Thursday, March 16, 2006

Shylock and Shakespeare's Dad

When Shakespeare was a child, his father (John) was taken to court and had to pay a fine for money lending. (He had leant 100 pounds at 20 percent interest - and made a whopping 20 pounds profit: Remember, you could buy a good house for 50 pounds in those days. The fine was only 40 shillings - that still left Mr John S. with 18 pounds profit. That is usury to the uniformed.)

Shylock is a money lender.

The arguement is frequently made that, because Shylock lends money, he is un-Christian and bad: The reality of the times was frequent (if not essential) use of money lenders: Is Shakespeare's play really condemning Shylock for money lending?

In the London of his day, Shakespeare must have been in daily contact with merchants and money lenders (most would have been English and Christian, like his father - some could have been Jewish) - what were they saying?

Because something is offically 'illegal' it doesn't mean people don't do it - one only had to leave the door of The Globe to bump into a prostitute (in fact, you didn't even need to leave the theatre but there might be delicate minds reading this and I don't want to upset them).

Shakespeare's father was also an elected member of his town council - an alderman - and this made him a Magistrate - someone handing out justice. (I'll return to this in another post.)

And a further law case against John Shakespeare involves him buying and selling wool illegaly. So he was a Merchant too. (And made an awful lot of money at it.)

Makes me think how positive a character Antonio really is - and how negative is Shylock?

Could there be a lot of Shakespeare's dad in the old Jew?

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