I actually cannot find the definitions even in Wiktionary. Though I do think that for some of the words on this list which are still used today, it is hard to pinpoint the contexts in which they are used.
Since the literature itself was usually translated in the 19th century, then the words that were relevant to that time period would be used as the best possible cognates to the original translations assuming the works were not in English. So anyone who is looking into the body of English literature would be hard-pressed to continue studying it, since he would have difficulty reading out-of-date language. This list would hopefully alleviate that struggle and ease the studying of English literature.
In Modern English, we would use that word as a verb to refer to “supplementation,” such as in the phrase “to eke out a living.” However, in Middle English, particularly in the “Canterbury Tales” it was used to mean “also” or “in addition.”
Of course, the word nowadays refers to a noun that elicits laughter, but hundreds of years ago, humor referred to a person’s temperament. Determining it involved a now-debunked scientific method of classifying anyone based on four humors: 1. if a person was easily angered; 2. if a person was cheerful by nature; 3. if a person was melancholic or easily given to sadness; 4. if a person was relaxed or easy-going.
Not only do we think of the word industry, as referring to capitalism pertaining to the citizens’ relationship with the cityscape like in the word “industrialization,” but also when referring to a niche market, such as the film industry. However the word industry was also used to refer to the ethic of hard work. Benjamin Franklin was the most notable advocate of this concept in his Autobiography.
We do not hear this phrase anymore, but we do know what a soothsayer is, which is someone who foretells a prophecy; so what would the sooth imply? That this sayer has knowledge of something. That is why “In sooth” is the archaic translation for today’s phrase “In reality” or “In truth.” Just like a lot of the phrases on this list, this phrase can be found in William Shakespeare’s plays.
This word, used in the modern times as a verb meaning “to expand,” was actually used as a noun to refer to a piece of land, more specifically in the religious context. This is most definitely the case in Jonathan Edwards “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” when he mentions that:
“…the earth don’t willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts.”
Not usually used to refer to one’s own skin color or geographical origin, rather to refer to one’s own family or lineage. This can be found in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher in which the narrator relates that:
“I had learned, too, the very remarkable fact, that the stem of the Usher race, all time-honored as it was, had put forth, at no period, any enduring branch.”
That word can also be seen in the “Eddas” which are a collection of lays detailing tales in Norse mythology, specifically with the context of race referring to variations of world-origin, such as the races of the Alfar, Jotunn, Dwarves, and Men.
This refers to food eaten at a meal, specifically within the context of a feast gathering. This was seen in The Mabinogion, whenever one of King Arthur’s knights ate a meal.
It is a bowdlerization of the phrases “God’s blood” and “God’s wounds,” which is meant to be a profane expletive in Shakespeare’s time.
Used in Shakespeare’s plays, used as an interjection.
This adjective means “to be accustomed to,” however it was never placed in front of a noun to modify it, rather the modification occurred when it referred to a person’s state of mind, which then follows with a verb, as though saying that the person has a habit of initiating the said verb.
This was primarily used in this context in William Shakespeare’s Richard III.
“Nor cheer of mind that I was wont to have.”
Today, the word is spelled wrath, and it refers to a noun not an adjective. In classical literature, the word wroth meant “a wrathful state of mind.”
DISCLAIMER: This was written as an assignment for my British Literature class and was originally posted on Academia.edu
In the days of the epic poem Beowulf, a king’s strength was determined by his will, competence, wealth, and power. He had to rule over entire tribes of people and had to be willing to put down any rebellion. But he was human, for he needed warriors to fight for him and counselors to advise him. Even in old age, a king had to set for himself and his people a good example and prove himself worthy of continuing a line of successors. It was a time within the poem when danger manifested itself in the form of monsters and enemy tribes, when the tribes needed a figure to inspire and lead them.
The kings who are mentioned in Beowulf may appear to divert from the main plot but their reigns are compared between Beowulf, Hrothgar, and the kings before them. They are presented both as examples to live up to and cautionary tales to avoid becoming bad kings. Hrothgar was compared to King Eormenric, who acts as a negative foil to him, since he was very greedy, whose wealth was eventually claimed by a warrior named Hama (Beowulf 67, Lines 1197-201). When praising Beowulf, Hrothgar brings up King Heremod who killed his own comrades, refused to pay tribute to the Danes, and lost happiness in the end. Like Eormenric, Heremod is also used as a foil making Beowulf appear noble by comparison. Hrothgar forewarns him “So learn from this and understand true values” (Beowulf 77-8, Lines 1709-23).
