Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0666. Tuesday, 17 September 1996.
From: Daniel Traister <
Date: Wednesday, 11 Sep 1996 20:00:50 -0400 (EDT)
XSubject: New Work on Shakespeare
Forwarded from Ha-safran:
> From: DAVID BASCH <
> Date: Tue, 10 Sep 1996 09:56:28 -0400 (EDT)
> Subject: LOST JEWISH POET
> RECOVERING A LOST JEWISH POET
> This proposal was submitted last year to a conference on Judaic
> studies at Brandeis University. See what you think. The material
> noted appears in the recently published book, SHAKESPEARE'S JUDAICA
> AND DEVICES, now available. This was the sequel to my earlier book,
> THE HIDDEN SHAKESPEARE. Guess what was hidden?
> A JEWISH SHAKESPEARE?
> THE CASE
> To those unacquainted with the evidence, few subjects will appear as
> unpromising as a Jewish William Shakespeare. However, most curiously,
> the finding of strictly Judaic elements in his plays reveals the
> Bard's knowledge of Talmud, Midrash, and Aggadah, literatures all but
> unavailable in the England of his time -- Jews having long been
> While skeptics may reject the diagnostic worth of even some Judaica in
> the work of a medieval author who has demonstrated a prodigious
> catholic reach, its presence, easily confirmed, poses a major
> challenge to scholarship. Why has this content been little accounted
> in earlier study? Where did Shakespeare gain access to this
> literature? Does it appear in patterned ways, revelatory of its
> author? These are among the questions assayed here.
> Exhibit A of the evidence presents a sampling of Shakespeare's use of
> talmudic materials. Some are the easily identified lines, such as
> "What's mine is yours and what is yours is mine," and "Sin will pluck
> on sin," appearing respectively in Measure for Measure and Richard
> III. While both lines are drawn from the Talmud's Pirke Avoth, their
> simplicity is such to make them suspect. But, when it is learned that
> the continuation of the talmudic line on "Sin plucks etc," which runs
> to "sechar mitzvah mitzvah," is to be found in Coriolanus in praise
> of Marcius, a man who "rewards his deeds with doing them," it becomes
> evident that the Bard had rendered this talmudic line in full.
> Note here, we are actually given a "drash" ((an interpretation))
> of this phrase and not merely its translation, because one meaning
> of the line is that the mitzvah is its own reward.
> And lest it be believed that Shakespeare restricted himself to Pirke
> Avoth, of which there were some Latin translations, we find -- among
> numerous other examples -- one of Shakespeare's characters reciting
> for us the five penalties called for by the Talmud for injuring
> another. Also to be found in one of his plays, when understood, is
> his version of the traditional Purimshpiel ((play)) in which all is
> "lehephech," opposite.
> Concerning direct historic evidence, Exhibit B reveals that
> Shakespeare's father was left a legacy in which his last name was
> given as "Shakere." The historian who brought this news failed to
> recognize the implication that this name, in Hebrew, has a meaning
> suggesting a crypto-Jew. Thus, "shakere" appears in the Hebrew of the
> Ninth Commandment where it means "false" -- as surely a Jew who
> witnessed falsely as a Christian must have been.
> Have we here more circumstantial evidence ultimately signifying
> nothing? Once again, the skeptic will find no sanctuary. For Exhibit
> C clearly demonstrates that Shakespeare knew its meaning and portent
> since he found ways to interject his name as "Shakere" into some of
> his immortal plays in modes revelatory and reminiscent of the practice
> of the authors of medieval Hebrew prayers.
> Finally, Exhibit D is Shakespeare's 1596 Coat of Arms, the application
> for which, extant, includes a tell-tale sketch and motto. Not only
> does this confirm the Bard's attachment to what must be called his
> family name, but reveals him as defining himself as a son of Abraham
> Isaac, and Jacob, and much, much more, to be revealed in my new book,
> among which is the evidence that he did play a part in the writing
> of the Kings James Version of the Bible.
> The trail of these Judaic signs, left as clues by the greatest of
> communicators, has awaited plumbing by those who retained possession
> of the Jewish religious culture known to him.
