“I will better the instruction”: Sufferance and Vengeance in The Merchant of Venice and Jewish Thought — With Rabbi Dr. Dov Lerner
Play • 43 min

Shakespeare’s portrayal of Shylock as a cruel and vengeful Jew in the early 16th century gave rise to some of the most enduring racial stereotypes. He also gave Shylock depth and sympathetic qualities. In one of the most stirring speeches in all of Shakespeare, Shylock underscores his humanity, famously asking, “hath not a Jew eyes?” Yet the conclusion of that monologue requires further examination as it ends with the Jew’s assertion that he learned revenge from his Christian neighbors. Is there a basis for this claim? What is the Jewish understanding of revenge and retributive punishment? How do we reconcile the divine prohibition against revenge in the Hebrew Bible with its description of God as vengeful? And of what relevance is the long-suffering biblical Jacob, whose life is discussed by the characters in this play? 

In this episode, Rabbi Dr. Dov Lerner offers a master class on biblical exegesis, the relationship between interpretation, law, and justice, and what we can learn from Jewish tradition about how to end the cycle of vengeance.

Twice Blest was recently selected as one of the top 20 Shakespeare podcasts by Feedspot

Audio Credits:

The Merchant of Venice: Arkangel Shakespeare

The Merchant of Venice (2004)

Mentioned in This Episode: 

The Jews as They Are by C.K. Salaman

The Beginning of Wisdom by Leon R. Kass

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Violence and the Sacred by René Girard

Theater of Envy: William Shakespeare by René Girard

The Warrior’s Honor: Ethnic War and Modern Conscious by Michael Ignatieff

Hosted by Straus Center Resident Scholar Dr. Shaina Trapedo

Produced by Uri Westrich and Sam Gelman

Outro by Straus Scholar Ayelet Brown

Learn more about the Straus Center

Like the Straus Center on Facebook

Follow the Straus Center on Twitter

Follow the Straus Center on Instagram

Connect with the Straus Center on LinkedIn

More episodes
Clear search
Close search
Google apps
Main menu