This month’s column is about the twenty-first issue of Instauration magazine. On the front cover it says Vol. 2, No 8 and is dated July 1977. Also on the front cover is a picture of the actor Sir Henry Irving playing Shylock.
As always, Page 2 is titled “The Safety Valve.” This is where the letters to the editor are printed. One letter in “The Safety Valve” reads as follows:
“One of the most important tasks right now, perhaps the main task, is to bring together especially younger men and women who think as we do. This involves more than distributing books and publications, since we need the personal reinforcement and exchange of ideas that can only come about by breaking through the isolation which many of our people feel right now. We have a number of mostly small-circulation publications which represent our world outlook, but almost without exception each one is more interesting in grinding axes than in bringing together intelligent men and women of our race.
“Until now, Instauration has broken with its policy of anonymity on only a very few occasions. I feel strongly that it could greatly increase its effectiveness by allowing writers the option of bylines and by giving greater publicity to groups or individuals which represent our outlook. This policy would allow good writers, for example, to get personal feedback from readers and allow the establishment of mutually beneficial acquaintanceships. Frequent writers, using their own names, or a pseudonym, could build a reputation or following.
“In one sense, this would not be a new policy, since books published by Howard Allen have already been issued under both real names and pseudonyms. I am here only urging that Instauration permit writers and contributors this option. Many, if not most, will want to retain anonymity, and that is quite understandable.”
The feature article in this issue is titled “Racism in English Literature.” “Beowulf,” the greatest work in English before the Norman Conquest, mentioned the group pride of individual Germanic tribes: “Hark! We have heard how the kings of the Spear-Danes gained glory in days of yore, how the noblemen did famous deeds.”
Shakespeare displayed an ethnic bent when he composed “Othello.” Othello’s fatal flaw was self-deception. It was described as inherited, not acquired. A marriage between a Moor and the beautiful, white Desdemona was destined for a tragic ending.
In “The Merchant of Venice” some directors have tried to sanitize the play of its anti-Semitism. They try to take Shylock’s self-pity and portray it as Shakespeare’s pity for Shylock.
The best performance of The Merchant of Venice I ever saw was a movie version. In this version, Al Pacino played Shylock. There was one scene where Shylock gave a speech in the courtroom justifying himself and his actions. It reminded me of a speech that Pacino gave in the cult classic movie Scarface in a fancy restaurant. In addition, the actress who played Shylock’s daughter looked a lot like Monica Lewinsky.
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