May 1, 2012
Meet a Jew Named Shylock
Fred MacDowell, On the Main Line
One of the more useful questions of scholarship is, what kind of Jewish name is Shylock? While there doesn't have to have been any specific intention on the part of Shakespeare - no law obligated him to choose a name by any method other than randomness - the question has engaged scholars since the 18th century, at least.
Richard Farmer (1735-1797) is credited with calling attention to a little pamphlet published in 1607 which may contain a clue. Farmer's suggestion was printed by George Steevens, editor of Shakespeare's plays, and to whom Farmer had been giving some assistance.