Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Shylock Is Shakespeare

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Shylock Is Shakespeare

Article excerpt

Shylock Is Shakespeare, by Kenneth Cross. Chicago, December 2006. $22.50

There's no need to guess where fancy's bred in Shylock h Shakespeare. It is with Gross's whole heart devoted to this maltreated protagonist (and some decades' worth of fine scholarship on the Bard as a provision) that he provides us with a remodeled character study, a genre of Shakespearian criticism instigated by late-eighteenth-century commentators and brought to its apotheosis by the high Romantics. The book launches itself from this tradition. A good portion of the study is an appreciation proper, spotted with sentimentalized, garlanded, and sometimes unnecessary elaborations (note Gross rolling on his palate the names Shakespeare and Shylock, then gurgling Shakelock into Shyspeare, like an oenophile discriminating flavors). At times it is a Bloomian transcendental meditation, at others a speculative soliloquy; if we want to play at Freudian analyst, the author has even included his own dream sequence. We notice that the book itself, like Shakespeare's greatest characters, tries out many roles. But if William Richardson and his neoclassical company initiated a move from a criticism of dramatic propriety to one of individual psychology, and the hazy Hazlitt's Characters of Shakespeare's Plays "openly professed his idolatry" for the playwright's completely natural personages, then Gross's study is also distinctly a product of its modern upbringing. …

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