Saturday, July 30, 2016

Ms. Ginsburg goes to Venice

Several months ago, on the pages (screens) of this illustrious blog, I informed you that in July there would be an enactment of The Merchant of Venice in the original Ghetto of that city.

And now they have indeed put on the play. As part of the related activities they also staged a mock trial in which American Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was part of a group of judges hearing an imaginary appeal by Shylock. The judges found in Shylock's favor. Amusingly, Justice Ginsburg's grandson played the part of Lorenzo (the lover of Jessica, Shylock's daughter.)

The judges were somewhat perplexed about what to do with uppity Portia, the woman-disguised-as-male-lawyer who defends Antonio, Shylock's opponent. They find her guilty as an impostor without the proper requisites and sentence her to get a law degree from the University of Padua and a Master's in an American University. Unfortunately, the Faculty of Law in Padua would not allow a woman to study there in the late 16th century, and there were no universities in the United States at that time. There is also the small matter of the judges' jurisdiction... You ask me, Portia was a great gal.

Kidding aside, Justice Ginsburg (although an admirer of Shakespeare- how can you not be?), maintains that The Merchant is anti-Semitic. I strenuously disagree. So Shylock is the villain (a nuanced villain, to be sure)? Is Hamlet anti-Danish? Is Macbeth anti-Scottish and misogynistic? Is Othello racist?

If you want to read a bit more on this, here is the original New York Times article.

Below, see another great Shakespeare lover, Al Pacino, deliver Shylock's famous monologue.