> AUGUST 1994
> PRESS RELEASE
> THE HIDDEN SHAKESPEARE: A ROSETTA STONE
> by DAVID BASCH
> **** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ****
> If Basch's observations in The Hidden Shakespeare are correct, the
> controversy over the authorship of Shakespeare's plays will have
> heated up a notch. Not only will the favorite candidates for this
> authorship, like Edward de Vere and Francis Bacon, be eliminated, but
> new controversy will begin over the personal Shakespeare and the
> message of his plays.
> Basch presents striking evidence, both external and internal to
> Shakespeare's work, that he was indeed the William Shakespeare of
> Stratford, but a man whose origins are radically different from what
> has been supposed. This revelation is not merely of a parochial
> interest, because, as Basch shows, it bears on the meaning of the
> Bard's work.
> As things shape up, it remains true that Shakespeare, while being
> an intensely proud Englishman, was at the same time the prototype for
> the universal man who spoke to the ages for all mankind. Yet, the
> foregoing does not change the fact that he was at the same time a Jew,
> forced to hide his identity in an England in which Jews had long been
> expelled and in which being a Jew was a crime.
> What is the evidence for this dramatic finding? On the historical
> side, an overlooked diocesan record has been available that tells
> that Shakespeare's father, John, had another last name. Basch is the
> first to report that the name actually has a meaning in Hebrew which
> has implications for the poet's identity. But even more persuasive
> than this admittedly inconclusive detail is the internal evidence to
> be found in his plays.
> It seems that Shakespeare had provided a Rosetta Stone to enable
> future generations to ferret out the facts now coming to light. In
> what is certain to be a major cultural find, somewhat akin to the
> original Rosetta Stone that enabled the lost hieroglyphic language of
> ancient Egypt to be recovered, the immortal poet devised a key to the
> hidden facts of his origin. It is the presentation of this internal
> literary evidence that forms the central core of Basch's book.
> In an account that reads like a detective story, Basch peels away
> the layers of meaning in the poet's work, getting ever closer to the
> real man, what he said and believed. Unlike evidence that is
> inferential, unintentionally left by an unwilling subject desiring to
> hide himself, Shakespeare very consciously devised and purposefully
> left word of himself. To the world, it offers new insight on the
> meaning and message of his works -- a message more than ever relevant
> in a world of diversity seeking to find unifying themes of
> Anticipating reaction to his findings, Basch, quoting Shakespeare,
> poignantly asks whether "love will alter when it alteration finds"?
> It is in his final chapter that he offers a larger perspective on this
> question. Basch looks forward to a future in which, through a wider
> understanding, the poet's message, like the message of Israel's
> prophets, will truly belong to all people.
> Basch's central thesis is presented in Chapter 1 where we are
> introduced to the Bard's scheme of self revelation. It will surely
> seem as ingenious as the poet-genius that crafted it. The key to it
> is Jewish traditional lore, inaccessible to the surrounding cultures
> he lived among. When this lore is brought to the fore, suddenly the
> scheme becomes transparent and predictable. For just as the biblical
> Joseph, unrecognized by his brothers in Egypt, reveals himself to
> them by demonstrating familial knowledge, so does Shakespeare emulate
> this feat, leading to a new world of discovery.
> Later chapters (Chapters 2, 3, and 4) in the book, record the
> process that led to the formulations of his main chapter. Of
> particular significance is Chapter 2, titled "Shylock on Appeal."
> This chapter alone will change the reader's understanding of the
> meaning of The Merchant of Venice. It will smash forever the idea
> that this play was an anti-Semitic work depicting an ignoble Jew.
> And just when the reader could think that, with the conclusion of
> the revelations on the personal Shakespeare, Basch had exhausted his
> topic, in Chapter 5 his subject suddenly broadens. Here he discusses
> some of the specifically Jewish sources Shakespeare drew on in his
> work -- sources scarcely, if ever, touched on by commentators. Basch
> then ends up with what will surely be an ongoing discussion of what
> Shakespeare, as a Jew, contributed to Jewish thought itself. Opening
> this discussion, he reveals that Shakespeare gave his own commentary
> on Job and Ecclesiastes in a manner that will without doubt surprise
> and astound the reader.
