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Is Shylock's conversion sincere? What evidence does the play offer in support of this?
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Well, that one is up to the actor and the director, I think. I've never seen a production which tried to play Shylock's ''conversion'' at the end of the play as genuine, though I suppose it could actually be done.
Yet I'd argue that the text is fairly clear about its attitude to Shylock's conversion. Here's the bit of the text:
Two things provided more,—that for this favour,
He presently become a Christian;
The other, that he do record a gift,
Here in the court, of all he dies possess'd,
Unto his son Lorenzo and his daughter.
He shall do this; or else I do recant
The pardon that I late pronounced here.
Art thou contented, Jew? what dost thou say?
I am content.
Clerk, draw a deed of gift.
I pray you give me leave to go from hence:
I am not well; send the deed after me,
And I will sign it.
That's the last thing Shylock says in the whole play. 'And I will sign it'. Not 'gladly', or 'willingly'. But just that he's going to sign it. He'll do it. And notice the stilted, staccato nature of his speech: every single word he says is a monosyllable. His answers are short, sharp, and shocked, I think.
It's not the words of someone who has just undergone a major joyful conversion to Christianity. It's forced by the court (see above), and it's a legal requirement. He knows he's been beaten, and it breaks him. Because if there's one thing Shylock is clear about in the play is that he is a devout Jew, and that he respects his religion and his race. And even that, now, has been taken from him.
Hope it helps!
Posted by robertwilliam on May 9, 2009 at 4:58 AM (Answer #1)
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