The epic poem begins by narrating the lineage of Hrothgar going back to his great-grandfather Shield, an orphan who directed the aggression from his earlier years within the mead-hall and among his enemies into maintaining order among the tribes. It begins with Shield in order to magnify the significance of Hrothgar’s background as an inheritor of the kingdom founded by his ancestor (Beowulf 41, Lines 4-25). Lineage determined how a king was recognized for his legitimate right to leadership, which was important in the poem to refer to him by his relations to past royalty. A common name that is given to some of the characters are based on their filial ties, such as Beowulf being called “son of Ecgtheow” and Hrothgar as “son of Halfdane.”
Since the lineage of the king provides legitimacy to his reign, so would his wealth, especially if it was earned. Kings had to exhibit their wealth, particularly when the kenning “treasure-seat” was used to describe Hrothgar’s throne, which was surrounded by all of his hoard and war spoils (Beowulf 44, Lines 168). Hrothgar also had to ride fashionably atop his royal saddle while being surrounded by shield-bearers, when accompanying Beowulf to the “troll-dam” of Grendel’s mother. This was to demonstrate his power to any in the way as well as to protect him (Beowulf 71, Lines 1390-411). The construction of the mead-hall would have to be suitable to a king’s companions, since it is what unites them amidst the struggles from other tribes and—in the case of the epic poem itself—monsters. Heorot, the mead-hall where Hrothgar and his men celebrated, comes from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning “hart,” which refers to antlers and represented royalty among the Anglo-Saxons (Beowulf 42, Line 78).
Even though kingship was passed to the next generation, members of royalty still had to earn that right, just like Shield did to become king and just like Beowulf receiving the title “hall-warden” which was rare to give anyone (Beowulf 54, Line 653-61). In some parts of Beowulf, Hrothgar was dubbed “the helmet” of his people, which could suggest that the king had to be both physically and mentally impenetrable (Beowulf 37). In order to exercise his authority, a king had to be competent enough to do it. It was the reason why Beowulf was chosen by Hygd, Hygelac’s wife, to become king of the Geats over Hygelac’s own son (Beowulf 90-1, Lines 2367-72). What was evident by this sudden shift of traditional primogeniture was that life was brutal during the time this poem was told and the only opportunities of social mobility were to found in the battlefield. Beowulf also had to earn the trust of allies, like Eadgils, who he aided in his struggle against King Onela (Beowulf 91, Lines 2391-6). Not only did he have to be competent, but a king also had to be brave. This was especially the case when Beowulf was willing to confront the dragon and endure its fire and poison, even in his older years. He even advised his men to stay back while he fights it (Beowulf 93-4, Lines 2510-37).
To read more, visit the paper uploaded on Academia.edu
“Beowulf.” The Norton Anthology English Literature: The Major Authors: Volume 1, edited by Stephen Greenblatt, 9th edition, W. W. Norton & Company, 2013, pp. 36-106. 12 Oct. 2016.
DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.
These videos uniquely mix informative and aesthetic content into an addictive connection which gives me more than one reason to watch them. This is definitely important if the reasons are to entertain and educate.
As for political opinions, although I do not completely agree with all of them, none of these YouTubers have this dogmatic attachment and understand the complexities within the human sphere.
It is interesting seeing the references of old art being used with a modern twist. Kallgren offers brilliant insight into any topics involving avant-garde films or William
Shakespeare’s plays, by making connections that are not usually seen, whether it has to do with the common speech inspired by Shakespeare’s literature or translating his plays into different languages.
Specifically, I am more fascinated by Natalie’s more recent videos, which are when she was transitioning her gender and when she started relying more on the trippy effects of the colored lighting and the dynamics of her complex characters personifying any part of the political spectrum.
Although there are long skits, what makes them appear less time-consuming is the use of lighting and props that make the experience about as interesting as the topics themselves.
It’s time to include Geography…NOW!
This is an ambitious project including a collaboration from many types of people, from many vocational and cultural backgrounds. What makes this channel so fascinating is how Paul is able to elaborate on these countries as though they were individuals with unique relationships and personalities.
Coupling gameplay footage with his undying devotion to the consumers, Sterling manages to criticize the TRIPLE A gaming corporations whenever they actively take advantage of their products’ cult followings. He relates this information alongside his raunchy humor.
Rudder may be the only YouTuber who can actually make linguistics into a fun topic to learn about. That should tell you something when would be typically viewed as a very dry topic. Whether it includes 2D or 3D animation, what really matters is how the linguistic information is easily explained.