> Basch's book will be particularly inspiring to budding writers who
> believe they have a unique perspective to offer. To read in this book
> of Basch's first dawnings of insight and the implications these raised
> proves that an individual can make a difference in subjects thought
> to be only the domain of the specialist. In Basch's case, he had been
> intrigued by an idea off the beaten path. Over time, following his
> intuition, he found his subject ever deepening. In the end, to his
> own astonishment, he discovered that he had literally gone where none
> had gone before.
> The book includes an index and a summary of The Merchant of Venice
> for those unfamiliar with the play. For a copy, send a check
> or money order for $12, checks to David Basch at
> Revelatory Press, P.O. Box 370-577, West Hartford CT 06137-0577.
> ***** PRESS RELEASE *****
> APRIL 23, 1996
> SHAKESPEARE'S JUDAICA AND DEVICES
> by David Basch
> In his new book, Shakespeare's Judaica and Devices, David Basch
> continues the explorations of the peculiarly Judaic content to be
> found in the works of William Shakespeare and in the "devices," the
> visual artifacts, that have been associated with him. This Judaic
> content goes beyond acknowledged biblical influences and includes
> Judaic literatures barely known to the Gentile world. Basch began
> this investigations with his 1994 book, The Hidden Shakespeare, in
> which he documented both apparent and hidden Talmudic and Aggadic
> (Judaic non-legalistic) elements in the poet's work that reveal
> purposive, telltale messages of his Jewish origin and his wish to
> communicate this as a legacy.
> The pages of this very readable sequel to Basch's earlier book
> positively pulsate with more revelations about the poet himself.
> Presented are new in-depth studies of some of the previously
> investigated works plus an assortment of brief to extensive treatments
> of additional plays. Of particular note among these are the analyses
> of two of Shakespeare's major plays, The Tempest and Hamlet.
> In the full-scale treatment of The Tempest -- a play that has been
> considered one of the poet's most mysterious -- Basch finds a
> substantial presence of Judaic elements that serve as the master keys
> to the play's meaning. These occur in the imagery of the play,
> infusing its action and shaping its message. Prior to Basch's
> analysis, it could not be dreamed that The Tempest could constitute
> the poet's interpretation of the Jewish concept of sin and repentance,
> complete with the themes of the Jewish High Holy Days and their scheme
> for the restoration of man to a state of spiritual purity. Also
> analyzed is the baffling Epilogue, the last words of the play. These
> bear a plea of universal significance, spoken through Prospero, the
> main character of the play and what a character he turns out to be!
> According to Basch (and other commentators), Prospero is none other
> than an allegorical representation of the L-rd G-d Himself,
> characterized, not surprisingly, as a G-d of justice and of abundant
> mercy and compassion.
> In Basch's treatment of Hamlet, he greatly amplifies his earlier
> account, showing explicitly the many telling indications that this
> play is, without doubt, the poet's rendering of the Bible's Book of
> Ecclesiastes. Added to the earlier account is the elucidation of the
> Talmudic controversies that are imbedded in the play and which are
> central to its understanding. Far from being peripheral features,
> mere parochial indulgences, these Talmudic elements enable the
> unraveling of many of the puzzling aspects of this play and are
> testaments to the poet's astounding literary mastery, demonstrating
> his capacity to relate multiple levels of reality describing the
> doubleness of existence. Thus, this play not only fascinates in its
> unfolding of complex characters within a gripping story but also as
> the poet's interpretation and philosophical commentary on the work of
> the Bible upon which it is patterned.
> Among the many topics dealt with in the book is the compelling new
> evidence that Shakespeare was a participant in the writing of the King
> James Version of the Bible. As Basch shows, it is not without basis
> that some commentators have found in the majestic cadences of the King
> James Version signs of a Shakespearean literary influence. Also
> treated are the indications of Shakespeare's sometime use of the names
> of his characters for revelatory purposes and the suggestion that some
> of these characters are meant as portraits of real persons close to
> him, some bearing on his Jewish self-revelation.
