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"The Christian Will Turn Hebrew": Converting Shylock On Stage

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Chapter Summary

This chapter outlines some historical analogies between Shylock and Othello as a means to measure the distance that separates Shylock, the most famous Jewish role, from Jewish theatre, meaning by that a site where all the complexities of Jewish experience and representation are addressed. The author's title plays on the closing moment of Act I when the bond of the pound of flesh has just been sealed and, as Shylock leaves the stage, Antonio comments: "The Hebrew will turn Christian: he grows kind". The instant in which the relationship between Jew and Christian appears to be at its most cordial becomes the occasion of an anti-Semitic slur that foreshadows Shylock's final conversion. In reversing that line - "The Christian will turn Hebrew" - the chapter poses the question of whether the product of an all-Christian culture can ever be "converted" to Jewishness when transferred from the page to the stage.

Keywords: Christian; Hebrew; historical analogies; Jewish theatre; Othello; Shylock



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