Reading the Jewish woman on the Elizabethan stage
The first book-length examination of Jewish women in Renaissance drama, this study explores fictional representations of the female Jew in academic, private and public stage performances during Queen Elizabeth I's reign; it links lesser-known dramatic adaptations of the biblical Rebecca, Deborah, and Esther with the Jewish daughters made famous by Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare on the popular stage. Drawing upon original research on early modern sermons and biblical commentaries, Michelle Ephraim here shows the cultural significance of biblical plays that have received scant critical attention and offers a new context with which to understand Shakespeare's and Marlowe's fascination with the Jewish daughter.Protestant playwrights often figured Elizabeth through Jewish women from the Hebrew scripture in order to legitimate her religious authenticity. Ephraim argues that through the figure of the Jewess, playwrights not only stake a claim to the Old Testament but call attention to the process of reading and interpreting the Jewish bible; their typological interpretations challenge and appropriate Catholic and Jewish exegeses. The plays convey the Reformists' desire for propriety over the Hebrew scripture as a prisca veritas, the pure word of God as opposed to that of corrupt Church authority. Yet these literary representations of the Jewess, which draw from multiple and conflicting exegetical traditions, also demonstrate the elusive quality of the Hebrew text. This book establishes the relationship between Elizabeth and dramatic representations of the Jewish woman: to play the Jewess is to engage in an interpretive play that both celebrates and interrogates the religious ideology of Elizabeth's emerging Protestant nation.Ephraim approaches the relationship between scripture and drama from a historicist perspective, complicating our understanding of the specific intersections between the Jewess in Elizabethan drama, biblical commentaries, political discourse, and popular culture. This study expands the growing field of Jewish studies in the Renaissance and contributes also to critical work on Elizabeth herself, whose influence on literary texts many scholars have established.
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Abigail Absolon Ahasuerus allegorical allusion argues authority Barabas Barabas's Bathsheba Bethsabe's Bible biblical Book of Esther Book of Judges Buchanan Catholic Christ Christian audience Christian reader Church claim commentaries David and Bethsabe Deborah Deborra deception disguise divine Drama early modern Elizabeth Elizabethan English Esau's Euripides exegetes faith father female figure Gender Genesis George Buchanan God's Godly Queene Hester hath Hebrew scripture hermeneutic husband imagines interpretation Iphigenia Iphis Jacob and Esau Jephthah's Jephthah's daughter Jephthes Jessica Jew of Malta Jewish daughter Jewish mother Jewish woman Judaic Judges 11 king Lanyer Leah Marlowe Marlowe's maternal body meaning medieval Merchant of Venice Midrash monarch narrative obfuscation Old Testament Peele's play play's political Press Protestant reading Rebecca religious Renaissance role sacrifice sacrificed daughter sexual Shakespeare Shuger Shylock's signifies spiritual stage subjects suggests Susannah symbolic textual theatrical thou tragedy translation truth typology ultimately Univ veritas virgin wife womb women