Gobbo, Jessica, Shylock | Peter Leithart
Especially the relationship between Launcelot and his father Gobbo. is an honest exceeding poor man and, God be thanked, well to live. Why should you care about what Lancelot says in William Shakespeare's The Merchant (And teases pretty cruelly, joking that Old Gobbo's son is dead.) This is a seemingly silly aside, but it's actually an interesting parallel to the relationship between Jessica and Shylock. the Jew my master, who—God bless the mark!. Shakespeare serves up three parent-child relationships in the play—two . The relationship between Launcelot Gobbo and his father is neither as tempestuous.
His words are not brilliant, but serve to indicate his ingenuity. Mistress, look out at window, for all this; There will come a Christian by, Will be worth a Jewess' eye. Launcelot accompanies his new master to Belmont, where on our next meeting we find him comfortably installed; very much at home, and in a new livery. He is still bandying words with Jessica, who is now the wife of Lorenzo, and, in the absence of Portia, mistress of the house. His self-esteem seems to have grown in his new service, his vocabulary has increased, and he speaks with more authority, but with the same unfortunate propensity for punning.
He is obviously favored by his "betters," and like many others of small mind takes advantage of that fact to speak with a freedom that is not entirely devoid of impudence. However, his humor atones for much, and his good-nature accomplishes the rest. The dialogue quoted with some slight eliminations below takes place in the garden of Portia's house Act 3, Scene 5. It is apparently the continuation of a discussion of the old theme of Jessica's parentage, and her father's sins; Launcelot taking a literal view of the scriptural precept in her case.
Yes, truly; for, look you, the sins of the father are to be laid upon the children; therefore, I promise you, I fear you. I was always plain with you, and so now I speak my agitation of the matter; therefore, be of good cheer; for, truly, I think thou art damned.
There is but one hope in it that can do you any good. And what hope is that, I pray thee? Marry, you may partly hope that you are not the Jew's daughter. So the sins of my mother should be visited on me.
Truly then I fear you are damned both by father and mother; thus when I shun Scylla, your father, I fall into Charybdis, your mother; well, you are gone both ways. I shall be saved by my husband; he hath made me a Christian. Truly, the more to blame he; we were Christians enow before; e'en as many as could well live, one by another.
This making of Christians will raise the price of hogs; if we grow all to be porkeaters, we shall not shortly have a rasher on the coals for money. The entrance of Lorenzo puts an end to Launcelot's calamitous predictions, and that gentleman having little appreciation of the latter's verbal fooling, directs him.
Lorenzo's apostrophe to Launcelot's discourse is an admirable summary of the shallow mind, that mistakes the mere jugglery of words for wit. It was a favorite method of Shakespeare's to furnish humor in his "simples" and serving men, and proved an amusing diversion in their mouths: O dear discretion, how his words are suited!
The fool hath planted in his memory An army of good words; and I do know A many fools that stand in better place, Garnish'd like him, that for a tricksy word Defy the matter.
Launcelot makes one more brief appearance, to announce the early return of Bassanio to Belmont, and as a harbinger of glad tidings we leave him in the service of a noble master and a gracious mistress. The business of the Shakespearean clowns is traditional.
It has been handed down by comedians from generation to generation.
Relationships in The Merchant of Venice | Shakespeare II
It was familiar to every stage manager of experience, in the days of the resident stock company; and any departure from the conventional business of these parts was, until recently, viewed with disapproval, and regarded as presumption.
A most interesting and unique performance of Launcelot Gobbo was given some years ago by that sterling character actor, Mr. I was the Shylock of the performance to which I refer. Carter's Launcelot was not a boy, but a humorous and mischievous young man.
At no time during the performance, even when trembling with fear before his master, was a smile absent from his face; with this result, the audience were smiling all the time Launcelot was in view.
You knew, as you looked at him during his self-argument between duty and inclination, that his mind was already made up to run away, and that his conscientious scruples if he really ever had any were overcome before he uttered them. His practical jest with his father, when he misdirects him to the Jew's house, indicated that it was but a sample of the pranks the young man had played upon him all his life, and the bright twinkle in his eyes as his young mistress called him "a merry devil" connoted a thousand tricks that the young rascal had played during the term of his service in the Jew's house and robbed that somewhat dreary residence of its "taste of tediousness.
Carter's business on the delivery of Jessica's letter to Lorenzo was original and good; his exaggerated obeisance to the several friends in company with that gentleman being particularly characteristic and happy.
