MERCHANT MONDAYS

A Series of Lectures with Gail Kern Paster, Pre-eminent Shakespeare Scholar

FEBRUARY 20 • 2PM

What News on the Rialto?:

Venice offered an alluring image for the Elizabethans in Shakespeare’s audience–a world city famed for its wealth and splendor, its political independence, and its religious toleration of the Jews.
In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare uses these Venetian traits as background for his masterpiece drama about love, indebtedness, and risk-taking for merchant Antonio, prodigal Lord Bassanio, and Shylock, the vengeful victim of their anti-Semitic persecution.
MARCH 6 • 2PM

Love and Law in Shakespeare’s Merchant

Who loves Bassanio more–the merchant Antonio who risks his life in a murderous bond with Shylock or Portia, the heiress Bassanio has won by choosing the right casket?
In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare shows Antonio and Portia locked in a covert struggle for Bassanio’s love and loyalty. Antonio knows that by dying for him, Bassanio will understand the depth of his love. Portia knows that she can have Bassanio as husband without guilt or remorse only by saving Antonio’s life and defeating Shylock in the Venetian courtroom.
MARCH 20 • 12:30PM

Brown Bag and Bellinis: A casual conversation about The Merchant of Venice

Featuring Special Guest: Rebecca Tortaro, Professor of Literature and culture of early modern England at Florida Gulf Coast University

In this brown-bag lunch, Gail Kern Paster and Rebecca Tortaro will distribute short passages from The Merchant of Venice and ask the participants to discuss the passages together in order to understand key moments of the play better. One example comes from Shylock’s famous speech in responding to Venetian anti-Semitism, Shylock delivers a speech in Act 3 that has become deservedly famous:short passages from The Merchant of Venice and ask the participants to discuss the passages together in order to understand key moments of the play better. One example comes from Shylock’s famous speech in responding to Venetian anti-Semitism, Shylock delivers a speech in Act 3 that has become deservedly famous:.
“I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is?” [3.1.58-63]
How effective is this speech’s assertion of common humanity in the face of Shylock’s intention to make Antonio repay the “pound of flesh” bond? How sympathetic is Shylock at this moment even as he ends the speech, “And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”
The discussion will dig deeply into Shakespeare’s eloquent language to get a deeper, richer appreciation of the moral and psychological issues that make this play so complex and challenging.

All lectures are $15 and will be held at the Norris Center.

Buy Tickets

About the Speaker:

gail-kern-paster-headshot

Gail Kern Paster took office as Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library on July 1, 2002 and retired from that position as Director emerita in July 2011. Until July 2009 she also served as editor of Shakespeare Quarterly, the leading scholarly journal devoted to Shakespeare, published by the Folger Shakespeare Library in association with the George Washington University, where she was a Professor of English and had taught since 1974. She earned a B.A., magna cum laude, at Smith College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and a Ph.D. at Yale University. She has won many national fellowships and awards, including fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, National Endowment from the Humanities, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Mellon Foundation. She was named to the Queen’s Honours List as a Commander of the British Empire in May 2011.