Tag Archives: act IV

BB: Twelfth Night, Act IV; REDUX

4 Jan

“This is the air, that is the glorious sun, this pearl she gave me, I do feel’t and see’t…” IV,iii Sebastian.

Welcome Brawlers to act IV of Twelfth Night.

New Year’s Eve has passed but there are still a couple of days before Twelfth Night which means a few more days of eating, drinking and pranks. Hope you kept some space for cakes and ale!

And don’t mind the funny-looking raisins.

On a Two Gentlemen of Verona note, there’s a new production coming out soon. “2GoV” (that’s how the cool kids send text messages or Tweets about it) is not done often, which is odd seeing as another one of those “I will love you forever but then get distracted by the first beautiful girl I see” romances is done, like, all the time.

Go check out the trailer. Looks like a lot of fun!


Listen to or download the podcast.


Before everything untangles itself, Shakespeare’s going to up the ante and string us along for another act of mistaken identities and practical jokes.

Cesario (Viola in what has to be one hell of a disguise), is mistaken for Sebastian (Viola’s mystically identical twin brother) by Antonio at the end of act III. In act IV, scene 1, it’s Sebastian’s turn to be confused for Cesario. Feste mistakes him for Sebastian and only leaves after Sebastian gives him some cash. Then, Sir Toby, Fabian and Andrew Aguecheek come on stage, planning to attack the defenseless Cesario but they are beaten by Sebastian who, unlike Viola, is an able swordsman. Olivia shows up, breaks up the fight and invites Sebastian in thinking that she has finally managed to win over Cesario.

Confused yet? You shouldn’t be – I’m sure you’ve had all the practice tracking disguises when you listened to our The Taming of the Shrew Brawl.

Sebastian has never seen Olivia in his life but figures, what the hell? How often does a beautiful, rich widow throw herself at you and offer to give you everything she has? Seems like the natural thing to do. (I’m told it happens to Daniel all the time.)

If it helps, this is a composite image of the Olivia Shakespeare probably had in mind:

Olivia Wilde

While Sebastian follows Olivia Wilde out of her garden and into her sex den house, Maria, Sir Toby and Feste decide that they’re going to spend scene 2 messing with Malvolio. They dress Feste up as a priest who is visiting ‘Malvolio the Lunatic’ to exorcise his demons. They taunt him and toy with him until Sir Toby calls off the prank. He’s afraid that his niece Olivia will get mad at him if he pushes the joke too far. At the end of the act, Malvolio calls for some pen and paper – he means to write a letter proving that he’s not crazy.

The third scene is very short. It’s the marriage of Sebastian and Olivia. I’m not sure how this is supposed to work. Olivia thinks she’s marrying Cesario, Sebastian has no clue who he’s marrying but she’s clearly hot and has a lot of money. (See picture of Shakespeare’s inspiration above if you don’t believe me.) They don’t even have each other’s identities sorted out.

Unless they learn to communicate, I can’t see how this is going to work for either of them.

Join us next week for the final act!


 

Though you’re far away, you’re near in our hearts Zoey Baldwin here reading sonnet 29.


 

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BB: Richard II, Act IV

21 Sep
Artwork - Daniel J. Rowe

Artwork – Daniel J. Rowe

(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)

Welcome back Brawlers to the Bard Brawl’s tenth play! (trumpets sound)

This week, we bring you act IV of Shakespeare’s The Life and Death of Richard the Second. We know that’s not the catchiest title so we figured we’d give Shakespeare the Bard Brawl boost and help him find a better title. Cast your vote for your favourite alternate title here!

Listen to or download the podcast, or better yet subscribe on iTunes.

Only one scene in act IV but it’s a long one!

Bolingbroke ‘s gathered with his supporters in Westminster Hall in London and it’s time to start settling scores. Bolingbroke accuses Bagot of killing the Duke of Gloucester but Bagot, who’s pretty sure his number is up, is looking to take someone with him so he accuses Aumerle of conspiring against Gloucester and Henry Bolingbroke.

