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Trial by Jewry: the Jewish figure as subversive critic in the plays of the public theatre, 1580-1600

Kermode, Lloyd Edward (1992)
M.Phil. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

This thesis sets out to analyse the role of the Jewish figure on the late Elizabethan public stage. To do this, an historical approach is used. The first chapter charts generally the movements of the Jews on the Continent in the fifteenth- and sixteenth-centuries, showing how some Jews were to find their way to England, and where those Jews lived; but also painting a picture of the Jews' situation in various key European locations, a picture from which many images found their way onto the English stage. The second chapter analyses the place of the public theatre in the suburbs around London, and surveys the English arena into which the Jews were received. Chapters three to seven follow the estimated early performances of the plays involving Jewish or 'Jew-ish’ figures, and analyse the social, cultural, religious and political significance of the interest in a race of people officially absent from the country since 1290.These analyses are concerned with how the Jewish figure is used through the 1580s and 1590s to comment on such issues as political power: its fragility and defence; religious fidelity; material and sexual greed and lust; and the individual's reaction to suppressive and oppressive authority . These are not just powerful tropes of the drama, but provide a satirical, sometimes playful, and often subversive critique of both the manner in which princes ruled realms, and the ways in which authorities policed their cities and population. The eternally transient figure without geographical nationality, the Jew, provided a potent cocktail that mixed the universal banes of rejection, prejudice, alienation, and oppression, to produce a bitter-tasting draught of the very ideology in which the playgoers lived; it was a product which they consumed avidly.

Type of Work:M.Phil. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Wiggins, Martin
School/Faculty:Faculties (to 1997) > Faculty of Arts
Subjects:PR English literature
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:4441
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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