Going against the grain of the dominant scholarship on the period, which generally ignores the impact of Jewish questions in early modern England, James Shapiro presents how Elizabethans imagined Jews to be utterly different from themselves----in religion, race, nationality, and even sexuality. From strange cases of Christians masquerading as Jews to bizarre proposals to settle foreign Jews in Ireland, this book looks into the crisis of cultural identity in Elizabethan England and sheds new light on "The Merchant of Venice."
What Shapiro shows convincingly is how deeply Shakespeare's play dug into the fantasies, anxieties and pleasures of its audience. New York Times Book Review Shapiro not only explodes the myth of the absent Jew but, more significantly, explores how literature conveys such notions. Tikkun A groundbreaking study of Elizabethan anti-Semitism that offers a shockingly long pedigree for Shakespeare's Shylock. Kirkus Reviews Shapiro has written a brilliant, incisive cultural history. -- Glenn Speer Shakespeare Newsletter