Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 361. Wednesday, 9 June 1993.
Date: Tuesday, 08 Jun 1993 15:33:05 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Margaret, Lilith, and Shakespeare
Is there evidence to support the notion that Shakespeare was anti-semitic?
I ask this in part because I find striking similarities between Shakespeare's
Margaret in Henry VI (1, 2, 3) and Richard III, and Lilith of the Old
Testament. If indeed Shakespeare was anti-semitic that might perhaps explain
--at least to me-- why he chose to write her into four plays and did not
repeat that particular technique again. According to the Old Testament and
Talmudic interpretation, Lilith was a demonic female noted for prowling at
night. Some biblical interpretations suggests that she was a strong,
powerful, and feared female somehow associated with the murder of children.
I think what I'm implying is that if Shakespeare was anti-semitic, then
that is demonstrated by his characterization of Margaret. Furthermore,
his fear of powerful women is all the more frightening and distasteful when
placed in the hands of the "usurious Jews."
I have read a rare few analyses of Margaret's characterization. For some
reason she is neglected in the criticism. What I have read suggests that
she is part of the French triad that indicates Shakespeare's fear of
French power (Rackin). I think Marilyn French contends that Margaret is the
symbol of legitimacy and to my knowledge that's about all that exists in
terms of Margaret. I wonder if the other members of the network have any
particular reading of Margaret's importance and whether they agree or
disagree with my contention that she is symbolic of Shakespeare's anti-
I look forward to hearing from my learned colleagues.
University of Miami