In Merchant of Venice Launcelot says this to Jessica. Jessica is the daughter of Shylock who is a Jewish money lender who loaned money to a Christian. When the Christian was unable to pay him back in a timely fashion, Shylock requested he be paid with a pound of the young man’s flesh. At the time the quote is said, Jessica is thinking about running away to marry a Christian. Launcelot is telling she is doomed to death as a Jews daughter, and she is convinced she will be saved if she can just marry a Christian.
Personally, this in one of my least favorite play by William Shakespeare. One reason is its deeply tone deaf and antisemitic rhetoric, but I do love this quote. We see its sentiment again in The Once and Future King by T.H White. King Arthur suffers the fallout from the sins of his father as he tries to run his new realm after pulling the sword from the stone. At the start of The Queen of Air and Darkness, the epigraph reads, “When shall I be dead and rid / Of the wrong my father did? / How long, how long, till spade and hearse / Put to sleep my mother’s curse?”
So why is this quote laying heavy on me now? Well, currently, I have been watching Ted Lasso, and I absolutely love how the season showcases this idea of the “sins” of the fathers of one of the players, the coach and even the owner. Other characters elude to difficulties with their parents, but the writers deep dive with Jamie, Rebecca and Ted.
Jamie’s father is abusive and manipulative. His selfishness causes him to place unreal expectations on his son. His attitude was so poisonous that his son is also narcissistic and cruel until he meets Ted Lasso.
We learn that Rebecca hated her father because she caught him cheating on her mother. The scene where we learn this is paralleled with Ted’s story of his father’s suicide. Despite their abilities to overcome this adversity, the viewer can see how these events affected them. Rebecca married a man much like her cheating father only to leave him to try and free herself. Ted created his extreme positivity and desire to help others so no one else had to live through that much pain. It’s his myopic thinking that seems to cause his wife to fall out of love with him.
This causes me to reflect on my very complicated relationship with my own father. In what ways did our painful relationship affect my life?
My father was extremely abusive and also strangely loving. He was able to mix a sense of protection with a fear of never knowing what was going to anger him. He was a hard working martyr who never failed to remind us what he needed to do to keep things running. He has told me he loved me once in my life. He has called me a “cunt” more times than I can count. One of his favorite quotes was the following: “I learned early on you can’t trust women. You really can’t trust anyone who bleeds seven days a month, twelve times a year and still lives.”
My father is racist, sexist and antisemitic and is proud of these labels.
And despite all of this, he still very much a part of my life. If I thought there was something I could say to him and he would respond with, “Well, I am just so proud of you,” I would say it. These thoughts make me see my brokeness.
In the past, I was upset when I would witness my need for my father’s acceptance. I spent years trying to heal my wounds. It was imperative before I was able to be in a healthy relationship. Now I see it and move on. As of right now, I am unclear and unwilling to try and fix the remaining pieces of mess.
On Christmas Day, my father showed up and he was barely in the door before he was pulling a baby shoe from his pocket.
“I had this in my tool box,” he said. “It’s been in there for 45 years. I thought you might want it.” I looked down at the white shoe, turned slightly brown by time. It was not dirty or even smudged. “I used to have the other one, but I wanted to give it to you just in case.” My father also handed me his XXL jacket. I draped it over my arm as I turned the tiny shoe. I felt the sting of tears in my eyes and thought about hiding them, but then changed my mind.
“Thank you, Dad. Are you sure you don’t want it?” I asked, not sure what to make of this strange display of paternal nostalgia.
“Nah, I’ve had it long enough,” he said as he walked by into the kitchen. “Hey, Brian,” he yelled to my husband. “You got a beer? And I don’t want any of that girlie shit.”
Love and Light, my broken friends.