> Not least of the valuable material in Basch's book are the
> explorations of the visual artifacts, the "devices," whose creation
> were certainly brought about by the poet. In shedding light on these,
> Basch demonstrates how the poet's Coat of Arms -- a penned sketch
> deceptive in its apparent simplicity -- is actually a complex vehicle
> for revelation of the poet's Jewish origin. In deciphering it, Basch
> calls attention to the work of the late Leslie Hotson of Yale
> University, who first proposed that certain Elizabethan portrait
> devices depicted William Shakespeare and the "Friend" of the Sonnets.
> These had been painted by Nicholas Hilliard, the period's master of
> miniatures. Not only is there a review of Hotson's evidence, but
> Basch adds considerably to it as he further discloses overlooked
> revelatory features in these works pertaining to the poet. Basch
> shows that they indeed give the world a view of the handsome
> countenances of a red-haired poet and his elusive Friend.
> It is abundantly clear that with the new dimensions added by
> Basch's books, we have entered a new era in Shakespearean scholarship.
> The full impact of this will surely take many years to explore and
> will necessarily involve the subsequent work of many scholars and
> commentators. Only a few years ago scholars lamented the ironic fact
> that the poet, a man who had held a mirror up to nature and revealed
> through his characters the hidden depths of man, would himself remain
> forever hidden. Basch's work has now rendered such observations
> altogether obsolete.
> Shakespeare's Judaica and Devices is now available from Revelatory
> Press, P.O. Box 370-577, West Hartford, CT, 06137-0577, $22 postpaid;
> all checks made out to David Basch. This book with The Hidden
> Shakespeare is available for the special price of $32 -- a $44 value.
> SHAKESPEARE'S JUDAICA AND DEVICES
> by David Basch
> From the rear bookjacket of the now available publication
> from Revelatory Press:
> SHAKESPEARE'S JUDAICA AND DEVICES
> David Basch in this sequel to his earlier book, The Hidden Shakespeare,
> continues to illuminate the abundant Talmudic and Aggadic (non-
> legalistic) influences in the poet's work -- Judaica virtually unknown
> in the England of his time.
> Now Basch turns his eye to additional works by Shakespeare, including
> The Tempest, a play so dense with unsuspected Judaica that its meaning
> had remained beyond grasp. Revealed is a towering allegorical portrait
> of the G-d of the Hebrew Bible, who, not surprisingly, brims with mercy
> and compassion and makes a plea with world-wide significance.
> Also presented is an expanded study of Hamlet, disclosing its many
> parallels to the Book of Ecclesiastes and the Talmudic controversies
> imbedded in its plot that enter deeply into the play's ultimate meaning.
> Scholars who will fail to take account of the many new findings in this
> book will do so at their own academic peril.
> OTHER FINDINGS INCLUDE:
> The poet's direct role in the writing of the King James
> Version of the Bible.
> The poet's revelation of himself as a scion of the three
> Jewish Patriarchs -- a testimony to be read from the record
> of his design of his Coat of Arms.
> The poet's legacy of portrait devices of both himself and the
> Friend of the Sonnets, "limned" by the renowned royal court
> painter Nicholas Hilliard, presenting for the first time their
> significant, revelatory Judaic content.
> WHAT THE SCHOLARS SAY:
> I not only read your book [The Hidden Shakespeare] and found it
> very impressive and convincing but the additional evidence you
> have been accumulating [now in this book] makes your argument
> even more persuasive.... Shakespeare [is] ... probably a genius
> of Jewish descent, a Marrano, intimately familiar with Jewish
> materials who might have wanted to promote the honor of Jews
> and Judaism.
> -- Rabbi Emanuel Rackman
> Chancellor, Bar-Ilan University, Israel
> Although Shakespearean scholars will no doubt dispute many of
> Basch's conclusions, even those who disagree will find his focus
> on Judaic elements in Shakespeare's work useful, especially since
> this subject has not elsewhere been dealt with in such abundance
> nor so thoroughly analyzed.
> -- Dr. Marc B. Shapiro
> Center for Judaic Studies
> University of Connecticut
> For further information, post directly to David Basch