Forgiving the Gift
The Philosophy of Generosity in Shakespeare and Marlowe
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: Duquesne University Press
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Acknowledgments constitute a distinct genre, as Daniel Pennac shows to hilarious effect in his monologue, Merci. If I frustrate generic expectations, it is not because I fear acknowledging my debts. On...
Prologue: The Satanic Pact
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The central and initiating event of Christopher Marloweâs Doctor Faustus is an exchange. The episodic plot achieves narrative unity in following âthe form of Faustusâ fortunes, good or bad,â as the prologue...
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Marloweâs Faustus makes a reciprocal exchange the basis of its plot but also presents exchange as the diabolical opposite of saving grace. In our own time, by contrast, few things attract suspicion as reliably as generosity, which we dismiss almost reflexively...
1. The Venice of Merchants
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In his moment of triumph, immediately after choosing the correct casket, Bassanio turns to Portia: âFair lady,â he defers to her, âby your leave, / I come by note, to give and to receive.â He refuses to believe his...
2. Romans and Venetians on Grace and Exchange
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Few readers would dispute the importance of Christianity in The Merchant of Venice. Biblical references suffuse the play, providing Shylock with Old Testament citations and his Christian interlocutors with New Testament counterarguments. Critics may nevertheless...
3. âNothing Will Come of Nothingâ: Avoiding the Gift in King Lear
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Mauss insists not only upon the ubiquity of exchange but also that a belief in pure generosity obfuscates it.1 This assumption governs a number of readings of King Lear. William Flesch, for instance, cites...
4. Speaking and Betraying Love
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Despite a great deal of commentary, the nature of Antonioâs love for Bassanio remains opaque. Antonio himself expresses bewilderment at his own emotions in the playâs opening line: âIn sooth, I know not...
5. The âDearest Friendâ in Edward II
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The theme of friendship commands attention in Marloweâs Edward II. The words âfriend,â âfriendsâ or âfriendlyâ occur a total of 55 times, compared to 37 times in the combined parts of Tamburlaine and...
6. Listening to Lavinia: Emmanuel Levinasâs Saying and Said in Titus AndronicusM
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King Lear and Faustus reveal exaggerated faith in the reciprocity of exchange as a tragic error. Even in the comedic world of The Merchant of Venice, the rejection of free gifts implies also the rejection of a doctrine of salvation...
7. Returning to the World: Prosperoâs Generosity and Power
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ââThe true life is absent,ââ Levinas writes, quoting Arthur Rimbaud, in the opening words of Totality and Infinity. âBut,â Levinas continues in his own voice, âwe must live in the world. Metaphysics arises and is maintained...
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To the frustration of biographical criticism, Shakespeare writes almost entirely in the voices of characters. In response, James S. Shapiro turns away from Shakespeareâs psychology and personal views to âwhat can be known with...
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Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: Medieval & Renaissance Literary Studies
Series Editor Byline: Rebecca Totaro