What makes these videos unique are the hand-drawn 2D still animations which can show the candid, organic nature of the channel. The narrators summarize plays and historical events with humorous and sarcastic acting (thus the title of the channel).
If you have ever wanted to know what that classical song was but was unable to find out what it was or how it is played, then I would highly suggest Rousseau. She plays these songs on the piano with the keynotes being shown in various colors. She not only plays classical songs but also covers modern songs in a piano version.
There is a lot of in-sight when it comes to TED talks, especially when it is a subject you are interested in. They can definitely blur the distinction between creative and scholarly work, when searching for many topics to learn about. This particular video encapsulates it because I think the subject is intricate in itself and the presenter has a lot of energy.
I already wrote an article about Beaubien, but what I didn’t discuss further was how addictive his content can be. What can truly make these videos so entertaining is how relatable they are to any writer who may have encountered mistakes in the past, as well as the simple yet effective still animations that illustrate the tropes that he talks about.
This is a special shout-out to my homeboy, Dr. Sparky Sweets!
In delivering the summary and the scholarly discussion about the particular piece of literature, Edwards uses a lot of slang for humorous effect. This is definitely what makes the reading humorous and insightful.
Image Attribution: YouTube
DISCLAIMER: This poem was originally posted on Odyssey.
Salt-riddled droplets stream downwards
While conjuring gods-answerable words
Is wanting a bountiful increase
And the violence and temptations to cease
Too much for the flesh-and-blood to consume
And should we live with our earthly doom?
These words effuse towards never-ending lights
Beaming from cloud-estates where angels take their flight
O’er the buildings made from earth-as-hell fiends
Towards lambs of gods to absolve sins uncleaned
Who produce fleece for the aether gods-woven
That keeps Earth and the Heavens cloven
Tapestried beyond skies unflown and planets unmined
That bedazzles Men and makes devils blind
But are Men just devils-waiting-to-roast?
No matter how much they chest-beat and boast
Their compositions would decay with age
And their coffins would become their cages
No matter how much they pray, grovel, scream, and cry
Their gnashings-of-teeth might continue after they die
But, in sooth, the firmaments hear no songs
Since the clouds are not where angels belong
Nor do the heavens govern outer space
For bleak emptiness has humans to displace
Since they are ant-sapient dust
With their innovations easily given to rust
They live in this world of death and rot
And creativity is all they got
Image Attribution: Pixabay
DISCLAIMER: This was written as an assignment for my Shakespeare & His Contemporaries class and was originally posted on Academia.edu.
Within this analysis, the discussion will be focused on the way in which William Shakespeare portrays outsiders in his plays—five to be specific. These characters’ importance to these plays are underestimated because they define the play’s plots and conflicts. Because they are either anti-heroes or villains, their positions in the plays give the audience a much more thoroughly detailed exposition of their motivations and their complex personalities and emotions. Although states of being an outsider vary, this essay will focus on characters who were outsiders in the first place; in other words, characters who are defined as outsiders based on their race, ethnicity, disability, or other nonnegotiable forms of isolation.
In Hamlet, the outsider of the story is the titular character partly because he studied in Wittenburg before returning to Elsinore (and he is later exiled after killing Polonius), but mainly because he may have a mental disorder, such as depression, as Juliet Mitchell would argue. He especially becomes an outsider for this very reason since he is the only one who is deeply affected by the death of his father (Mitchell 33). Shylock in the Merchant of Venice is an outsider because he is a Jew in Venetian society. Although Richard III is an aristocrat, he is an outsider among the other aristocrats because of his physical disability, which would be his hunchback. In King Lear, Edmund is introduced in the play as the illegitimate child of the Earl of Gloucester. Because of his status, his legitimate half-brother is more favored by Gloucester than Edmund is. While almost all of the characters in Titus Andronicus are Romans and Goths, Aaron is the only African character in the play (excluding the illegitimate child he has with Queen Tamora).
Those disadvantages are what lead them to be treated condescendingly at least and abusively at worst. In Hamlet’s case, no one takes him seriously and he is treated like a child by being told little lies while his father’s ghost will actually tell him the truth (Mitchell 45-6). While the struggle within royalty also exists in Elsinore, Hamlet is not despised but he is mistrusted, primarily by Polonius and Laertes who inform Ophelia to not develop strong feelings for Hamlet (Hamlet 1.3.1-136). While Hamlet is talked down to in his own court, Richard III is despised by even his own mother (Richard III 4.1.52-5). When Edmund is introduced, he is snubbed by his own father in favor of Edgar (History of King Lear 1.7-30).