Of course, Aumerle denies the whole thing and challenges Bagot to a fight but Bolingbroke forbids them from fighting.

Sounds familiar?

Then Fitzwater accuses Aumerle of lying so Aumerle threatens to fight it out with him. Henry Percy jumps in on Fitzwater’s behalf and Surrey steps in for Aumerle. Bolingbroke puts his foot down: no vigilante justice this time because Aumerle is going to stand trial.

And then the Duke of York arrives and announces that Richard is giving up his throne and names Henry Bolingbroke to be the new king.

Thing is, the Bishop of Carlisle isn’t too happy about this. Kings are supposed to be chosen by God. You don’t get to just swap them out when you feel like it. Even the king can’t make a new king. So after he’s finished giving his speech about it, they arrest him for treason. Naturally.

To make sure no one can challenge Henry’s claim, they bring Richard out so he can formally hand over the crown. You know, so everyone will know that everything is above-board. Just to be sure, they have Richard confess to a list of crimes which Bolingbroke and company has so thoughtfully prepared for him to read.

It seems Richard’s having second thoughts about the whole thing. He’s taking stock of his life, trying to figure out what’s next for this unpopular, deposed ruler. Customer service representative? Life coach? Long-haul truck driver?

Or probably just a royal corpse.

Richard tries to stall but time’s up. Once he’s made everything official, they cart him off to the Tower.

As soon as everyone leaves, Aumerle turns to the Bishop of Carlisle: “So, we got a plan to get rid of this jackass Bolingbroke?”

This should be good!

The Lord of St. Leonard, Mark Della Posta, returns to the pod and delivers sonnet 39 with all the cunning and style of Roberto “the Manimal” Luongo.

And hey! Buy ‘Zounds! You’ll never regret or forget it. Volume II is OUT NOW.brassknucklestshirt1.png

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BB: Romeo and Juliet, Act IV

2 Apr
Artwork - Leigh Macrae

Artwork – Leigh Macrae

(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)

Welcome back Brawlers to Romeo and Juliet. This week, we take on act IV of R&J.

Listen to or download the podcast.

Well, despite the fact that we’ve already established that postponing the wedding of Juliet and Paris from Wednesday to Thursday was totally reasonable, by the start of act IV, Friar Lawrence just isn’t on board with that. Could he be right? Is that really too soon? Obviously, Friar Lawrence is really only worried about his hide: he can’t marry one girl to two guys. Well, not in this church at least.

On the other hand, maybe Paris is right: Tybalt was just a cousin. Pretty sure Emily Post’s wedding etiquette doesn’t even have an entry for the appropriate wait time in the event of a violent and non-accidental death of a (sort of) loved one. Just stick the mourning Juliet in a social event and we’ll peer pressure those tears right out of her.

Once Paris is shooed away, Juliet pulls a Romeo and breaks down but Friar Lawrence tell her that there’s still a slim chance for her and Romeo to be together forever. Small catch: she’ll have to kill herself.

Say what? That doesn’t seem very Christian!

Actually, she’ll have to take drink one of Friar Lawrence’s roofies sleeping potions which will make her seem dead for 48 hours. That will make her family bury her in the family crypt. Romeo will then swoop in, rescue her before she suffocates, and steal her away to Mantua while Juliet faking her death and Romeo killing Tybalt blows over. Shouldn’t take more than 2-3 weeks tops, right?

Looks like everything is good to go. Friar Lawrence just needs to let Romeo know about that plan and everything will turn out perfectly.

In scene 2, Lord Capulet is busy planning the wedding when Juliet walks in and seems suddenly and mysteriously zen about the whole marrying Paris thing. She just wants to make daddy happy. Nothing suspicious about any of this at all.

Juliet retires and asks the nurse to help her pick out a suitable wedding outfit. Once she’s picked out her outfit, she dismisses her nurse and lies down on the bed with Friar Lawrence’s elixir. Can she really trust that this potion will work properly? Will she ever wake up? Is this really going to work? Only one way to find out: down the hatch!

