Jun 16, 2017

The Merchant of Venice in Case Law



"In his opening statement, the prosecutor told the jury that the case read like a book. At the start of his summation, the prosecutor referred back to the book, saying:

I didn't tell you the title of that particular book that was going to be presented to you. I'm sure by now you know the title to that book, and the title to that book is called the Merchant of Franklin Square and not New Jersey, and not Ohio and not 8600 West Bryn Mawr, Chicago.

(emphasis added). Subsequently, the prosecutor referred to the "merchants of Franklin Square," and the "merchants of greed, deceit and corruption." According to Weiss and amicus curiae Agudath Israel of America, those statements were intended to allude to Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, a play that has long served to perpetuate negative stereotypes about the Jewish people by virtue of its memorable villain, Shylock, whose insistence on exacting his pound of flesh "has become a metaphor for cruel and relentless greed." Bronstein, Shakespeare, The Jews, and The Merchant of Venice, 20 Shakespeare Quarterly 3 (1969). The prosecutor's allusions to The Merchant of Venice, coupled with his repeated references to wealth and greed, allegedly evoked the stereotype of Jews exemplified by Shylock, and improperly suggested that Weiss acted in accordance with this stereotype, thereby infusing the trial with anti-Semitic prejudice and making a new trial necessary." US v. Weiss, 930 F. 2d 185, 196 - Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit 1991.


There is interesting discussion in this case about allusions. You'll have to read it for the conclusion:,45

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Sep 24

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