Published by the Religion and Theatre Focus Group of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education The Journal of Religion and Theatre is a peer-reviewed online journal. The journal aims to provide descriptive and analytical articles examining the spirituality of world cultures in all disciplines of the theatre, performance studies in sacred rituals of all cultures, themes of transcendence in text, on stage, in theatre history, the analysis of dramatic literature, and other topics relating to the relationship between religion and theatre. The journal also aims to facilitate the exchange of knowledge throughout the theatrical community concerning the relationship between theatre and religion and as an academic research resource for the benefit of all interested scholars and artists. All rights reserved. Each author retains the copyright of his or her article. Acquiring an article in this pdf format may be used for research purposes only. No other type of reproduction by any process or technique may be made without the formal, written consent of the author. Submission Guidelines • • • • • • Submit your article in Microsoft Word 1998 format via the internet Include a separate title page with the title of the article, your name, address, e-mail address, and phone number, with a 70 to 100 word abstract and a 25 to 50 word biography Do not type your name on any page of the article MLA style endnotes -- Appendix A.1. (Do not use parenthetical references in the body of the paper/ list of works cited.) E-Mail the article and title page via an attachment in Microsoft Word 1998 to Debra Bruch: dlbruch -atmtu.edu. (Please replace the -at- with @.) Or send by regular post with the article on a zip disk, Mac format, in Microsoft Word to: Debra Bruch, Ph.D. General Editor, The Journal of Religion and Theatre Department of Fine Arts Michigan Technological University 1400 Townsend Drive Houghton, MI 49931 • DEADLINE: May 1st of each year
The Journal of Religion and Theatre, Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 2005 This Article: http://www.rtjournal.org/vol_4/no_2/inbar.html
T A M I N G OF TH E J E W
M a r l o w e ' s Ba r a b a s Vi s - à - v i s Sha kespea re's Shylock Written by Donny Inbar
Both Christopher Marlowe's The Jew of Malta and William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice present challenges to the contemporary reader or interpreter, with regard to the character of "The Jew" in their plays.1 The stereotypical reference to Barabas and Shylock as "The Jew," not to mention these characters' opprobrious characteristics and deeds, is problematic in itself. "Marlowe's Barabas, like Shakespeare's Shylock, is a criminal in the making," writes Martin D. Yaffe in his analysis of both Jewish characters in Shylock and the Jewish Question: "His crime is also prompted by his being a Jew."2 Yet Shylock can be regarded as a small-time crook, in comparison with Barabas' abominable criminality. As John Gross defines it in his Shylock: A Legend & its Legacy, Shakespeare's Jew "has been scaled down and domesticated."3 Thanks to this act of taming the Jew's character from demonic to sardonic, Shylock has been perceived, both by contemporary critics and theater people of the past two centuries, as a less problematic or more presentable character. How are the characters of Barabas and Shylock related, and what did the process of "toning down" the Marlovian monster entail? Additionally, since both plays and their Jewish characters evolve around materialism, wouldn't it be proper to evaluate the price that Shakespeare may have paid (on behalf of his "Jew") in this procedure. Furthermore, does a character in a drama necessarily benefit from such a course of "housebreaking"? In order to fully assess the stages in, and implication of, the "taming of the Jew," there is need for basic evaluations of Barabas and Shylock, as well as of the literary and historical sources of both plays. This will set the...