Monday, March 28, 2022

Der Yidisher Kenig Lir (The Jewish King Lear)

Kaplan, Beth. Finding the Jewish Shakespeare: The Life and Legacy of Jacob Gordin. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2012.  

A clue on Jeopardy! led me on a research path to find Der Yidisher Kenig Lir.

And I found a wonderful account of it in Beth Kaplan's Finding the Jewish Shakespeare. In a chapter entitled "A Russian Jew in America," she details the story. 

Jacob Gordin is our Jewish Shakespeare, a masterful playwright working in America at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth center. He interacts with Jacob Pavlovich Adler, one of the greats of the Yiddish theatre in New York around that time. The play was first produced in 1882, and it created quite a stir.

And I can't do better than provide you with a sample from that chapter (pages 57 to 60). [Warning: It's very moving. You may cry. I did.]

What a fantastic story! I only wish (as Bardfilm often does) that a version of a performance could have been filmed.

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Bonus image: A Playbill from an 1898 production of the play:

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest