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The Third Possessor

The Third Possessor

(p.85) Chapter Nine The Third Possessor
Shylock Is Shakespeare
Kenneth Gross
University of Chicago Press

This chapter discusses how Shylock makes himself a creature that mirrors the Pauline idea of the Law. He fits Paul's idea of the Law as an archaic trap, a stumbling block or skandalon, something with a cunning power of its own to find out sin. It further argues that the play as a whole makes impossible any strictly Pauline reading of its dynamics. Shakespeare took from Paul lessons in the cunning reappropriation of traditions, studying as well Paul's way of locating himself at an equivocal threshold between conflicting domains, Jew and Christian, alien and cosmopolitan, citizen of this world and citizen of a world to come. The poet must have sensed the importance of Pauline thinking for the reformist logic of Protestant theology. If he echoes Paul's freedom of reading, he also complicates the factional or apocalyptic quality of Paul's thought, its spiritual absolutism, even as he shows his understanding of Paul as the most slyly opportunistic of writers.

Keywords:   Shylock, Paul, Law, Shakespeare

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