How could he not be!? Almost everyone in Victorian Europe was at least a little bit! You know how even the least prejudiced person you know locks their doors when a grungy looking black man walks by their car? Well, no matter how progressive you were in the 1600's, I promise you, when a Jew strolled by you kept your wallet close.
Whether because of good ol' fashioned racism or just ignorance and lack of knowledge about Jews, Shakespeare and everyone else living at the time was anti-semetic. Is "Merchan Of Venice" an Anti-Semetic play? OH YEAH! Has this play done irrevocable harm to Jews, stereotyping us and probably leading to some beating over the last 400 years?...most definitely! But, so what? We all still read Shakespeare's plays. I've read almost all of Shakespeare's plays. He's a great talent. I respect his writing immensely and I have no problem with him being anti-Semetic, and you shouldn't either.
It's time to move away from this whole "Well, this guy 200 years ago was anti-Semetic" type of talk. Because, quite simply, EVERYONE was anti-Semetic. EVERYONE. It's not fair to judge people work based on that anymore. I'll give you an example. Here are just some of the companies that profited off Jewish Slave labor in the Nazi death camps. Kodak, IBM, Volkswagen, Hugo Boss (actually willingly joined the Nazi Party himself) Bayer, Ford, Chase Bank, Siemens...and the list goes on and on. Should we never sleep on a Siemens mattress again? Should I never take a Kodak picture of myself masturbating with an IBM computer into a Hugo Boss handkerchief while sitting in a volkswaggen making an electronic deposit into my Chase Bank account? Of course not! That would be silly! Because in 1940 EVERYONE was anti-semetic.
I'm not saying the Holocaust doesn't matter. Of course it does! And I'm not saying we shouldn't hate Anti-Semites. Hate Shakespeare. Hate the CEO of Kodak during the Holocaust! Frankly, I hope that all the people who ran these companies 70 years ago are being punished in some sort of Jewish equivalent of hell (a basketball court?), but who cares right now? Forget about those old dead anti-Semites. Let's deal with the NEW anti-Semites; those are the ones that matter. Let's accept that Shakespeare was an anti-Semite. Let's accept that Walt Disney was a rabid anti-Semite. That Mercedes produced custom engines that personally incinerated Jews in the death camps and that siemens wanted to trademark "Zyklon B", and that Hitler himself named the Volkswagen Beetle, because their current products have nothing to do with that sordid history.
It's time for us Jews to not be shocked anymore is someone is anti-Semetic. It's time for us to just assume that EVERYONE is anti-Semetic ALWAYS. In fact, I'm surprised when people AREN'T anti-Semetic. History tells us it's actually pretty normal. The weird people are the ones that like the Jews! It should not shock us anymore when Helen Thomas says anti-Semetic crap; it shouldn't surprise us when Glenlivet no longer wants to sell to Israel; it should no longer astonish us when Desmond Tutu opens his big fat mouth. Let's simply accept this inevitable truth...that everyone in the world who ever lives is probably, at least a little, definitely, absolutely anti-Semetic, and move on as a stronger, less insane people.
And if you're a non-Jew reading this blog...OH! I'm sure YOU are one of the few that aren't anti-Semetic....right.