The following afternoon, preparations for the wedding are in full swing, and Paris is just about to show up for his big day! Time for Juliet to wake up!

Except she doesn’t.

The Nurse finds her lying dead in her bed in scene 5. Everybody files into the room: mom, dad, Paris and of course Friar Lawrence. The friar tries to calm everyone down. Creepy Paris still thinks this is about him somehow and asks to lie down next to her. Lord Capulet orders the food to be served as a funeral feast, the musicians are asked to play some sad music. They agree once they’re sure they’ll still get paid, and be allowed to stick around for the buffet.

I wonder if Friar Lawrence has any idea whether his potion worked or not. I also wonder how his archbishop would feel about all of this. And where the hell is Romeo and what has he been doing in the past few days? He wasn’t in this act at all!

Guess you’ll have to wait for act 5 to see if he got our text message /email/ Facebook invite / carrier pigeon / monk-o-gram.

Please Welcome our newest sonneteer to the brawl, the legendary lord of St. Leonard, Mark Della Posta reading sonnet 39.

Mark should not be confused, however, with the other legendary lord of St-Leonard, Roberto “The Manimal” Luongo.

The Manimal

The Manimal

And hey! Buy ‘Zounds! You’ll never regret or forget it.

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BB: Timon of Athens, Act IV

8 Dec

T-carrick-stamp

(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)

The table is set, the guests drenched in lukewarm water and the flatterers pelted with rocks. It time for act IV of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Timon of Athens!

Listen to or download the podcast.

Welcome back Brawlers. Last show Timon’s ‘friends’ were “touched and found base metal” by his servants so that Timon finally figured out that he was penniless and friendless and that pretty much no one but his servants cared that he was totally bankrupt.

With nothing left for him in Athens by the start of act IV, he decides that all human beings are disgusting, two-faced scumbags and so he does the only sensible thing and runs off to live in the wilderness by himself. Insert litany of curses and well-wishes: may your prostitutes be considered virgins, may the young steal from and beat up the old, may your state be a lawless cesspool fueled by avarice and lust.

So, it turns out that the only friends Timon has are his servants, with Flavius being particularly vocal about how it falls to the servants to try to help Timon out however they can. “Flavour’ Flavious runs off to find and continue to serve Timon at the end of scene 2.

Remind you of a certain Kent from act I of King Lear?

Seems that by scene 3, Timon has moved into a cave with a view, at the edge of some woods, right by the seashore. Seems like things might be looking up for this foraging caveman misanthrope.

As he’s digging for some roots to eat, Timon finds some gold. Timon’s about to bury all of it again when he hears some marching music in the distance. He buries most of the gold but keeps some of it, so he can torment the other humans with it, very likely. Alcibiades, who has been banished from Athens and now gathers up an army to assault the city, wanders by Timon and his cave.

Alcibiades figures out who this is but has no idea what happened back in Athens and why Timon is out here in the woods. Just like we have no idea why Alcibiades is leading an army flanked by two prostitutes. But, seeing as they are there, Timon sees an opportunity to use them in the war effort: he gives them gold and asks them to infect every in Athens with the STDs they are undoubtedly carrying. Timon also gives Alcibiades gold to make sure that he slaughters everyone in Athens. Lovely.

As soon a Alcibiades leaves, Apemantus shows up. They swap insult and wish one another a long and painful life, full of suffering, before they quickly part ways.

When Apemantus exits, some bandits, having heard that Timon found gold, show up to steal it. Timon gives them the gold and sends them off to Athens to rob all of the lying thieves in Athens blind. And maybe slit a few throats while they’re at it.

Finally, Flavius shows up and offers his continued service to Timon. His former master is about to turn him away but Flavius manages to convince him that maybe not every human being is a totally reprehensible entity entirely bereft of honestly and worth. So, Timon amends his position: all of humanity needs to die, except for Flavius.So Timon gives him some money and chases him off.

What’s left now that Timon’s given all of his money away. Again?

