Shakespeare's Outsiders

Sunday, April 14, 2024

What Is It

Over 400 years after his death, Shakespeare is still widely regarded as the greatest dramatist of all time. His many plays tackle questions about power, influence, identity, and moral and social status. His characters—be they villains or heroes—are often disdained because of their race, religion, class, disability, or gender. So what do Shakespeare’s plays reveal about identity and status in his time? How might they shed light on who we include and who we exclude today? Could Shakespearian dramas have more in common with modern day soap operas than we think? Ray and guest-host Adrian Daub go inside with David Sterling Brown from Trinity College, author of Shakespeare's White Others.

This episode is generously sponsored by the Stanford Humanities Center.



Josh Landy  
It's Philosophy Talk.

Key & Peele  
Hey nonny nonny, talking hey nonny nonny—come on!

Ray Briggs  
Othello... Shylock... Caliban...

Josh Landy  
Do Shakespeare's plays revealed the prejudices of his time?

Comments (2)

Daniel's picture


Sunday, April 14, 2024 -- 3:40 PM

The commentary below

The commentary below interprets parts of the play entitled "Merchant of Venice" written by Shakespeare as an artifact which is historically informative, the first question of which asks whether or not the author informs or if he is a part of what is informed.

Because an artifact is interpreted as deliberately made, it is distinguished from products of nature which occur agent-independently. They make no demand to be interpreted because nobody is harmed if one interprets wrongly. If one leaves out the speculative association with nature's entirety as having been deliberately created, products of nature do not impose any reading as to what they're designed by an agent to do, or what they're supposed to be good for.

Even though the situation changes when one looks at so-called works of art, here also products of nature are detectable, namely, the material components which compose them. Deliberately combining these components does not eliminate the presence of their natural origins, but merely subordinates them to an optional design. Regarding this I'd like to limit consideration to the part of the play which involves the contest of the three caskets, the prize for which is marriage to Portia, and the Moroccan Prince who chooses the golden casket and loses. In economic terms the gold and silver caskets are categorically distinct from the lead one, which latter bears no assessable value. Considerable in this context is that the growth of ancient Mediterranean economies were necessarily conditioned by the weight-standard in silver by universal merchant-recognition, arguably derived from the one-to-one relationship between weight-quantification in silver (and less commonly in gold) and a unit of unconditionally coerced labor required for the generation of the quantifiable material (i.e. mining). The mercantile contract's validity derives from the guaranteed compulsion of labor which produces the material which is predicated by standard exchange-value. Subsequently the reliability of labor-guarantee is subsumed by standard merchant-recognition. The original material identity with its unmined constitution however remains in the subsumption by its standard exchange-value, absorbed into its subsequent formal diversity. The matter is merely absorbed unchanged by its subsuming form. Only the activity of its production disappears. Silver is not subsumed by money, but rather sublimated, or absorbed.

If the casket contest is interpreted as designed so that the losers choose the sublimated material of standard exchange, and the winner the raw commodity with no exchange value, then one might be tempted to interpret Bassanio's reasoning: "Therefore then, thou gaudy gold, Hard food for Midas, I will none of thee" (III.2,101) to be an adverse critique of emerging market-capitalism, but an interpretation from Portia's reasoning in excluding the Moroccan Prince seems to me more appropriate. He begins by adopting a supplicative position by saying "Mislike me not for my complexion, The shadowed livery of the burnished sun, To whom I am a neighbor and near bred", implying that his dark skin is thought of as defective in some way and accommodated only on the basis that's it's not an agent-based property, but rather, as it were, a product of nature. Portia's remark upon the Prince's departure furnishes the key, by this view, to the design of this part of the artifact: "A gentle riddance. Draw the curtains, go. Let all of his complexion choose me so," --that is, not the Prince, but the material predicate which remains unchanged though the transition from prospective suitor to former suitor. The background of lending markets in the characters of Antonio and Shylock, the supposition that Antonio's ships which were delayed carried cargo in some way associated with the early stages of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the context that elements of Shakespeare's native Britain were deeply involved in it, furnishes a strong indication that interpreting this part of the artifact as a slavery-apologetic is wholly tenable. If the play's author shows a personal accommodation to the respective business-practices, he can also be taken to express a generic deprecation of material predicates unchanged by the transition in labor to its involuntary form.

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Hasked's picture


Thursday, April 25, 2024 -- 8:22 PM

In four colors, just one 0

In four colors, just one 0 card can result in fewer chances to reset progress or scores.

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