Although Aaron is trusted by Martius and Quintius in hunting for panthers and taking Titus’ hand (Titus Andronicus 2.3.192-3, 3.1.157-61), these acts of trust are only as a result of his status as a slave. When he is not well-received is when he violates decorum, which is why Bassianus and Lavinia are willing to report Tamora’s affair with Aaron. Then they proceed to insult Aaron with Lavinia comparing him to a stag to be hunted by Jove’s hounds and Bassianus calls Aaron “barbarous” (Titus Andronicus 2.3.66-87). Titus, when he is met by Tamora and her sons in disguise, calls Aaron a devil (Titus Andronicus 5.2.85-6).
Although insults are directed at Aaron, the child he has with Tamora is even less respected by the other characters. The nurse who helped Tamora give birth to the child calls it a disgrace since it was birthed by a high-ranking authority figure like the Empress (Titus Andronicus 4.2.66-70). The nurse, Demetrius, Chiron, and Lucius wish to kill the child, which Aaron the Moor strongly forbids (Titus Andronicus 4.1.70, 79, 84-5, 5.1.51).
Shylock is the victim of anti-Semitism specifically from Antonio who insults, kicks, and spits on him (Merchant of Venice 1.3.102-124). Though, later in the play, the bias that the Venetian court has is demonstrated by Portia’s “Quality of Mercy” speech, even though Shylock is a Jew (Merchant of Venice 4.1.179-200). Although the concept of mercy is found in Micah of the Old Testament, the overall message of Portia’s speech talks about mercy from the Christian interpretation (Weinstein 188). Her speech implies that Shylock would have no other choice but to convert to Christianity in order to become a participant of Venetian society, which he eventually does in the end (Merchant of Venice 4.1.389).
A way in which outsiders are actively being despised beyond assigning their labels is by comparing them to animals. This is a theme that connects these plays in providing an insight into how these natural outsiders are treated. In Shylock’s case, he is called a “dog” by Antonio (Merchant of Venice 1.3.107) and Solanio (Merchant of Venice 2.8.14). Richard III and Edmund are referred to as “toads” which is an animal that has negative connotations associated with disgrace (Richard III 4.4.145, History of King Lear 24.134). Aaron the Moor is described as a raven (Titus Andronicus 3.1.158), because of how the creature represents ominous death (Deroux 97), as well as raven-colored (Titus Andronicus 2.3.83), due to his skin color. He is also compared to a fly that Titus’ brother Marcus kills, saying how it was black and ugly (Titus Andronicus 4.1.66). Although Hamlet is not referred to as an animal by any of the characters, he does refer to himself as “pigeon-livered” because he cannot build up enough courage to immediately kill Claudius (Hamlet 2.2.554).
Since they are compared to animals, the insults are meant to dehumanize the characters and to place them below the other characters. Although those insults are directed in part to their statuses, the reasons behind them are due to the characters’ actions. The way in which Titus insults Aaron happens after he is deceived by him. Richard III and Edmund commit atrocities, or played a part in them at least, that would cause them to feel disgraceful.
Because of the marginalities that they have, these outsiders would not have been accepted among the majority group if they did not have any sense of importance, or at least if the characters belonging to the majority demographic will not do (Heller 150). Throughout the duration of the plays, they have to demonstrate why they matter to the rest of the characters in spite of their statuses. Although Peter Berek discusses the concept of “self-transformation” as it historically applied to Jews who would change their identities and names in order to assimilate into the various European societies, this concept also applied to their practice of usury which could make any commoner rise in wealth and power (Berek 148). As such, this concept can easily relate to any outsiders in the plays, whether they are Jews or not.
Self-transformation most definitely fits all of the outsiders, though it is only Shylock who is considered important because of a trade—which in his case is usury. No Venetian would want to associate with Shylock if he does not lend out credit through usury, especially since Jews could only work with usury in that time period (Weinstein 191). Richard III acknowledges that he has no purpose in the new British society that was birthed after their civil war, so he seeks to make his new purpose as the man who is able to be persuasive, charismatic, wooing, and able to make witty comebacks, with the example of Richard III causing the other characters to turn against Margaret of Anjou after she curses him (Richard III 1.3.235-301). In his “Winter of our discontent” soliloquy, the way in which he frames it is spoken as though it is a victory speech addressed to an audience that has recently seen peace (Van Elk 5).
