Shylock's gender Jewish male menstruation in early modern England

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The Jews in early modern Europe were often perceived as distinct from other people not only in their religion, but by virtue of peculiar physical characteristics. Among these were a repulsive smell, horns, a tail, and a dark skin colour. Male Jews were circumcised, which made them physically distinct in the sexual realm. It was also widely believed that male Jews menstruated, and the association of this trait with the blood libel intersected the highly charged fields of gender, racism, culture, and blood itself to make the Jews as indeterminate sexually as they were in the religious landscape of Christian Europe. Understanding Jewish male menstruation may also enable us to decipher Shylock's defence of the Jews, providing a completely new interpretation of one of the most famous quotations in English literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)440-462
Number of pages23
JournalThe Review of English Studies
Issue number200
StatePublished - 1999


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