Oxford is about an hour west of London by train, and if you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. On a per-capita basis, it’s one of the most cultured cities in the world, right up there with Vienna, London, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Chicago, Budapest, and Austin.
Walking down Cornmarket Street on a beautiful summer day, it’s common to pass opera singers and concert pianists plying their trade for crowds of tourists (which have become increasingly Chinese over the past few summers…)
Yesterday evening I attended an outstanding performance of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice; if you’re unfamiliar with the play, the story is about a young Venetian nobleman named Bassanio who needs 3,000 gold ducats to woo a beautiful heiress. Having squandered his wealth, Bassanio approaches his friend Antonio for a loan.
Antonio is cash poor but asset rich, so he arranges to borrow the sum that his friend requires from a local Shylock. The Shylock agrees on the condition that he collects a pound of Antonio’s flesh in the event of default.
Needless to say, Antonio’s fortunes turn for the worst and he defaults on the debt owed – 3,000 ducats. The play climaxes with a court scene in which the Shylock seeks to enforce his bond and collect the pound of flesh from Antonio. (“Why dost thou whet thy knife so earnestly?”) …