How did the catastrophic development of antisemitism in Germany interact with the portrayal of Shylock on the German stage?
Here Andrew Bonnell gives us the first cultural history of this tragic character from Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" as performed on the German stage from the late eighteenth century to the end of World War II.
In addition to analysing the performances of the most famous German actors in the role from 1777 to 1944, "Shylock in Germany" looks at the rising and falling popularity of "The Merchant of Venice" across Germany in this period, and the extent to which the role's history reflects changes in the situation of Jews in Germany and Austria.It follows the evolution of Shylock in nineteenth century and Imperial Germany, from the formative years of the modern German theatre as a cultural (and civic) institution; through the Weimar Republic, an epoch remembered for innovation and experiment, but also a period marked by an estrangement between an aggressively modernist metropolitan culture and a provincial cultural life which clung more to continuity; and, finally, considers the impact of the Nazi period with its murderous state-ordained antisemitism. Shylock's career in Germany after 1933 was neither as conspicuous nor as unambiguous as one might expect.
Using archival research and drawing on much primary source material, Bonnell does not confine the book to theatre history only - but instead uses the changing portrayal of Shylock to analyse German cultural attitudes towards Jews over time.