Tune in to the next episode to find out.

Sonnet 33 read by first-time sonneteer David Kandestin.

 

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BB: Pericles, Act IV

15 Oct

(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited byEric Jean)

Did you miss us? I bet you did!

The Bard Brawl is back and ready to come out swinging with this week’s recording of act IV of Pericles, Prince of Tyre!

Listen to or download the podcast. (And hey, it’s been a while so why no go back and read up on acts I, II and III?)

Once again, Gower’s prologue (starts with “Imagine Pericles arrived at Tyre”) open’s up the act. Pericles is back in Tyre. He thinks his wife is dead but she’s alive and living as a nun in Ephesus. Their daughter, Marina, is living in Tarsus with Cleon and Dionyza. There’s a but of a problem, though: Dionyza is jealous that Marina is better/more beautiful than her own daughter so she decides she’s going to have her killed.

That’s the scene which is presented to us in act IV, scene 1. Dionyza has hired Leonine to kill Marina. Dionyza tells maria to go take a walk with the man she has never met. Seems they head for the docks, based on what happens next. (So he can dump the body into the ocean maybe?) Anyhow, when Leonine grabs marina to kill her, a bunch of pirates (yay!) show and scare him off. Then, as pirates are wont to do, they claim her as booty and run off to their ship. Leonine figures he’s seen probably seen the last of her but decides that he’d best follow along. You know, to make sure that they kill her once they rape her.

As it happens, the pirates don’t rape her (if we believe Marina as well as the aptly named First Pirate). Instead we learn at the start of scene 2 that she has been sold to a brothel in Mytilene. The prostitute population of Mytilene is not what it used to be so Pandar, Bawd and Boult buy her figuring they can make a bunch of money by selling her virginity to some pervert. Of course, Marina isn’t planning to comply with this but they spread the word about town anyhow in search of a buyer.

Back to Tarsus where Dionyza breaks the news of Marina’s death to Cleon. He whines about what they’ll tell Pericles when he comes looking for his daughter but Dionyza basically says: tell him she dies. The end. While he seems about to argue with her, Dionyza seems pretty confident that the weak-willed Cleon will just do whatever she says. Yup.

Gower makes a surprise appearance in scene 4 (starts with “Thus time we waste, and longest leagues make short”) to narrate what happens next (see it only as a dumb show): Pericles goes to Tarsus where he learns his daughter is dead. He puts on some rags, vows never shave again, and heads out to sea once more. Gower closes with Marina’s epitaph – what was written by that harpy, Dionyza.

Scene 5 is a short exchange between two men, just outside the brothel in Mytilene. Apparently, someone in the brothel is showing sinners the errors of their ways. Huh. Now that is strange.

Of course, we find out in scene 6 that Marina is behind all of this, much to Pandar, Boult and Bawd’s chagrin. Seems she’s been converting the patrons to virtue. These pimps did manage to find a buyer for Marian: Lysimachus, the governor of Mytilene is very interested in Marina. They all try to convince Marina to give up the goods, but she resists. During her conversation with Lysimachus, he realises that she is noble-born and that she is the one pure thing in the city. Boult devices he’ll rape her so she’ll get over the whole virginity thing but he reminds him that Pandar and Bawd would kick his ass so he holds off for now.

Next week (no, really, we promise!) we’ll be back with the final act of this crazy rape-y, incest-filled play.

If you want to follow along the acts in a version of the play which is not so messed up, this is the app most of the brawlers use when we record. As a bonus, each play comes with a breakdown of scenes and characters. You should check it out.

Also, it’s always nice to have some Shakespeare with you at all times, in case you need an emergency soliloquy.

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BB: Twelfth Night, Act IV

24 Jun

“This is the air, that is the glorious sun, this pearl she gave me, I do feel’t and see’t…” IV,iii Sebastian.

Listen to or download the podcast.

What do NKOTB and The Neverending Story and Crowded House have to do with Twelfth Night? You’ll have to listen to the next two acts find out!

