Literature, Reviews

Review: Gross, Shylock is Shakespeare

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With his unsettling eloquence and his varying voices of protest, play, rage, and refusal, Shylock—the Jewish moneylender in The Merchant of Venice who famously demands a pound of flesh as security for a loan to his anti-Semitic tormentors—remains a source of perennial fascination for Shakespearian critics and audiences. As Robert Fulford, reviewer for the Canadian daily, the National Post, remarks, “the character of Shylock is so compelling that it seems he, not Antonio, must be the merchant in the title, so abrasive in his bitterness that audiences go home thinking only of him and forgetting all the people around him.”
But of the dozens of books exploring the mystery and motivations of this fascinating character, Fulford notes Shylock is Shakespeare distinguishes itself from the rest, arguing that the figure of Shylock is so powerful because he is, in fact, the voice of Shakespeare himself. Fulford writes:

Kenneth Gross, a virtuoso critic, identifies the moneylender with the playwright, making Shylock a character into whom the greatest of all writers poured his own ambivalence, anger, and insecurity. Gross argues that Shakespeare found in Shylock a way to “articulate his own doubt, desire and rage, his troubled solitude.” Gross imagines Shakespeare speaking to us admitting, “This character I’ve made, this Shylock, is myself. We are both opportunists of reading and speaking, making capital of human weakness, error and accident.”

A bravura critical performance, Shylock Is Shakespeare will fascinate readers with its innovative means of coming to terms with the question of Shylock, ultimately taking readers to the very heart of Shakespeare’s humanizing genius.