My second thoughts on The Merchant of Venice

Readers may find of interest a 2006 entry in which I conclude, very regretfully, that Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is anti-Semitic, a view I had previously rejected.

- end of initial entry -

July 9

Jeff W. writes:

You mentioned The Merchant of Venice, and it made me want to pass along some thoughts, just FYI.

Many people, of course, do not believe that the Shakespeare plays were actually written by William Shakespeare. One widely-accepted theory is that they were written by Edward DeVere, the Duke of Oxford, perhaps with the help of a talented committee of writers that may have included Christopher Marlowe, among others.

It is known that the productions were government-financed. They were financed by the queen, or by others of the nobility. The purpose of this government financing seems to me twofold. First (in a way similar to Soviet art and music) it was to establish England’s reputation as a cultural center. Second it was to distribute pro-government propaganda. It is easy to see the nationalistic propaganda value, for instance, in the play Henry V.

So with this as backround, I was recently reading the book “This Time Is Different: 800 Years of Financial Folly” by Rogoff and Reinhart, which is a study of hundreds of government debt defaults.

In that book, it said that England defaulted on debt in 1594. This is a very obscure historical event, and the authors were not even sure if it was a default on external or internal debt. The book provides no details (many of these defaults are not well recorded in history).

The thought I had in reading that is that there may have been propaganda value in 1596 in demonizing Italian and/or Jewish moneylenders of the type that might have, at that time, been threatening retribution against the deadbeat queen.

It is just a thought to pass along. It may put into perspective the question of whether Shakespeare was anti-Semitic.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 08, 2010 10:39 AM | Send

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