Welcome Brawlers to act IV of Twelfth Night.

Before everything untangles itself, Shakespeare’s going to up the ante and string us along for another act of mistaken identities and practical jokes.

Cesario (Viola in what has to be one hell of a disguise), is mistaken for Sebastian (Viola’s mystically identical twin brother) by Antonio at the end of act III. In act IV, scene 1, it’s Sebastian’s turn to be confused for Cesario. Feste mistakes him for Sebastian and only leaves after Sebastian gives him some cash. Then, Sir Toby, Fabian and Andrew Aguecheek come on stage, planning to attack the defenseless Cesario but they are beaten by Sebastian who, unlike Viola, is an able swordsman. Olivia shows up, breaks up the fight and invites Sebastian in thinking that she has finally managed to win over Cesario.

Confused yet? You shouldn’t be – I’m sure you’ve had all the practice tracking disguises when you listened to our The Taming of the Shrew Brawl.

Sebastian has never seen Olivia in his life but figures, what the hell? How often does a beautiful, rich widow throw herself at you and offer to give you everything she has? Seems like the natural thing to do. (I’m told it happens to Daniel all the time.)

If it helps, this is a composite image of the Olivia Shakespeare probably had in mind:

Olivia Wilde

While Sebastian follows Olivia Wilde out of her garden and into her sex den house, Maria, Sir Toby and Feste decide that they’re going to spend scene 2 messing with Malvolio. They dress Feste up as a priest who is visiting ‘Malvolio the Lunatic’ to exorcise his demons. They taunt him and toy with him until Sir Toby calls off the prank. He’s afraid that his niece Olivia will get mad at him if he pushes the joke too far. At the end of the act, Malvolio calls for some pen and paper – he means to write a letter proving that he’s not crazy.

The third scene is very short. It’s the marriage of Sebastian and Olivia. I’m not sure how this is supposed to work. Olivia thinks she’s marrying Cesario, Sebastian has no clue who he’s marrying but she’s clearly hot and has a lot of money. (See picture of Shakespeare’s inspiration above if you don’t believe me.) They don’t even have each other’s identities sorted out.

Unless they learn to communicate, I can’t see how this is going to work for either of them.

Join us next week for the final act!

Though you’re far away, you’re near in our hearts Zoey Baldwin here reading sonnet 29.

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

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BB: Taming of the Shrew, Act IV

14 Nov

Welcome to act IV of The Taming of the Shrew!

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Having skipped the wedding feast, Kate and Petruchio make their way to Petruchio’s estate at the start of act IV. In the first scene, Grumio arrives at Petruchio’s estate ahead of the new couple in order to ensure that everything is in order to welcome them home. He gives a short account of their trip and concludes that Petruchio is far more shrewish than Kate ever was. Petruchio and Kate arrive and dinner is served. However, Petruchio pretends to take issue with the supper because it’s not good enough for his new wife and he sends her off to bed. Petruchio then confides in the audience how he plans to break Kate: he’ll starve her and deprive her of sleep so that she’ll have no choice but to bow to his wishes.

We return to Bianca and her suitors in scene 2. Lucentio (disguised as Cambio of course) professes to teach Bianca about the Art of Love, most likely a reference to Ovid’s Ars Amatoria. Ovid’s book is basically a handbook for managing relationships, one of the main themes of The Taming of the Shrew. When Bianca wishes ‘Cambio’ good luck in his courtship, Tranio (disguised as Lucentio) pretends to be deeply offended by her lack of constancy: she swore to love only Lucentio and now here she is wishing ‘Cambio’ good luck. This convinces Hortensio to drop his disguise and both he and Tranio swear to give up their pursuit of Bianca. Hortensio will instead marry a rich widow. Once he leaves, the three conspirators – Bianca, Tranio and Lucentio – realise that all they need now is an old man to play the role of Lucentio’s father so he can give his consent to the terms of the marriage. Biondello points out a suitable pedant (a merchant, basically) and Tranio quickly convinces him to play the role of Vincetio, Lucentio’s father.

