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ERIC Number: ED337811
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1991
Pages: 33
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: N/A
ISSN: N/A
Shakespeare's Intent: A Discourse on Racism.
Holiday, D. Alexander
William Shakespeare wrote several plays which depict Jews and Blacks in a very negative, stereotypical fashion. In "The Merchant of Venice," for example, Shakespeare chooses to depict Shylock as Jews were popularly conceived in his era--as cold-hearted usurers and crucifiers of Christ. This is racist doctrine at work, as Shylock is stripped of his psychological being, his dignity, and his wealth and is forced to accept the prevailing laws and religion. Shakespeare, in resorting to this form of writing, used cruel stereotypes for mercenary and artistic purposes and, as Shakespeare gave all of his characters life, it is not on the characters that readers should place moral judgment, but on the "bard" himself. Shakespeare paints a very vivid picture of Aaron, Caliban, Othello, and Shylock and then expects to stand aside and allow readers to rip at characters' throats because they are either a "dog Jew," a "black fiend," or "an old black ram." It is, however, Shakespeare himself who is passing moral judgment, through racial bias, on these characters, these people. Man has an obligation to his fellow man to think/reason carefully before he commits his hidden thoughts to paper, because he has the capacity to bring injury to a person or group, and to commit a grave injustice. Words, whether spoken or written, are powerful in their expression. Sadly, somewhere in his groping for material to construct his plays, Shakespeare failed to comprehend (or ignored the voices in his head), the power he would one day wield with his pen. He did not realize that he would become the most studied playwright in history. (Thirty-four notes are included and 39 references are attached.) (PRA)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Merchant of Venice; Shakespeare (William)