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Are You Answered?

Are You Answered?

(p.65) Chapter Seven Are You Answered?
Shylock Is Shakespeare
Kenneth Gross
University of Chicago Press

This chapter focuses on the trial scene in The Merchant of Venice, where Shylock displays a real ambition to command the proceedings, to make the court his own theater. There is an unsettling, willful sort of magic in the way he pursues his legal case against Antonio, laying claim to the strict terms of his bond. It suggests a violent, Faustian despair—or, perhaps, a Faustian desire to remake the world according to his own wishes combined with a contempt for all values that claim to give the world shape and meaning. Shylock does not work secretly through poison, policy, or intricate trickery. Instead, he adopts an eerier, breathless kind of legal magic in which nothing is hidden, in which he asks the impersonal powers of the law to do his work for him. The scene puts him in a paradoxical situation. Shylock is at once terribly exposed and histrionically opaque; he puts on display his own opacity in his refusal to answer, allowing his motives, his very identity, to disappear into a radical insistence on the blank claims of the legal bond.

Keywords:   The Merchant of Venice, Shylock, trial, bond, court

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