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Bach, R.A. (1999). Antonio and Bassanio: A Response to “Shylock and Antonio's Bond”. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 47(2):573-580.

(1999). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 47(2):573-580

Antonio and Bassanio: A Response to “Shylock and Antonio's Bond” Related Papers

Rebecca Ann Bach

Michael Fleisher's compelling paper argues both that Shylock and Antonio's bond in The Merchant of Venice is these characters' primary emotional attachment and that their emotional bond is founded in the oral triad: active and passive oral wishes “to eat, to be eaten, and to sleep” (p. 551). Fleisher's essay elucidates a fascinating psychoanalytic concept that might powerfully explain these characters' interactions were they people who existed outside the web of relationships the Shakespearean play explores. However, when Fleisher's paper is read with The Merchant of Venice as a whole, his thesis loses power, since it depends on misreading the play's text. Fleisher's desire to read these characters as men with lives outside the play can be seen in his comment that “the data of the play do not allow a more specific formulation about [Antonio and Shylock's] depression than that a depressive desire for the lost breast-mother obsesses these two men” (p. 556). But dramatic characters are different from analytic patients, or even historical figures, in that all of the data we can possibly have about them are already available to us, in the words of the play itself, and no reader can be more specific than that text allows. Fleisher's aborted desire for more psychological evidence shows that he is unable to accept the inherent limitations of literature. Perhaps that desire to have more than is really there also explains his denial of what is really in the text, textual evidence that contradicts his understanding of the psyches of “these two men.” In this response, I hope to demonstrate the textual evidence that contradicts Fleisher's conclusions.

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