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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: February ::
Re: Shakespeare, Jews, and Anti-Semitism
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 111.  Friday, 26 February 1993.
 
From:           David A. Bank <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Feb 93 21:34:28 GMT
Subject: 4.0108 Shakespeare, Jews, and Anti-Semitism
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0108 Shakespeare, Jews, and Anti-Semitism
 
For Jay Halio and John Dorenkamp:
 
As I tried to explain, I have difficulty attaching terms like "racist"
or "anti-semitic" to types existing only (or almost only) in books,
and there can be little doubt (C.J. Sisson notwithstanding) that Jews
in 16th century London were very few. The stereotypes of the period -
as Jay Halio concedes - are derived from tradition, and they include
Turks and Mohammedans as well as Jews. No one has suggested that, in MV,
Shakespeare tries to excite (or exploit) an antipathy in his audience
to *real* Jews; to Jews that is as a community in England. They were
marginal almost to the point of invisibility. My question is this:
should we be using terms like "racist" and "anti-semitic" of MV or
whatever in these circumstances? I really don't see how it helps
our understanding of the mentality/ies of the period.
 
Obviously one accepts John Dorenkamp's point that Jews in literature -
including the Bible - were "very much part of the culture of
Shakespeare's time". Yet not *so* very much. The *Short Title Catalogue*
of British printed books (1475 to 1640) lists 22 first editions,
20 second editions, issues etc. with "Jew", "Jews" or "Jewes" as
part of the title. I offer this as indicative information merely.
The proportion of titles on a *per annum* basis is between 0.15%
(the lowest, in 1635) and 0.77% (1611), as a percentage of all
British books published in the period. One's impression of most of
these books is that their references to Jews have the purpose of
Christian amendment *of Christians*. May this be an important
part of MV too?
 
     David Bank
     Univ. Glasgow
 

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