At the panel discussion at the Library for the Performing Arts last week, Jeff Robbins asked which is more powerful, love or hate? Which fuels us more?
“That’s a hard one to answer. . .” said Sr. Danielle Dwyer, “when you were talking about hate being addictive, I think about that as far as how it is empowering. On the other hand, to live in love, I find is much more sacrificial. I find it much easier to be irritated than to try to understand what might be happening in that situation. Love requires much more of the individual.”
Fr. Matt Malone, President of America Media, responded: “As a person of faith, I have to say that [the more powerful] is love. We are created in love by a God who is love, and ultimately I believe that we will live a life of love forever. But I think that is a very big metaphysical answer to the question. Hate is more practical in some ways. It is easier to destroy than to create, it is easier to take than to give, because of the nature of human desire. That ultimately cannot win, because it ends in nihilism.”
In so many ways, for Antonio and Shylock, the destruction in both of their lives throughout the play is rooted in their hatred for each other, and the willingness to destroy themselves in the process of trying to destroy the other. For both of them, hatred was the more powerful force in their lives. Perhaps that self-destructive hatred is one reason why we regard The Merchant of Venice as a cautionary tale, rather than a “comedy” as it is classified in Shakespeare’s canon.