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A Theater of Complicity

A Theater of Complicity

(p.75) Chapter Eight A Theater of Complicity
Shylock Is Shakespeare
Kenneth Gross
University of Chicago Press

This chapter argues that Shylock, as a piece of dramatic mimesis, takes much of his mysterious, compulsive, violent, and knowing interiority from the very language that seeks to strip him of his humanity. He takes his inner life from the very antisemitic mythmaking that would convert him into a grotesque puppet, a cipher of Christian resentment. Shakespeare has humanized Shylock exactly through as much as in spite of the alien mask fitted on his face. This process of translation or, better, excavation and theft—a process by which an equivocal blessing is stolen from a curse—is central to Shylock's generosity. It is a generosity of hearing as much as speaking, insofar as it hinges on how we imagine Shylock taking in a whole world of antisemitic abuse, making of it a stranger endowment, an endowment that he shares with us and with the Venetians at the trial.

Keywords:   Shylock, interiority, humanity, mythmaking, Shakespeare, generosity

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