A way in which Hamlet is self-transformed is that he is well-versed in the arts. While Polonius hints to Ophelia that Hamlet plays music, he is enthralled in the art of stagecraft and is constantly directing his actors and having long conversations with Polonius about plays in the past. Since art is a field that typically would be associated with interpreting the world around the author of its creation (Mitchell 30), Hamlet especially manages to evoke guilt within Claudius by revealing the poisoning scene that he himself had done, which causes him to retreat to the arras to attempt to pray (Hamlet 3.2.233-48).
With Aaron the Moor’s importance, he would not have become Tamora’s servant if he did not become her openly secret lover or be able to tame Demetrius and Chiron; such as when the latter circumstance introduces Aaron as he stops the two brothers from dueling for whoever can woo Lavinia by convincing them they can both rape her (Titus Andronicus 2.1.104-32). In this way, he uses his brutishness as a form of babysitting, going so far as to tell Lucius that he was their tutor in orchestrating the plot to rape Lavinia, murder Bassianus, and frame Quintius and Martius—two of Titus’ sons (Titus Andronicus 5.1.98). Since Aaron is instrumental in Tamora’s war against the Andronicus family, she expects him to do his deeds, especially since she brags, in her aside speech, how she can orchestrate Titus’ destruction via Aaron (Titus Andronicus 4.4.34-8).
Because these outsiders are self-cultivated, they are extremely intelligence, since they spend the duration of the plays devising plots and fooling people into doing what they want. Edmund especially represents this characteristic of an outsider when he blatantly stated “Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit” (History of King Lear 2.157). He exercises that wit by framing Edgar in a feigned plot to kill Gloucester, which leads to Gloucester replacing Edgar with Edmund as the heir (History of King Lear 6.1-63).
Because of the outsiders’ uses in their societies, they are both useful but also despised. Shylock is the most notable example since although he is able to produce wealth of merchants through their use of his loans, he is still despised by the Venetian society (Heller 151). His business is also undermined by Antonio who loans his money without interest, which thus reduces the rate of Shylock’s usury (Merchant of Venice 1.3.39-42). Aaron the Moor would not have been useful to Queen Tamora if he could not tame her sons or carry out her deeds. Although those characters are instrumental to the fabric of their societies and how they appease the majority, in Hamlet’s, Edmund’s (though later in the First Act), and Richard III’s case, their roles in their own societies are based on their lineages, since they are in line for succession for the royal crowns. In either case, whether as servants or as nobility, the outsiders’ function within their plays is to feed into the majority’s system.
Michael D. Friedman coined the term “accommodationist” in order to refer to Ian McKellen’s supposed pandering to the heterosexual majority audience when portraying Richard III as the bloodthirsty tyrant he was meant to be portrayed as (Friedman 577). However, that term is more applied to figures like the Shakespearean Richard III himself, as well as the rest of the outsiders. Since they have no power—at least not one that was never attained in the first place—they have no other choice but to accept the rules of the societies they live in in order to fulfill their nefarious agendas (Heller 156).
This reason is why Richard III cannot just simply marry himself to Queen Elizabeth’s daughter, rather he would need to follow the rules of courtship. When Shylock loses the case, he is willing to convert to Christianity and let his wealth be passed down to his grandson who would be produced by Lorenzo and Jessica (Merchant of Venice 4.1.389). Edmund is the only one who seeks to subvert the British law that labeled him a bastard in favor of worshipping Nature as a goddess that permits him to do whatever he can to remove this stigma. Though even he does not seek to change the law, rather he simply works within it by replacing Edgar as the legitimate heir to Gloucester’s title (History of King Lear 2.1-21). However much they are insulted, these outsiders provide importance to the societal and social functions within the plays. Although these outsiders attempt to become accommodationist (Friedman 577), they develop a deeper, more familiar connection with either the majority or their opposites. They often do this in order to obtain a much higher position that the one they are in at the moment.
To read more, visit the paper uploaded on Academia.edu.
Berek, Peter. “The Jew as Renaissance Man.” Renaissance Quarterly, vol. 51, no. 1, 1998, pp. 128–162. JSTOR.
Deroux, Margaux. “The Blackness Within: Early Modern Color-Concept, Physiology and Aaron the Moor in Shakespeare’s ‘Titus Andronicus.’” Mediterranean Studies, vol. 19, 2010, pp. 86–101. JSTOR.
Edited by Greenblatt, Cohen, Howard, Maus. “The Norton Shakespeare: Based on the Oxford Edition.” 2nd Edition. Norton (2008).
Friedman, Michael D. “Horror, Homosexuality, and Homiciphilia in McKellen’s ‘Richard III’ and Jarman’s ‘Edward II.’” Shakespeare Bulletin, vol. 27, no. 4, 2009, pp. 567–588. JSTOR.