Scene 3 picks up where Petruchio left off. Kate is begging Grumio for food who keeps offering up alternatives then shooting them down as inappropriate to his new mistress. She bets him for toying with her. Petruchio (and Hortensio who has come to Petruchio’s ‘Taming School’) walks in and offers Kate some food. He threatens to take it away when she fails to thank him for his kindness. He then calls in a tailor and a haberdasher who he had commissioned to make new clothes for Kate. He claims that none of these outfits are good enough for his precious Kate and turns the clothiers out despite Kate’s protests. He decides they’ll head back to Baptista’s house dressed as they are. He thinks they can make it in time for supper but Kate points out that it’s later than he thinks. He responds that it will be whatever time he says it is.

Now that Tranio, Lucentio and Bianca have beaten away the other suitors and found a stand-in for Vincentio, it time in scene 4 for Lucentio and Bianca to sneak away to get married in secret while Tranio and the pedant secure Baptista’s final blessing for the union of Bianca and Lucentio. Tranio brings Baptista inside to finish the paperwork freeing the way for the lovers to slink off in secret. The hope is that once they are legally married, and have a document singed by Baptista’s hand stating that he consents to the marriage, it will be too late for him to do anything about it and he’ll have to abide by the letter of his contract.

In scene 5 Petruchio finishes his taming of Kate: he argues that it is night but Kate points out that the sun is shining. He says that it will be whatever time of day or night he says. When they come across a traveller, Kate greets him only to be told by Petruchio that he is actually a young maiden. She address the old man as a woman but Petruchio mocks her for doing so. She apologizes to the old man. This must be the point at which Petruchio decides he’s won because he doesn’t toy with her any further. They offer to have the old man travel to Padua with them and they discover that they are going to the same place: this is Vicentio, Lucentio’s father.

What are we supposed to make of a play in which one of the main plot points revolves around starving and mentally abusing a woman? This is the main objection of contemporary audiences to The Taming of the Shrew.

Petruchio essentially tortures Kate into submission. He begins by denying her sleep and food. Then, once she’s hungry and exhausted, he bullies her into compliance by contradicting her at every turn. At last, exhausted and exasperated, she has no choice but to agree to whatever inane statements and commandments he feels like making.

One thing which Miki pointed out during our recording of this act is that Shakespeare is adapting a story motif which was very popular in folk tales and fabliaux which, by Shakespeare’s time, had long circulated in England. In many of these stories, the violence done to the shrew is taken to much further extremes, with the very few acts beyond the scope of what was acceptable for a man to use when matched with a shrewish wife.

I said on air that a shrew was a type of bird similar to a small hawk which was used by huntsmen in late 16th century England. In fact, I made a case that the title Taming of the Shrew puns on the notion of training birds of prey. The method most often used to break the bird to the falconer, as described in late medieval and early Renaissance falconry manual, is very much like what is done to Kate. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any etymological evidence to support my claim. So, while I might be wrong about the title and the word “shrew” itself (which actually describes a small rodent), that parallel still exists in the play. In fact, it might partially explain why the whole thing is set up in this way by the prelude’s lord and his huntsmen. This would suggest that Kate is a wild beast – specifically a small rodent thought at the time to possess as venomous bite – that needs to be broken in and civilized by Petruchio. It also suggests that Christopher Sly (and maybe even the audience?) is no better than an animal who the lord sees as his responsibility to tame.

Is that really the purpose of the play? Who is learning what in the end? And does Shakespeare somehow manage to elevate The Taming of the Shrew above the level of misogynist farce?

I’ll let you decide.

Don’t forget to visit and support Jay Reid‘s film’s Indiegogo page. It’s called “Byline” and he needs money.

Artwork – Leigh Macrae

(Podcast recorded and edited by Daniel J. Rowe, Show notes by Eric Jean)

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BB: Merchant of Venice, Act IV

6 Jul

A special treat this week: a studio recording of Act IV, scene 1! The recording was done a few months as a pilot for a radio show. Unfortunately, the show was never picked up but why let the recording go to waste? Hope you enjoy it. (Act IV, scene 2 was recorded this week).

