)

message 3: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan Kelly, I know I also loved one of your other reviews of another Shakespeare play. When I have some time I should check your shelves for Shakespeare's name to make sure I don't miss any of these reviews! Brilliant! Brave to review Shakespeare! (something I've still not done and might never do because I wouldn't do it as well as you do!)

message 4: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Lisa- I actually have a specific 'Shakespeare' shelf, so that should make it easy for you to find, if you're interested. Thank you for expressing interest in reading them, its always so so nice to know that I'm not just writing these for the empty tubes of the internet, and that they are useful to someone. :)

I hope that you do review Shakespeare as well! Everyone has their own thoughts on him- part of why he's so wonderful is that his writing allows for that. I would love to see your interpretations as well!

message 5: by Lori (new)

Lori Bravo Kelly! I've always had a problem with Merchant, and you've nailed it perfectly.

message 6: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Thanks Lori- I'm glad you agree. I did feel a bit odd for being held back from being deeply attached to it due to the things I stated above, since it is so brilliant on every other level. But it is a play, and I can't help but judge it at least partially on that format. Anyway, glad I'm not the only one. :)

message 7: by Lori (new)

Lori Nope you are most definitely not the only one! It's been years since I read it or seen a production, but there's a scene that has always left me baffled, the one where Jessica and her now-husband are talking about, uh, the weather or something, on their balcony? They just woke up? gah, this is NOT very clear! :D Anyway, when I first read it as a teen I thought it very poetic, but then later on I read it as they were having a fight, and there was definitely trouble in paradise. Do you know the scene I'm talking about?

message 8: by Kelly (last edited Jun 16, 2009 11:13AM) (new)

Kelly Yes, I think I do- is this a scene that's towards the end of the play? Where they do the "in such a night," thing back and forth at each other? This?:

If so- I think you were right the first time. I read it as a mischevious game that started intellectual and turned into more personal barbs quite quickly. I didn't read it as a fight- just that Jessica started teasing him (like one does to people one loves), and yeah, Lorenzo has absolutely no sense of humor about himself, so he turned it ugly. Unsurprising!

message 9: by Lori (new)

Lori Yep that's the scene! I've just reread it, and I think it's this that made me wonder:

In such a night
Did young Lorenzo swear he loved her well,
Stealing her soul with many vows of faith
And ne'er a true one.

But on reading it now, I think you're right - it's teasing. They probably just had sex, and Lorenzo needs to be told how great he was in bed but instead is getting mocked, ha!

message 10: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Sounds perfectly in character for that rat bastard. Steal a girl, insult her family and her background, and then take all her father's money. Ah, Prince Charming!

message 11: by Oriana (new)

Oriana Kelly I just have to tell you how very much I've been enjoying all these Shakespeare reviews. You do such a thorough, fascinating analysis of each one. They're a complete joy to read!

message 12: by Kelly (last edited Jun 17, 2009 11:35AM) (new)

Kelly Thank you so much, oriana! I really so much appreciate knowing that these reviews are useful to someone else besides me. It makes me very happy to hear that you're enjoying them. Thanks again for letting me know you're reading! :)

message 13: by Mnaya (new)

Mnaya Jossy Kelly my name sake, you've given me a taste of Shakespeare's play I have to read it believe me

message 14: by Kelly (last edited Oct 08, 2012 08:30AM) (new)

Kelly I appreciate her intelligence and why she would have been cynical about her situation. I can appreciate why she'd go for the juglar and why a lot of what came out of her mouth might be bitter. However, what I doing is just stating that a) a lot of her dialogue is, in fact, bitter and harsh- if hilarious and understandable at times. Her remarks on these guys are pretty thorough and mostly unnecessary take-downs. And b) she never overcame that to show mercy at any point in the play, which is just interesting to me considering she's the person who makes that speech.

message 15: by Kelly (last edited Oct 09, 2012 02:23PM) (new)

Kelly It's so hard to have arguments like this when my evidence and impressions are three years old. I don't even know if I would think differently now if I re-read it. I should check it out some weekend and see.

But going off of what I do remember... Well first, ouch! It's pretty hard to beat the thorough character assassinations Portia does of her suitors. You have met some horrible ladies! I would agree that nobody in the play is getting their heart broken because that scene is certainly played for laughs. However, my problem is with how utterly unnecessary it was. She went after them because she could. I got the sense that some of them weren't bright enough to understand, which ups the mean factor. Yes, as a woman in that day and age, you have to use what tools come to hand, and yes, I would imagine that you have to be firmer with your rejection when you're a prize to be won. However, it is all throughout the play. I think that it is an observant choice to show her as suspicious and bitter, given her situation, all I'm doing is stating that she is those things.

I like your comment about how the ring thing was "a demonstration of her abilities to ensure she would be accepted as an equal and not taken for granted, in an age where marriage was generally not an equal partnership." That is not something that I had considered before, given that the way that their story is set up, she's set up to have most of the power. But I can see how with ideas of marriage she might have wanted to remind him. I guess I'm just not a big fan of setting up your marriage to be a power game, particularly not if you're going to be hypocritical and pretend otherwise with speeches like mercy. I guess maybe where we disagree is that I don't see her mercy speech as being consistent with her character? It is a great speech, and I love her courtroom scene, but.

But maybe even that is a good lesson to draw from the play! Mercy often all comes down to who we like and don't in the end. I had this conversation with Sparrow recently about Tolstoy. We both understand where he's coming from to a certain degree. But I love his writing and I believe in the essential goodness and sincerity in his work, and she doesn't (at least not with Anna K, I can't say as to her opinions about the rest of his work). I just don't believe in that with Portia here. I understand her, but I don't believe some of those qualities that you see with her are there. It's all about whether you've got those rose colored glasses or not though! :)

message 16: by Keti (new)

Keti In my humble opinion, you are judging the play (the plot, the characters) from a very modern point of view and not taking into account that racism, nationalism and anti-semetism were very much a part of the Shakespearean Europe.

message 17: by Kelly (new)

Kelly And obviously I get that. But, and this is generally my feeling on this subject, there are two objections to this subject:

1) People who are modern-day viewers sometimes do like to know that they are going to encounter some ideas that can act as "triggers" on certain subjects, or things that they feel strongly about. Anti-semitism is one of them, and this play in particular is famous for that element. It is useful to comment on it for a modern audience to see how it would look. I don't believe it is as useful to read someone a lecture on the views on Jews in Renaissance England and lecture them about why they shouldn't be offended reading this. Yes, historical context is historical context (and I should mention at this point that I have done graduate work in history and I am therefore not coming from a "But history is dumb and people back then were inferior to our enlightenment now!" place), but that doesn't mean that some people are going to enjoy reading it any more. I have learned that one the hard way- you are going to need to address the perspectives people bring to it to get past it. I think that unless you are studying these works as pure historical artifacts that may or may not tell you something about the society, there should be something in there of value to you that is motivating your reading. So you're going to have to be able to connect to it or understand it or find something in it. It's pointless to pretend like people don't bring themselves into interpretation, historical education or not. That's what historiography is. That's why it exists.

2) The reason I commented specifically on the anti-semitism in this play- other than that its something that always comes up in conversation with this one- is that, as I stated, I actually felt some subversiveness from Shakespeare on the subject- which was unexpected, and therefore worth comment on its own.

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