Heller, Agnes. “The Absolute Stranger: Shakespeare and the Drama of Failed Assimilation.” Critical Horizons, vol. 1, no. 1, Feb. 2000, pp. 147–167. EBSCOhost.
Mitchell, Juliet. “Hamlet – The Lonely Only and His Siblings.” Psycho-Analytic Psychotherapy in South Africa, vol. 21, no. 1, May 2013, pp. 28–60. EBSCOhost.
Van Elk, Martine. “‘Determined to Prove a Villain’: Criticism, Pedagogy, and ‘Richard III.’” College Literature, vol. 34, no. 4, Fall 2007, pp. 1–21. EBSCOhost.
Weinstein, Brian. “Shakespeare’s Forgivable Portrayal of Shylock.” Jewish Bible Quarterly, vol. 35, no. 3, July 2007, pp. 187–191. EBSCOhost.
Basically, what happened was that Matt, a YouTuber dedicated to Star Wars lore, has taken it upon himself to spend his own money to produce a fan film revolving around Darth Vader’s psychology and his relationship with Emperor Palpatine.
Where the controversy lies is when Lucasfilm, which was sold to Disney, put a copyright claim on the first episode, even though the video was already de-monetized. This caused the YouTube channel Star Wars Theory to receive a strike and potentially jeopardized the production of the fan film.
Although Disney ordered Lucasfilm to refrain from the claim after massive backlash from the fans, the backlash should not easily dissipate.
Disney already set their standards when Matt asked for permission. No monetization. No crowd-funding. No rights or ownership over the content. They did not need to push more standards when the film was already being uploaded. If the opposite circumstance happened and Matt violated the standards, you can bet that Disney would have the Force power of Emperor Palpatine and would Force-lift all of the courthouses and hurl them at him (which is an interesting comparison to make).
If a giant corporation worth billions of dollars is going to abuse its powers on a fan film that was produced with $80,000, then this should not slide. That type of action is about as dignified as the most powerful Force user in the galaxy battling younglings who can barely learn the Force. Because there is a tight budget on the film, that claim could have ceased the production of the future episodes. So who is to say that Lucasfilm or Disney itself would not put the same claims on future episodes?
An advice should be given to any giant corporation that purchases the rights of a company like Lucasfilm. When you acquire ownership over a franchise like “Star Wars,” you not only have to deal with potential future audiences, but entire generations of audiences. The fans, devoted or casual, helped create the following that the franchise had, whether through Expanded Universe novels or working the dialogue into everyday speech.
This YouTuber especially represents this because he is helping to keep your brand relevant in the midst of culture war controversies with Episodes VII and VIII. You should WANT him to be the internet influencer who is keeping YOUR franchise alive. You should encourage this YouTuber to continue with his project, which he himself had stated that it was never about the money, rather about the love and dedication to the franchise.
I can understand that Matt was cool with Disney as soon as the claim was lifted, since he sounds like a nice guy. However, I do not have any solutions to keep Disney at its word, other than that the fandom should not forget the day that Disney disregarded their own standards to go after a YouTuber, and it should most definitely affect the turn-out for Episode IX.
What I want to say to Matt and all of the people who have worked diligently on this fan film is this: May the Force be with you, because you’re going to need it for any more controversies with Lucasfilm or Disney.
DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.
Although technically, within theatrical jargon, the play The Merchant of Venice is characterized as a comedy, which meant during Shakespeare’s time a play with a happy ending–and the full title of the play is “The Comical History of the Merchant of Venice, or Otherwise Called the Jew of Venice“–that “comedy” label would only apply to some characters. Since Antonio is technically the “Merchant of Venice,” he clearly has a happy ending, while “the Jew of Venice,” which would be Shylock, has a tragic story. Although he does not die in the end–but it is implied–he does not have a pleasant point-of-view, for it is one filled with anger, resentment, exclusion, and the ultimately forced assimilation.
To provide a summary, “The Merchant of Venice” was written by William Shakespeare during Queen Elizabeth’s reign in 1594. It takes place in Venice. Antonio is a merchant who has sent his argosies to the New World, who is willing to pay for Bassianus’s debt to the usurer Shylock, who has a personal grudge against Antonio and is willing to lend him money in exchange for a pound of Antonio’s flesh lest he cannot pay Shylock back. Meanwhile, Portia is a wealthy heiress who has to choose a suitor based on which one chooses the right casket, according to her deceased father’s wishes; which Bassianus wishes to woo and choose the right casket. However, besides the basic comedy aspects, there is a tragic point-of-view that is taken by Shylock.
