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ERIC Number: ED354186
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1993
Pages: 13
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
Prejudice, Pedagogy, and the Play: A Study of "The Merchant of Venice."
Eiferman, Sharon
There is little critical agreement on the meaning of Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice." One must confront the mindset of the play that systematically dehumanizes, stereotypes, excoriates, and seeks the extermination of one group on the grounds that their existence is repugnant to the controlling majority. Such a mindset is the philosophical and motivational basis for genocide. Most critics have taken little notice of either the prejudicial mindset or Shakespeare's dissent. Does ignoring the primary issue of the play suggests subtle support for the view that does not countenance the outsider? The challenge both for teachers and students of the play is to strive to come to a better understanding of who they are, insider and outsider. It has been suggested that "The Merchant of Venice" and its author are anti-Semitic. The challenge of the reader is to see all of the anti-Jewish epithets in the play from both Elizabethan and contemporary perspectives. In the play's trial scene, the reader faces perhaps the most dangerous caricature of all. There appears to be a conflict between justice, represented by Shylock, and mercy, represented by the Christians. In reality, it is not at all clear who is the victim and who is the victimizer. Those who teach the play must insist that students explore society's intolerance of the individual. If an instructor feels willing and able to tackle the philosophical complexity of the play, education on many levels is a real possibility. At that point, prejudice can be challenged and perhaps even overcome. (LBG)
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: Teachers; Practitioners
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A