Happy Passover

Video: The Meaning of Passover

Positive Shakespeare quotes on Jewish traditions

Obviously, since Shakespeare lived in a time of rampant anti-semitism, he didn’t have many nice things to say about Jews, except for the immortal “Hath Not A Jew Eyes” speech. That said, he does have some nice things to say about the Jewish patriarchs of the Bible, which I will quote here:

Henry IVSweet peace conduct his sweet soul to the bosom
Of good old Abraham

Richard II

Shylock in The Merchant of Venice mentions Jacob several times and actually uses this passage as proof that, while Christians condemn all usury, Shylock claims that it is a practice that Jacob profited and was blessed from in the Bible:

Shylock. When Jacob grazed his uncle Laban's sheep—
This Jacob from our holy Abram was,
As his wise mother wrought in his behalf,
The third possessor; ay, he was the third—400
Antonio. And what of him? did he take interest?
Shylock. No, not take interest, not, as you would say,
Directly interest: mark what Jacob did.
When Laban and himself were compromised
That all the eanlings which were streak'd and pied405
Should fall as Jacob's hire, the ewes, being rank,
In the end of autumn turned to the rams,
And, when the work of generation was
Fall parti-colour'd lambs, and those were Jacob's.
This was a way to thrive, and he was blest:415
And thrift is blessing, if men steal it not. -Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene iii.

The issue of Shakespeare and anti-semetism is still controversial- some Jewish scholars say that the play should be banned: 

Other scholars claim that Shakespeare is actually the cure for anti-semetism:


So, in conclusion, the history of Judaism and Jewish traditions are full of struggles and celebrations of triumphs, and though Shakespeare has been a weapon of anti-semitism in the past, I would like to say that his plays overall convey an empathy for all people and in that spirit I wish you all reading this a very Happy Passover.

One thought on “Happy Passover

  1. Thanks for this post, Paul. I especially enjoyed the NYT article. Happy Passover!

    Sent from my iPad


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