In the last act of the comedy, too frequently omitted in representation, Mr. Carter's appreciation of Shakespearean humor was manifest. The importance of his new employment, his vanity in his "rare new livery," and confidence of privileged service were delightfully presented, and rounded out a performance as notable as it was consistent and effective. In discussing the various characters in the play with that distinguished gentleman, he told me he considered the Launcelot Gobbo of Mr.
Andrews, of his company, the best he had ever seen.Launcelot Gobbo Monologue
It did not surprise me, for I knew Mr. Augustine wrote in his Exposition of the Psalms Our librarians is what they have become, just as it is customary for servants to carry books behind their masters, so that those who carry faint and those who read profit. The appearance of the Jews in the holy scripture which they carry is just like the face of a blind man in a mirror; he is seen by the other, by himself not seen.
They cannot see themselves in it. They are like servants to Christians in that they carry the Bible, but grow old and faint for lack of the ability to see and read the "correct" meaning of their own scripture, which only a Christian can understand. Thus Jews may be the forerunners or "fathers" of Christians, but because they are blind, they have become servants to Christians, displaying in themselves the unregenerate "old man" while Christians have been reborn as "new men" in Christ.
Thus Old Gobbo is a kind of allegory for the old Jew who does not know his own son, the Christian. Lancelot, in serving as Shylock's servant, represents a man serving under the old covenant of the law Judaismand he wants to be transformed "in the twinkling" into a new man serving under the new covenant of grace Christianityrepresented by Bassanio. The allegory is farcically comic, so the likeness hobbles in places, but the general outline suggests that Lancelot thinks of quitting Shylock and joining Bassanio as a kind of conversion experience.
Of course his motivations better clothes, less work, and more food make a mockery of the whole discourse of conversion. Has Bassanio changed his prodigal ways now that he has 3, ducats ?
Bassanio describes himself as a "prodigal" in 1. We should pay attention to this loaded word and the way it alludes to the parable of the prodigal son in the gospels Luke A popular interpretation of the parable in Shakespeare's day understood the prodigal son as the gentiles and the older son in the story as the Jews.
When the prodigal returns, he is like a gentile turned Christian who receives all the bounty his father God can bestow, even though he once wasted his inheritance. The older son is like the Jew who never left his father, but doesn't understand why the father forgives the prodigal and resents his father's largess, even his celebration.
Thus the resentful older son doesn't understand forgiveness, redemption, and unmerited grace, and so he is like the Jew who resents the Christian who has taken his place in God's favor. This interpretation is, of course, dreadfully anti-Jewish. Is all the Christian talk in the play about grace, unmerited favor, largess, forgiveness, just a lot of irresponsible prodigality parading itself as Christian virtue?
Merchant of Venice
When Shylock proposes a "merry bond" 1. He thinks he's going to drive all these prodigal Christians into a recognition of the law in all its literal severity. Unlike the resentful older brother in the parable, Shylock hopes "to feed upon the prodigal Christian" 2. A commonplace slur against Jews is that they would way-lay Christians, especially children, kill them, and sometimes eat their flesh. Such stories were popular in England during the medieval and into the early-modern period.
Chaucer's 14th-century Prioress's Tale recounts one of these popular anti-Jewish stories. At linesthe play offers a suggestive allusion to such stories if we literalize Shylock's speech. Figuratively, of course, he's simply indicating that he will feed at Bassanio's the prodigal Christian's expense.
I've often thought it odd that Christians, who believe that they eat the body of Christ in the mass, should be so fond of spreading stories about Jewish cannibalism; it almost seems that they project their worst fears about themselves onto the hated Jewish other. Do some of the characters in this play do this?
To what degree does the play endorse anti-Jewish attitudes? Jessica presents another subplot in which a nefarious deed running away, eloping, and theft is couched in the terms of conversion.
Graziano swears by his "hood" she is "a gentile, and no Jew" Why does he swear by his "hood," that is, his foreskin? What sort of joke is this?
With Morocco's choice we finally get to see the "text" of Portia's father's wisdom. Why is he one whom Portia cannot rightly love? It's worth remembering that Salanio's account of Shylock crying in the streets here is the testimony of the most vulgar sort of anti-Jewish sentiment. But the speech Shylock does make in 3. Solanio offers more evidence of Antonio's love for Bassanio Aragon chooses the silver and displays his arrogance.
