Signior Antonio, many a time and oft
In the Rialto you have rated me
About my moneys and my usances:
Still have I borne it with a patient shrug,
For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.
You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,
And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine,
And all for use of that which is mine own.
The Merchant of Venice (1.3), Shylock
Jewish communities were first established in England with the arrival of William the Conqueror in 1066. Although Jews soon began to play key roles in English economic development and flourished as doctors and tradesmen, they could not escape the rampant anti-Semitism that swept Europe. Jews were subjected to vicious persecutions, including charges of the ritual sacrifice of Christian children, which culminated with their expulsion in 1290 by Edward I. The exile lasted until 1655, when Jewish scholar Manasseh ben Israel obtained Oliver Cromwell’s approval for Jews to return to London. Thus, the Elizabethan people - Shakespeare included - knew little about Jews, other than the false information handed down through years of propaganda. Read on...
Points to Ponder
Therefore, thou gaudy gold,
Hard food for Midas, I will none of thee;
Nor none of thee, thou pale and common drudge
'Tween man and man: but thou, thou meagre lead,
Which rather threatenest than dost promise aught,
Thy paleness moves me more than eloquence;
And here choose I; joy be the consequence! The Merchant of Venice (3.2), Bassanio
Paleness: as Bassanio has already called silver pale, plainness has been suggested as the right reading, thus bringing out a contrast with eloquence. As, however, lead is frequently described as pale, this reading of all the old editions should be preserved. [Felix E. Schelling] Read on...