July 01, 2010

Merchant of Venice

Happy Canada Day!

While spinning yarn and listening to a BBC production, I noticed that sheep showed up three times in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice.

First, the allusions to Jason and the Golden Fleece, to underscore the concept of desirability, prompting a quest.

Second, the Biblical story of Jacob and his wages of piebald sheep, which comes up during the argument between Shylock and Antonio over how a man ought to earn his living.

Third, the "tainted wether of the flock/ Meetest for death," a metaphor for Antonio's doomed position in the court. How, I wonder, not being a shepherd myself, does a wether get tainted and why?

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