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Myth and Syzygy

Disappointment in The Merchant of Venice
  • Matthew A. Fike
Chapter
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Abstract

Jung makes a statement that nicely bridges the first chapter’s treatment of dreams and the present chapter’s discussion of myth: “Thus, we know that dreams generally compensate the conscious situation, or supply what is lacking to it. This very important principle of dream-interpretation also applies to myths” (CW 5, 611/390). Much as Hermia’s dream of the phallic snake compensates for a denial of sexuality in her waking life or as Bottom’s “dream” of Titania compensates for elements of his life as a laborer, Shakespeare’s use of myth in The Merchant of Venice may in some way qualify or critique characters’ conscious situations. Indeed myth plays an important intermediary function in the visionary mode: “Myth is the natural and indispensable intermediate stage between unconscious and conscious cognition.”2 It is in and through myth that the unconscious speaks in literature because “all mythical figures correspond to inner psychic experiences and originally sprang from them” (CW 9i, 457/256).

Keywords

Married Life Conscious Cognition Unconscious Mind Classical Myth Immortal Soul 
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Notes

  1. 3.
    John W Velz, “Portia and the Ovidian Grotesque,” in The Merchant of Venice: New Critical Essays, ed. John W. Mahon and Ellen MacLeod Mahon (New York: Routledge, 2002), 184.Google Scholar
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    My students are fond of writing about the possibility that Antonio, who may be homosexual, is sad because he knows that his friend Bassanio will soon marry. The merchant’s sexual orientation, however, can be argued either way. His relationship with Bassanio may illustrate what Montaigne and Bacon consider a typical Renaissance male friendship. Antonio is thus to Bassanio as Shakespeare is to the young man in Sonnet 20: “Mine be thy love and thy love’s use their treasure.” An older man enjoys a Platonic friendship with a younger man, but women enjoy the young man sexually. See Francis Bacon, “Of Friendship,” in The Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral of Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam, Viscount St. Albans, ed. Samuel Harvey Reynolds (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1890), 183–99;Google Scholar
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    Robert E. Bell, Women of Classical Mythology: A Biographical Dictionary (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1991), 238. Carroll nicely points out two parallels between Portia and Hercules: both are cross-dressers, and “Portia herself will play Hercules” by “defeating the judicial equivalent of the sea monster” (Metamorphoses, 120).Google Scholar
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    See F. P. Wilson, The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs, 3rd ed. (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1970), 330: “The grace of God is (gear) enough.” Wilson cites several other uses of this proverb, the most relevant being Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, I.x.38: “The grace of God he layd vp in store, / Which as a stocke he left vnto his seede; / He had enough, what need him care for more?” See The Works of Edmund Spenser: A Variorum Edition, ed. Edwin Greenlaw et al., 11 vols. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1932), 1:133. Morris Palmer Tilley notes the proverb’s source in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for thee” (A Dictionary of the Proverbs in England in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries: A Collection of the Proverbs Found in English Literature and the Dictionaries of the Period [Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1950], 272).Google Scholar
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© Matthew A. Fike 2009

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  • Matthew A. Fike

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