For some audience members who also belong to marginalized demographics, Shylock is the personification of their histories, and it would not be hard to see how, since Shylock’s occupation involves a trade no one in the majority is willing to do, he is the constant victim of prejudice by Antonio and his friends, he is biased against by the Venetian court, and he is forced to abandon his identity at the end of the play. In the IMDb page of the Maori translation of The Merchant of Venice, it explains how significant this film was since it was the first Maori-language film ever produced, and it depicts Shylock as a sympathetic minority character. Considering how the indigenous Maori were subjugated by the British when they colonized New Zealand, all of Shylock’s struggles can easily relate to theirs. It even begins with Shylock’s “Hath not a Jew eyes” monologue at the beginning as he cries.
Definitely, that monologue Shylock delivers to Antonio’s friends is the prime component of determining whether Shylock is a sympathetic character or a bloodthirsty villain. It is especially important since he takes the opportunity to vent his reasons to Saleria and Solanio since they ask him what he intends to do with Antonio’s pound of flesh. Shylock does not want the pound of flesh itself, rather the means of getting it, in other words, he wishes to inflict pain upon Antonio. He goes on to say that he is trying to survive just like the rest of the Venetians and the only reason why Antonio is undermining his business and abusing him is that he is Jewish. Shylock concludes by saying that he will resemble the Christians in their desire for vengeance.
Within that monologue, Shylock provides his rationalizations not just to Antonio’s friends (and the nearby prostitutes in the Al Pacino version) but to the audience as well. Palestinian actor Makram J. Khoury especially highlights this as Shylock when turning from a laughing Salerio to the people around him and then back at Salerio. In this way, the audience along with the characters are given the opportunity to understand Shylock’s struggles in Venetian society.
Indeed, Shylock also points out the hypocrisy among the Christians in the trial scene when he tells them all that they are allowed to own slaves and not even treat them fairly. Outside of Shylock’s awareness, hypocrisy abounds the city-state of Venice as well as the rural Belmont. Portia preaches the “Quality of Mercy” when trying to convince Shylock not to take Antonio’s flesh, and yet she does not have mercy to suitors who choose the wrong caskets and condemns them to live the rest of their lives in celibacy. When audience members look at how the Venetians treat each other and Shylock, it is no wonder that they would be more inclined to side with Shylock than Portia, Bassiano, Antonio, or any of the other characters.
As Agnes Heller from the philosophy and social theory journal “Critical Horizons” and Brian Weinstein from the “Jewish Bible Quarterly” pointed out, Shylock is even more interesting than those other characters. He experiences a wide variety of emotions, from sadness to happiness to anger. Though even Shylock has a negative side since almost none of the characters in The Merchant of Venice appear to be absolvable. Not only is Shylock intent on possibly killing Antonio, and even hopes the argosies Antonio has sent to maintain his wealth are destroyed, he constantly abuses his clown-servant Lancelot. He gives him contradictory commands, which causes him to leave as soon as he is reunited with his long-lost father. So, there does not seem to be a way to rewrite Shylock’s relationship with Lancelot or the troubles he himself externalizes within his own household that causes his daughter Jessica to flee with Lorenzo with his ducats.
Without a doubt, The Merchant of Venice represents a lot of people the very definition of anti-Semitism. So much so, that the very name “Shylock” has wormed its way into the English language to mean “loan shark.” However, upon actually reading the play, Shylock actually cares less about money and more about his revenge against Antonio for his constant harassment. He even ignores the bond given to him–and more–and continues his attempt to take Antonio’s pound of flesh. In this case, his desire for revenge outweighs his desire for wealth. In another instance, Shylock relates to his fellow Jew, Tubal, how he kept a turquoise given to him by a woman named Leah, who was presumably his wife. Upon hearing that his daughter, Jessica, sold it to buy a monkey, he angrily states that he would not sell it for a wilderness of monkeys, thus showing the value he places on Leah which is more than the turquoise itself.
However, there is more to the conversation than the anti-Semitism that is typical within The Merchant of Venice. Shakespearean actor Patrick Stewart points out the complexities of portraying Shylock, who was either depicted as a comical villain or as a sympathetic minority character. Not only does Shylock’s dialogue give off hints that he has genuine grievances about Antonio kicking at, spitting at, and insulting him, but the original play does not dictate HOW the character should be portrayed or even how he is even dressed. A myriad of performances can paint Shylock in completely different ways, whether–as Stewart mentioned a reviewer who described them–as the “wolfish, murderous, bloodthirsty dog Jew (as Antonio, Salerio, and Graziano call Shylock)” or as the “noble, suffering, dignified member of a persecuted race.” Today’s society would definitely be more inclined with the latter portrayal of Shylock, especially in the post-World War II world when fairly recently in world history the entire Jewish nation was threatened with extermination during the Holocaust.
