Merchant of Venice, B2v

Editorial note

Elements of interest:

  • The degree to which the text emphasizes the estrangement Shyloch feels from the Christian majority in Venice, on account of his Judaism
  • Shyloch's name in the stage directions changes midway through this page;
  • Shyloch lists off the various differences between himself and the Christians, ways in which he will and won't engage with them socially

And other ventures he hath squandered abroad. But ships are but
boards, sailers but men. There are land rats and water rats, water
thieves and land thieves -- I mean pirates. And then there is the
peril of winds, waters, and rocks. The man is notwithstanding
Sufficient; three thousand ducats? I think I may take his bond.
Bassanio: Be assured you may.
Jew: I will "be assured I may". And that I may "be assured", I will
bethink thee, may I speak with Antonio?
Bassanio: If it please you to dine with us.
Jew: Yes, to smell pork1, and eat of the habitation which your
Prophet the Nazareth2 conjured the devil into. I will buy with you,
sell with you, walk with you, talk with you, and so following.
But I will not eat with you, drink with you, or pray with you.3
-- What news of the Rialto4, who is he comes here?
Enter Antonio.
Bassanio: This is signior Antonio.
Jew (aside): How like a fawning publican5 he looks.
I hate him, for he is a Christian.
But more, for in that low simplicity
he lends out money gratis6, and brings down
the rate of usance7 here with us in Venice.8
If I can catch him once upon the hip9,
I will feed that ancient grudge I bear him.
He hates our sacred nation10, and he rails
-- Even there, where merchants most do congregate --
on me, my bargains, and my well-won thrift,
which he calls 'interest'. Cursed be my tribe11
if I forgive him.
Bassanio: Shyloch, do you hear?
Shyloch: I am debating my present stores --
and, by the near guess of my memory,
I cannot instantly raise up the gross
of full three thousand ducats. What of that?
Tubal, a wealthy Hebrew of my tribe,
will furnish me. But soft: how many months
Do you require? Rest you fair, good signior,
your worship was the last man in our mouths.

Image credit: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library, copy G.176.16. The most excellent historie of the merchant of Venice. First Quarto. London: 1600.

Bibliography:

JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh. General Editors, Rabbi Stein, David E. et al. Published by Jewish Publication Society, 2000. Print.

Glasse, Cyril. The New Encyclopedia of Islam. Rowman Altamira, 2003. Print.

MJL. "Halacha: The Laws of Jewish Life". My Jewish Learning. My Jewish Learning, 2020, Web. Accessed March 26, 2020. https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/halakhah-the-laws-of-jewish-life/.

Shakespeare, William. “The Merchant of Venice.” The Norton Shakespeare: The Essential Plays/The Sonnets. Edited by Stephen Greenblatt, et.al. 3rd ed.,W.W. Norton & Company, 2015, pp. 281-335.

Moehlman, Conrad Henry. “The Christianization of Interest.” Church History, vol. 3, no. 1, 1934, pp. 3–15. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3161033. Accessed 26 Mar. 2020.

Citing this page: Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice, B2v. London: 1600. Cacodemon Digital Shakespeare. Edited by DaCosta, James, and McAvoy, Seamus. Source edition: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library (copy G.176.16). http://cacodemonshakespeare.com/comedies/merchant/b2v/.

Notes

  1. Judaism has several laws about customary actions that Christianity did not inherit. One of the more famous ones is the laws of כַּשְׁרוּת (Kashrut), which specify what foods Jews may eat (called kosher foods, כּשר‎). Pork is specifically named by Deutoronomy 14:8 as a non-kosher food.
  2. Jesus (Shakespeare, pg. 288 footnote 6). In Christianity, Jesus is not considered to be a prophet, but rather the Messiah; Judaism considers Jesus to not have been the Messiah. Because of the Father/Son/Holy Ghost concept, Jesus qualifies as a false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:2-4). Oddly, "Prophet of Nazareth" is more of an Islamic term for Jesus than it is Christian or Jewish (Glasse, pg. 239).
  3. As an observant Jew, Shylock would be expected to practice הֲלָכָה (Halaḥa), Jewish laws derived from the Torah (MJL). As such, while he is willing to buy, see, walk, talk, "and so following", with the Christians Bassanio and Antonio, he refuses to take any action that would violate הֲלָכָה.
  4. the trade center of Venice (Shakespeare 288 footnote 3). Think Wall Street.
  5. tax collector, usually a tax collector of biblical times (Shakespeare 288 footnote 7).
  6. freely; without charge (Shakespeare 288).
  7. Interest (Shakespeare 288)
  8. I.e., Antonio's lending without interest makes it harder to lend with interest, which is Shylock's main form of income. In medieval times, several Christian countries would pigeonhole Jews into a limited number of career options; one common choice was banking, because Christian doctrine forbade the lending of money for interest (Moehlman). It was a viable career, hence why Shylock has the capacity to lend three thousand ducats for three months without much warning.
  9. That is, at a disadvantage (Shakespeare 288 footnote 9).
  10. Israel, which (during times where there was no nation of Israel) can be used to refer to the Jewish people collectively (Shakespeare 288).
  11. Judaism was initially governed as twelve tribes with different bloodlines (Deuteronomy 27:12-13), each related to a son of Jacob (Genesis 35:23-26). All Jews are, in theory, related to one of these tribes. However, Shylock could also be referring to the jewish community collectively.