Letter: No racist `Merchant'

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The Independent Online
SHAKESPEARE was too wise to base The Merchant of Venice on blatant racial prejudice, rampant though it was in Tudor days (report, 14 March; letters, 16, 17 March).

Most of the unctuous and hypocritical Christians in the play come off rather badly and in Act III Shakespeare gives Shylock those lines that are the ultimate put-down of anti-Semitism: "Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food...".

As for Portia's overquoted "quality of mercy" speech, what of the shred of mercy shown to Shylock? The most dramatic utterance of the play must be Shylock's last words: "I pray you give me leave to go from hence/I am not well".


Stainsacre, North Yorkshire