Biblical Shakespeare: King Lear as Job on the Hebrew Stage

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Abstract

Comparisons between King Lear and the biblical Book of Job have become commonplace in scholarship. This paper traces the impact of the Lear-Job connection on the staging and reception of Shakespeare's play in Hebrew theatre. Due to this connection, King Lear was put within the orbit of a central cultural endeavour for Zionism: the re-appropriation of the Hebrew Bible for the formation of a new national identity. In the mid-twentieth century, the play appealed to directors who searched for Hebrew 'biblical' theatre, and a web of intertextual allusions in the press tied Shakespeare's tragedy to the Book of Job and to rabbinic interpretations of it. However, the equivocal position held by Job within the Zionist imagination undermined the place of King Lear as well. Ultimately, the two were intertwined in the politics of their reception in Hebrew theatre. Yair Lipshitz is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Theatre Arts in Tel Aviv University. In his research, he explores the various intersections between theatre, performance, and Jewish religious traditions. He is the author of two books in Hebrew: The Holy Tongue, Comedy's Version (Bar Ilan University Press, 2010) and Embodied Tradition: Theatrical Performances of Jewish Texts (forthcoming).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-371
Number of pages13
JournalNew Theatre Quarterly
Volume31
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2015

Keywords

  • Biblical theatre
  • Hebrew theatre
  • Shakespeare and the Bible
  • Shakespeare appropriations
  • Zionism

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