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Act IV, scene 1 takes place in the courtrooms of Venice, presided over which presides the Duke, the ultimate authority of the city. However, as Shylock explains, the Duke doesn’t have the power to free Antonio because to suggest that the laws of Venice can be overturned arbitrarily as the ruler wishes robs these laws of all their power. However, though some clever application of Venetian laws, engineered by Portia in disguise, Shylock is beaten at his own game. When Shylock’s life is placed in Antonio’s hands, he chooses not to have Shylock killed but to be ‘merciful’ and spare Shylock’s life. Antonio’s ‘mercy’ leaves half of Shylock’s wealth to Antonio – who is in dire need of cash at this point – with the rest being turned over to Lorenzo, the man who stole away his daughter. However, it also forces Shylock to convert to Christianity.

The Merchant of Venice is, among other things, about justice and judgement. The play opposes two conceptions of justice. The first model goes something like this: what is just is what is in accordance to the law. The second model, however, sounds more like this: perfect law is not perfect justice but tyranny.

Representing the first form of justice is Shylock. Whatever the moral implications of his demand, Shylock is perfectly within his legal rights to claim his pound of flesh. Both Antonio and the duke recognise that this is the case as well, which is what creates the problem for Antonio in the first place. Representing the second form of justice is Antonio, who stands for the principle of law tempered by mercy. (This parallel, incidentally, can also be thought of as sketching out an Old Testament – Jewish – vs. New Testament – Christian – conception of justice.)

In act IV, scene 2 is when Portia and Nerissa manage to make good on their promise and obtain their rings from Bassanio and Gratiano. There’s not much to say about this scene except that it’s brought about at Antonio’s wish, it seems. Antonio tells Bassanio that he should give the clerk the ring: “My Lord Bassanio, let him have the ring: / Let his deservings and my love withal / Be valued against your wife’s commandment” (IV,1). Basically Bassanio decides that Antonio’s value and love trumps Portia’s wish that he keep his ring. Hell of a catch, this Bassanio…

Throughout Act IV, scene 1 several references are made to the Old Testament prophet, Daniel. Daniel represents the figure of the wise judge, able to see through falsehoods and reach a verdict that is truthful. This reputation is largely inspired from the story of Susanna (from the Book of Daniel).

In the biblical story, Susanna is approached by two old judges while she is bathing in the garden. They tell her that unless she agrees to have sex with them, they will instead tell her father that she had sent away her servants in order to have sex with a young man. Susanna refuses to do so and was brought before her people and sentenced to death. Daniel interrupted the judges, however, and suggested that they be interrogated separately about their testimony. Having questioned them about which type of tree the young man slept with Susanna, he caught them in a lie and they were sentenced to death and Susanna was saved.

You can find a version of the story of Susanna, from the apocrypha of the King james bible, here. (I can also highly recommend reading Wallace Steven’s poem “Peter Quince at the Clavier” which makes use of the story of Susanna in a more explicit way. Peter Quince, some of you might remember, is one of the members of Bottom’s acting troupe in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.)

In a sense, what Antonio’s sentence does is rewrite the ending of that story: given the right to exact his vengeance on Shylock for having sought to kill him, Antonio chooses instead to spare Shylock from the tyranny of law. Shylock should die, but instead he lives. This would certainly have resonated with the contemporary English Protestant idea that it is through divine grace alone, through God’s mercy, that we ourselves are spared despite our having transgressed God’s law.

The Brawlers have discussed the nature of Antonio’s ‘mercy’ at length but we haven’t managed to agree about how we feel about that sentencing. Is Antonio really being merciful? Is he being cruel to Shylock in asking him to give up his ‘Talmudic law’ for ‘Christian mercy’? Why not weight in and tell us what you think about the nature of Antonio’s mercy? We’d love to hear from you!

Bard on!

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