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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: January ::
Re: Anyone Know Yiddish?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.033  Tuesday, 7 January 2003

[1]     From:   H. R. Greenberg <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Jan 2003 10:34:55 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.028 Anyone Know Yiddish?

[2]     From:   Richard Burt <
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        Date:   Monday, 06 Jan 2003 10:56:16 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.028 Anyone Know Yiddish?

[3]     From:   Joachim Martillo <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Jan 2003 11:10:55 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.028 Anyone Know Yiddish?

[4]     From:   Frances Barasch <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Jan 2003 13:00:47 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.028 Anyone Know Yiddish?

[5]     From:   Bob Rosen <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Jan 2003 13:24:07 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.028 Anyone Know Yiddish?

[6]     From:   Michael A. Morrison <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Jan 2003 19:52:31 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.028 Anyone Know Yiddish?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           H. R. Greenberg <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Jan 2003 10:34:55 EST
Subject: 14.028 Anyone Know Yiddish?
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.028 Anyone Know Yiddish?

If this is the version I have heard about, the unknown entrepreneur
listed it as HAMLET, SCHAUSPEIL VON SHAKESPEARE, VERANDERT UNDT
VERBESSERT". ("Hamlet, play be Shakespeare, changed and improved"). This
would be a "kvatch" (garbage or shtick) production, aimed at the masses,
filled with songs and dances, interpolated throughout action much as in
Bollywood cinema. However, there was serious Shakespearean theater done
in Yiddish, and done very well -- Carnovsky played King Lear without
song or dance, hence the famous joke about the taxi driver who saw the
play on second avenue in Yiddish, and being told that it would be going
to Broadway, asked Carnovsky, "Nu, so how do you think this will play
uptown". Shakespeare has much stuff at the heart of Yiddish theater --
family conflict and resolution, ungratefulness of children et cetera.

There is a book which outlines the richness of Yiddish theater at its
height.  As far as learning Yiddish quickly and lazily, this is a
supremely rich and complex language, but not difficult to learn as, for
instance, Russian and Japanese. Main problem for most people is the
letters are in Hebrew. There are immersion courses and stuff on records,
and YIVO in NYC would be a good place to contact. There are several
compendiums of Yiddish expressions, notably Rosten's THE JOYS OF
YIDDISH, but I don't quite think this is what the writer had in mind.

H. R. Greenberg

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Burt <
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Date:           Monday, 06 Jan 2003 10:56:16 -0500
Subject: 14.028 Anyone Know Yiddish?
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.028 Anyone Know Yiddish?

Tere's a major Yiddish book collection at Hampshire College in Amherst ,
MA. Someone there should be of help.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joachim Martillo <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Jan 2003 11:10:55 EST
Subject: 14.028 Anyone Know Yiddish?
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.028 Anyone Know Yiddish?

You might want to join the Mendele Yiddish email list.

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[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frances Barasch <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Jan 2003 13:00:47 EST
Subject: 14.028 Anyone Know Yiddish?
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.028 Anyone Know Yiddish?

Rhoda Kachuk and Iska Alter have written articles on Shakespeare in
Yiddish theater, covering end of 19th century (I think) and early
decades of 20th.  Hope this helps.  You'll probably find these on World
Shakespeare Bibliography; or address the authors through listing in SAA
directory.

Frances Barasch

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bob Rosen <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Jan 2003 13:24:07 EST
Subject: 14.028 Anyone Know Yiddish?
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.028 Anyone Know Yiddish?

>I would love to know if and how Shakespeare's play was modified, but
>don't know and don't want to learn Yiddish.  Does anyone know of a lazy
>way?

Shocken Books might have a title that could be helpful. Or you might
refer to reviews of that production in the English press of that time.
Obviously, whoever adapted the play would have cast Shylock in a
favorable light -- compatible to the expectations of a Jewish audience.
Certainly Maurice Schwartz, who probably played Shylock, would have
acted him that way.

See: http://www.jewishmuseum.org.uk/yiddish/expage5.htm

Bob Rosen

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael A. Morrison <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Jan 2003 19:52:31 EST
Subject: 14.028 Anyone Know Yiddish?
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.028 Anyone Know Yiddish?

See Joel Berkowitz's splendid book, Shakespeare On The American Yiddish
Stage, published last year by the University of Iowa Press.

From the UIP Web site:

"Berkowitz's close study of Shakespeare adaptations demonstrates the
creative adaptiveness of Jewish playwrights, performers, and audiences
to America. This book of theatre history and cultural history is as
entertaining as the plays it describes."-Ruth Wisse, Martin Peretz
Professor of Yiddish Literature and professor of comparative literature,
Harvard University

"Berkowitz's revealing study lovingly and meticulously recreates a
fascinating moment when Yiddish theatre tried to 'improve' itself by
appropriating Shakespeare and his considerable reputation-and in the
process created a newly enriched kind of Shakespeare, brimming over with
pathos, melodrama, unabashed theatricality, and yiddishkeit."-Harley
Erdman, author of Staging the Jew: The Performance of an American
Ethnicity, 1860-1920

"This work is a contribution to American immigrant cultural history, an
invaluable study of the development of modern secular Jewish culture,
and an impressive addition to the growth and uses of theatre in
establishing modern theatrical practices in non-Western societies."-Seth
L. Wolitz, Gale Chair of Jewish Studies, University of Texas at Austin

The professional Yiddish theatre started in 1876 in Eastern Europe; with
the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, masses of Eastern
European Jews began moving westward, and New York-Manhattan's Bowery and
Second Avenue-soon became the world's center of Yiddish theatre. At
first the Yiddish repertoire revolved around comedies, operettas, and
melodramas, but by the early 1890s America's Yiddish actors were wild
about Shakespeare. In Shakespeare on the American Yiddish Stage, Joel
Berkowitz knowledgeably and intelligently constructs the history of this
unique theatrical culture.

The Jewish King Lear of 1892 was a sensation. The year 1893 saw the
beginning of a bevy of Yiddish versions of Hamlet; that year also saw
the first Yiddish production of Othello. Romeo and Juliet inspired a
wide variety of treatments. The Merchant of Venice was the first
Shakespeare play published in Yiddish, and Jacob Adler received rave
reviews as Shylock on Broadway in both 1903 and 1905. Berkowitz focuses
on these five plays in his five chapters. His introduction provides an
orientation to the Yiddish theatre district in New York as well as the
larger picture of Shakespearean production and the American theatre
scene, and his conclusion summarizes the significance of Shakespeare's
plays in Yiddish culture.

Michael A. Morrison

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