If Shakespeare was clearly Jewish, he would not have lived in Elizabethan English. Before he was even born, Jews were expelled by Edward I in 1290. Until 1655, no Jews lived in England. That bypasses the entire lifespan of Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, and the entire Renaissance. Still, I read an article claiming the William Shakespeare was Jewish. The author states that only a Jew could grasp the pain of antisemitism as we feel in "The Merchant of Venice".
If Shakespeare is not Jewish, is he antisemitic? Shakespeare only knew a Jew as the stereotypes he heard. He never met one. Yet, can you say it is right for an Englishman to be antisemitic, as a Nazi who never met a Jew. Others claim that Shakespeare pleads for tolerance. Can Shylock's short monologue change the entire perception of how to read "The Merchant of Venice"? The monologue states,
"I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands,
organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same
food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases,
heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter
and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If
you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the
rest, we will resemble you in that"
Shylock is one of Shakespeare's most mystifying characters. Depending on the actor, Shylock can be a treacherous villain or a sad soul whom was feel sympathy for. Although, a lot of Shakespeare's roles have two sides to them. Romeo is both a sweet, young boy who has fallen in love, yet an insane man who slaughters Paris in the tomb. Shylock is just subjected to the time around him. He represents the Jews of the Middle Ages. The second most oppressed generations of Jews the world has ever seen, after the Holocaust of course. Jews had no home. They were forced into the money lending. From this forced banking, they became known as greedy, cheap, and devious. Shylock is Shakespeare showing his audiences how cruel people can be. Maybe my opinion will change when I write my reflections of "The Merchant of Venice" after reading it myself.
"Romeo and Juliet" is another amazing piece of art. How Jewish is it? A ballet has been performed in Hungary that would say very much so. Romeo represents an Israeli Jew, Juliet a Palestinian. Shakespeare is timeless, just as Judaism. "Romeo and Juliet" is full of killing, jealousy, and rage. Judaism is against all of these attributes. Shakespeare relates to Jews because just like the Torah Shakespeare teaches us through others mistakes. The Torah may say do not kill, but we also read about Cain and Abel. Imagine if the Torah was translated into Shakespearean English.
Finally, Shakespeare and Judaism are both at a point in struggle. Shakespeare is supposedly timeless, so is Judaism. Unfortunately, both has withered through generations that are not religious or artsy as whole. Shakespeare, like religious services, is too confusing. Around the age of 13, students try to read a Shakespeare. Around the age of 13, Jews try to read Torah. And for what? A good grade? A party afterwards? Shakespeare and Judaism must be digested. Where do the king of theater and oldest region collide? "Ah me, Judaism, Judaism, wherefore out thou' Judaism."
-Bohm, Agnes. "In Mideast ‘Romeo and Juliet ' Love Overcomes All Obstacles." All About Jewish Theater. NCM Productions. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.
-Verveer, David. "Was Shakespeare Jewish? - Israel Opinion, Ynetnews." Israel News: Ynetnews. Yedioth Internet, 26 Sept. 2006. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.
-Hannan, Daniel. "Was Shakespeare Anti-Semitic? – Telegraph Blogs." Telegraph Blogs. The Telegraph, 2 Mar. 2008. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.
-Maillbard, Amanda. "Was Shakespeare Anti-Semitic? Jews in Shakespeare's England." Shakespeare Online. 12 Jan. 2009. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.
-Shakespeare, William. "Act 3 Scene 5." The Merchant of Venice. Print.