The three "election" speeches--Morocco's, Aragon's, and Bassanio's--are very good candidates for close rhetorical analysis.
The speeches reinforce the idea that the trial of the caskets is a kind of trial of character rather than a game of chance. Thus the casket scheme oscillates in its imagery: What are Shylock's various reasons for hating Antonio and seeking revenge? Shylovk appears in this speech to outline a doctrine of common humanity, a doctrine not unlike that Paul preaches in Galatians 3: Paul describes a universalist doctrine based on all being "in Christ"; Shylock eliminates this condition.
What's more, having outlined a doctrine of universal humanity, he finishes his speech with a continued reliance on the terms "Christian" and "Jew," the very binary distinction the Christians use to deny his humanity. Paul also, in his discussion of Jew and gentile in Galatians 2 and 3, explains the theological-anthropological difference between Jew and Christian. Portia wants Bassanio; Nerissa likes him too 2.
She wishes she could teach him how to choose 11but she will not break the letter of the law her father has devised for her.
Does she give him clues? Does she give him confidence? Why does she allegorize the situation likening Bassanio to Hercules and herself to Hesione? Does she know he's in it for the money rather than for love?
What about the little song ? What if the end-rhymes in the first stanza are emphasized? And doesn't the second stanza suggest that one should not trust one's eyes for which gold is dazzling or ears bells are made of silver? In any case, Bassanio's speech appears to take its cue from all these suggestions: Lines describe almost exactly Bassanio's own self-presentation. He is a bankrupt several times over who appears in Belmont gilded with borrowed wealth, putting on a show that is hardly necessary given the terms under which Portia will be betrothed.
He is literally all show and no substance, and fortunately for him, he knows this about himself and uses it as an object lesson in interpreting the casket riddle correctly with some help from Portia. Is Bassanio the sort of man Portia's father would have chosen? The speeches that follow Bassanio's successful election artfully intertwine the competing rhetorics of Petrarchan praise, prodigal generosity, and market contracts.
In Belmont, at least, all these competing rhetorics seem non-contradictory. Even Bassanio is dazzled by her speech Amidst all this dazzling rhetoric, however, a very specific bargain is struck, vows are exchanged over the ring, and a contract of life and death is agreed to.
Why all the rhetorical ornament for such a plain bargain? News from Venice spoils all the success It seems that Bassanio has taken more than three months to win "the fleece" and Antonio's bond is come due. The world of Venice contracts, law, authority, and power has invaded the romantic world of Belmont where law, authority, and power has seemed so light-handed and benevolent. See Katharine Maus's comment on the commercial and legal status of Venice on pp.
Is Venice a "Christian" state or a commercial state? Which value will prove dominant here?
Gobbo, Jessica, Shylock
Where can one draw the line between commercial interests and "Christian" values? Does Christianity reward prodigals or thrifty merchants? Will forgiveness of debts "impeach the justice of the state"? Is this a state that assumes a universal common humanity, or makes such universalism conditional on being "in Christ," a citizen rather than a stranger?
Relationships in The Merchant of Venice
Lorenzo and Jessica are thieves and outlaws, sought by the state of Venice for larceny. Portia puts them in charge of her household.
Bassanio came to Belmont under false pretences to win "the golden fleece"; now Portia will go to Venice under false pretences, bringing the world of romance, as it were, into the world of finance. She hopes to subvert the world of contracts, commerce, and law by re-interpreting it according to the fashion of Belmont, where games of chance are "wisdom" and "destiny," where commercial adventures are disguised as love quests, where women are lords rather than wives even though they speak a language of submission, where contracts are hedged about with the rhetoric of charmed rings and light oaths.
Like Bassanio she is an expert in deploying discourses she can see right through; she is accomplished with that she lacks 62 in more than one sense, for she sees quite clearly the constructedness of discourses of love, law, faith, and promises, and seeing the lack or emptiness they are constructed to obscure, she can manipulate them to her own designs.
Lancelot invokes scripture Exodus Jessica invokes 1 Corinthians 7: It seems that not only the devil can cite scripture to his own purposes 1. Does the scripture contradict itself, or can it simply be interpreted to one's liking? Lancelot like Feste in Twelfth Night is an expert at playing with words and their meanings.
If words, intentions, and meanings are undependable even the words of scripture what good are bonds and contracts, professions of love, the laws?
Will any discourse bend to one's will?