Anti-Semitism in the Shakespearean Times

Anti-Semitism in the Shakespearean Times

Jews - Bullied and Ridiculed

Throughout all of time, acts of anti-semitism was a common sight wherever you went , but mainly in the many “Christian” cities located in Europe. The Jews originated in Israel around 1800 BC and there are currently an estimated 13 million Jews worldwide, which is quite a large figure. Anti-semitism is the name given to the general maltreatment of Jews. Taunting and verbal assault (calling Jewish people dogs, etc.) are some very commonly seen actions related to anti-semitism. Basically, Jewish people were bullied by their contemporaries.

Jews are often stereotyped in appearance, personalities and behaviour. Some common stereotypes are that Jews had hooked noses, had long spiky beards and wore red hats- these depicted them with a devilish appearance. Christians thought that Jews helped the Devil bring about the death of Christ and also spread major diseases and pandemics such as the Black Death (bubonic plague). Also, since some Jews were rich moneylenders, the whole population was thought to be extremely greedy.

During the time of Shakespeare’s life (late 16th to early 17th century) the Jewish population was treated extremely poorly. In some cities, Jews were even forced to live in a separate part of the city known as the Ghettos. At night, the gates of the ghettos were always locked and guarded by Christian soldiers and in the day the Jews had to wear a red had whenever they left the ghetto.

On the stage, Elizabethan audiences enjoyed seeing Jews being ridiculed and presented as a comical element to a performance. Back then, in the 1500’s Jewish character were always played by comic actors and never serious actors. In almost all plays the Jew would have a negative role such as someone seeking revenge as in “The Merchant of Venice”. Only in recent times have Jews been depicted the victims rather than the bully.

Anti-semitism has been evident since the ancient times because if here are two different groups (in...

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