Edited By Lucyna Aleksandrowicz-Pedich and Malgorzata Pakier
Levinas Reads Shakespeare. Małgorzata Grzegorzewska
Levinas Reads Shakespeare Małgorzata Grzegorzewska 1. The Merchant and the Jew The occurrence of two titles is very rare in the Shakespeare canon (the only other instance being Twelfth Night or What You Will), and it is worth our notice that only in the case of The Merchant the editors dutifully report that “the alter- native title probably reflects Shylock’s impact on the audience” (Shakespeare 1994: 425). The issue at stake, then, is the dramatic presentation of a powerful individual who is capable of “stealing” the spectator’s attention. Re-reading The Merchant of Venice, Stephen Greenblatt, one of the leading American Shakespeare scholars today, likewise anchors his argument in the consideration of the commonplace confusion concerning the title of the play: Why did the character of Shylock the Jew take over the comedy in which he ap- pears? – asks Greenblatt – For almost everyone thinks that the merchant of Venice of the play’s title is Shylock. Even when you realise that the merchant is not the Jew, even when you know that the title is referring to the Christian Antonio, you still in- stinctively make the mistake. And this is not exactly a mistake: the Jew is the play’s centre. The Merchant of Venice has a host of characters who compete for the audi- ence’s attention ... but it is the Jewish villain everyone remembers, and not simply as villain (Greenblatt 2004: 257-58). This conundrum, so succinctly brought to light in Greenblatt’s New Historical analysis, may account for a number of other...
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