There have also been political implications in the productions of The Merchant of Venice. The blatant anti-Semitism that is largely associated with the play is most definitely found outside of the play since it was staged as part of Nazi propaganda. However, The Merchant of Venice was also played in Tel Aviv in the Habima Theater in a Hebrew translation in 1936, along with another production staged during the Arab-Israeli War (1967) depicting Shylock as the personification of Jewish oppression. Although fierce controversies emerge in Israel and Palestine as a result of these productions, what does remain is the fact that The Merchant of Venice continues to be staged.
Should there be an ethical, responsible way to re-interpret The Merchant of Venice as a play? I think it is important to understand that in the historical context when Shakespeare wrote this play, it was written during a time when Jews only recently were allowed to enter England under Queen Elizabeth. As for the background behind the original staging of The Merchant of Venice, it was shown to an English audience taking place in Venice, which Shakespeare himself has never been to. So, to understand how to re-interpret The Merchant of Venice is to understand that Shakespeare is not the demigod of the literary arts that he is mythologized into being, since although he developed really intricate, colorful characters, he had a narrow ethos when it came to the background. Brian Weinstein makes it a point that Shakespeare was completely unfamiliar with the teachings in the Talmud, which led to Shylock directly contradicting its basic teachings.
Of course, modern perspectives on Shylock also come into question. Although Weinstein points out the fact that Shylock strays from Judaism, the issue with his character is that he only seems to reference his Jewish teachings in order to legitimize his usury. Shylock does not act upon getting Antonio’s pound of flesh by Talmudic teachings, but by how he perceives is the Christians’ notion of revenge. He even concludes his famous monologue:
“The villainy you teach me, I will execute. It shall go hard, but I will better the instruction.”
No matter how much attention is given to the original interpretation of Shakespeare’s play, the result might be an imperfect rendition. Stewart attempted to replicate the original Shylock as the comical villain, but the reality is that the very posh that he used is itself a modern method of communication. The English language is spoken today, specifically Modern British English, is completely different from the Early Modern English spoken in Shakespeare’s time. A notable feature of both Stewart’s and David Suchet’s (who is Jewish himself) performances is the lack of rhoticity, meaning that they pronounced the words without the “r,” so “hurt” becomes [huht] and sir becomes [suh].
Stewart also seemed to have a simplified view of Shylock’s status, almost coming off as tone-deaf. Not to be too hard on Patrick Stewart because he’s–well–Patrick Stewart, but he argued too confidently that “Shylock is an outsider who just so happens to be a Jew,” which completely ignores the broader context that led to Shylock’s “Hath not a Jew eyes” monologue. Although Suchet argued that he is an outsider “BECAUSE he is a Jew,” I can see where Stewart may have come to that conclusion. When Shylock searches for his ducats and his daughter, he manages to get Venetians to help him, which indicates that if Shylock really was excluded, no one in that society would care about what happened to his daughter or any of his possessions. In other instances, Shylock has access to go wherever he wants, since he has permission from the jailer to meet Antonio before the trial scene. He is also allowed to practice usury, practice Judaism (for most of the play), and go to the Venetian court. However, Shylock would not have been called “dog,” practiced usury, or be abused by Antonio if he was not Jewish to begin with.
If The Merchant of Venice is given new adaptations, then the re-imaginings would be less political and more contextual. Since Shakespeare is not as monolithic as we think of him as, we as the modern audience have enough creative liberty to interpret The Merchant of Venice differently from Shakespeare’s own interpretation. Since no preservation nor subversion seems to be suitable in producing the play, it would be best to let the character of Shylock become autonomous and let him speak from his own mouth and no one else’s. Plenty of Shakespeare’s plays were already re-interpreted, including “The Merchant of Venice,” either taking place in a different time period or having their themes entirely altered. Although John Barton of “RSC: Playing Shakespeare” TV series stated that Shakespeare’s characters were a mixture of black and white and that adapters tend to either solely focus on the black parts or the white parts, these characters need not reflect the issues at the time period in when they were created.
Images Attributions: TBradac. “SOC Merchant of Venice – Shylock.” Wikimedia. August 5, 2009. Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 4.0 International. Changes include adapting image of Shylock (played by Michael Nehring) into a personally designed background.