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Shylock's Nothing

Shylock's Nothing

(p.19) Chapter Three Shylock's Nothing
Shylock Is Shakespeare
Kenneth Gross
University of Chicago Press

This chapter begins with a brief analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnet 87. The discussion then turns to The Merchant of Venice and the play's peculiar crossing of concerns with the sonnets, its way of echoing their paradoxical, self-enfolding, and self-canceling pictures of desire, their jamming up together of the language of possession and dispossession, praise and slander. It quotes a line from the play which provides a glimpse of another world, in Shylock's mind, also at his feet, in the empty place where he stands onstage, looking and pointing down at what isn't there. The eloquence of this is a prose eloquence—that seems crucial. It is an eloquence of deprivation. It is an eloquence of being, yet also an eloquence of nonexistence, and of curious dependence. Shakespeare means to show us the shape but also the agony of this eloquence, the agony of what it asks and cannot get, and the agony of what it costs that cannot be restored.

Keywords:   Shakespeare, Sonnet 87, The Merchant of Venice, desire, possession, dispossession, praise, slander, eloquence

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