Thursday, November 27, 2008

"I am Shylock! Know Ye Not That?"

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Dir. Nicholas Meyer. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and George Takei. 1991. DVD. Paramount, 2004.

All right, after this post, we'll move from The Undiscovered Country to other matters.

The previous post mentioned a broadcast of Merchant of Venice on the day before Kristellnacht. The intent seems to have been to incite the general populace to anti-Semitism.

It vaguely reminded me of an incident in the lives of Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare.  In 1601, Shakespeare's company was paid to put on a production of Richard II the day before a failed insurrection.  The play addresses the successful deposition of an unpopular monarch, and the theory is that the leaders of the insurrection (the Earl of Essex and his crowd) thought that the play would rally the people to their cause—or, at least, give them courage to go through with a dangerous and deadly—and, for Essex and many others, fatal—operation.

Afterwards, in extreme pique, Her Majesty purportedly said, "I am Richard—know ye not that?"

Fortunately, the players—and the author—escaped severe punishment.

The idea was similar in Germany in 1938.  The problem was that it was successful, rallying the people to attack the supposed Shylocks among them.

Why couldn't they have broadcast As You Like It, in which the terrible ruler becomes miraculous converted in the forest and turns his throne over to the good guys?

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Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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