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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: November ::
Jewish Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1974  Thursday, 18 November 2004

[1]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 17 Nov 2004 12:16:06 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1963 Jewish Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Allan Axelrod <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 17 Nov 2004 10:36:39 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1963 Jewish Shakespeare

[3]     From:   John Reed <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 17 Nov 2004 20:05:01 -0800
        Subj:   Re: Jewish Shakespeare

[4]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 18 Nov 2004 07:15:25 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1963 Jewish Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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Date:           Wednesday, 17 Nov 2004 12:16:06 -0000
Subject: 15.1963 Jewish Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1963 Jewish Shakespeare

Is it just me?

A number of the elements that the article cites supposedly out of
Shakespeare's ( a Medieval writer???) close reading of Judaica are
surely commonplaces of both all or many religious / ethical teaching, as
widely seen in Christianity or come to think of it even Islam or
Buddhism. How these quotations can be claimed as evidence of
Shakespeare's specifically Jewish knowledge simply defeats me.

Am I way off target here?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Allan Axelrod <
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Date:           Wednesday, 17 Nov 2004 10:36:39 -0500
Subject: 15.1963 Jewish Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1963 Jewish Shakespeare

Some years back I was thrilled to read a book [praised on its jacket by
the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem] which showed the likelihood that
Shakespeare was not only a Jewish fellow, but probably my cousin
[several times removed].  The root of the SPEARE  part of the name  is
S, P, R,-- pretty obviously derived, as was one of my family names,
from SAPIRO!!!   And what about the 'Shake' part? Well, what about it??

Allan Axelrod

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Reed <
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Date:           Wednesday, 17 Nov 2004 20:05:01 -0800
Subject:        Re: Jewish Shakespeare

This was a fun post: Shakespeare interpreted as a sort of English
converso; forget about whether he was a Catholic or a Protestant: this
cuts right to the heart of the matter.  Shakespeare and Jewish thought
is a really good subject, and one I never get a chance to pursue with
anyone, since it apparently is too volatile.  But now someone else has
brought it up, and I might follow it a little to see where it might
lead.  That Shakespeare was familiar with Talmudic lore might be
explained by an alternative device other than by supposing him to be
Jewish.  Somewhere or other I seem to have run across the idea that the
angels, some of them, anyway -- oh, I know, the Fallen Angels - know the
Bible backwards and forwards, and can quote scripture at will in order
to further their own purposes.  If they know the Bible so well, it is
not too far-fetched to suppose they know the Talmud, also (especially if
they have access to the internet).   Shakespeare might have access to
this knowledge if he were writing while communing with a Fallen Angel or
other.  In fact there is no reason to suppose his communion would
necessarily have to be limited to the Fallen Angels: he might have
communed with some other non-Fallen Angel trans-human intelligence (to
heck with Martians, I don't believe in them).  In certain circles the
prophets, the great prophets of the Tanakh, are held to have enjoyed
this kind of relationship, and with God Himself, and no other lesser deity.

All this is especially interesting to me at any rate since the poet has
written two plays: Measure for Measure and The Merchant of Venice, in
which there seems to be a direct collision between Christian and Jewish
thought, with the Christian side coming out the "winner."   If this is
so, then the poet was writing counter to his natural mode of thought,
which is rare in an author (try it sometime).  Maybe...after Measure for
Measure, he really converted...

If Shakespeare were serious about contrasting Christian and Jewish
attitudes so directly in these two plays, I wonder if he hit upon the
subject glancingly in other places.  In Hamlet, for instance, could
Polonius be Jewish?  I wonder if that would make a difference?

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Nov 2004 07:15:25 -0000
Subject: 15.1963 Jewish Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1963 Jewish Shakespeare

I was fascinated by David Basch's article.  I would not have drawn the
same conclusions though.

Surely if phrases from the Talmud were in common currency in
Shakespeare's London, all this means is that they had crossed over from
the small (but not insignificant) Jewish community into the general
population?  As Michael Wood discusses in his recent book, In Search of
Shakespeare, WS lived near a Sephardic area; his dark mistress was quite
possibly from a Jewish family; and his musical collaborator Robert
Johnson was from this same family of Venetian Jews.  I don't think the
presence of quotes from the Talmud in the poet's work necessarily means
he had read the Talmud himself.  It probably just shows that London was
a much more cosmopolitan city than has been previously assumed.

As for WS being a Jew though, I really think this is a non-starter.

Peter Bridgman

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