Shylock Is Shakespeare
Marvelously speculative and articulate, Gross’s book argues that Shylock is a breakthrough for Shakespeare the playwright, an early realization of the Bard’s power to create dramatic voices that speak for hidden, unconscious, even inhuman impulses—characters larger than the plays that contain them and ready to escape the author’s control. Shylock is also a mask for Shakespeare’s own need, rage, vulnerability, and generosity, giving form to Shakespeare’s ambition as an author and his uncertain bond with the audience. Gross’s vision of Shylock as Shakespeare’s covert double leads to a probing analysis of the character’s peculiar isolation, ambivalence, opacity, and dark humor. Addressing the broader resonance of Shylock, both historical and artistic, Gross examines the character’s hold on later readers and writers, including Heinrich Heine and Philip Roth, suggesting that Shylock mirrors the ambiguous states of Jewishness in modernity.
A bravura critical performance, Shylock Is Shakespeare will fascinate readers with its range of reference, its union of rigor and play, and its conjectural—even fictive—means of coming to terms with the question of Shylock, ultimately taking readers to the very heart of Shakespeare’s humanizing genius.
“Shylock Is Shakespeare is a book whose risk-taking, even obsessive plunge into the living character of Shylock has succeeded in reinventing a mode of criticism long thought derelict and abandoned. Shakespeare’s power as a magician—a conjurer able to call forth and release spirits into the world—has rarely seemed as palpable or disturbing as it does in Kenneth Gross’s bold and original response.”
“In Kenneth Gross's remarkable Shylock Is Shakespeare . . . we have a one-man commando assault on the critical orthodoxy of the past twenty years. . . . Shylock Is Shakespeare is compelling and honest. There should be much more literary criticism like it: bold, contentious, and speculative, it brims with ideas. Highly recommended.”