Apologizing for "The Merchant of Venice"
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Apologizing for "The Merchant of Venice"

Items from “Emancipation: How Liberating Europe’s Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance,” by Michael Goldfarb,
Simon & Schuster, 2009

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In Berlin during the 18th century, there “was a growing understanding of the contribution made to the city’s culture by this small minority and that its sensitivities should be acknowledged. In 1788, at a performance of the ‘Merchant of Venice’ at the National Theater, an actor came out before the curtain went up and apologized for the way Shakespeare portrayed Jews in his play.”
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“In the 1720s, the French philosopher Montesquieu wrote, ‘The Jewish religion is an old tree trunk that has produced two branches that have covered the entire earth: I mean Mohammedanism and Christianity… It is a mother who has given birth to two daughters who have covered her with a thousand plagues.”
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“It was already an old joke in Germany by the middle of the 1830s that ‘Doctor’ was a Jewish first name.”
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Influenced apparently by his father, “On his 13th birthday, Benjamin Disraeli [former prime minister of England] was baptized instead of bar mitzvahed. Yet throughout his life, Disraeli was identified by others as Jewish and acknowledged himself the strong Jewish component of his personality.”
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About Jacob Freud, Sigmund’s father: “When he was a young man, if a Christian coming down the sidewalk shouted at him, ‘Jud mach mores!’ ‘Jew show your manners!’ he had to take off his hat and step into the muddy road, just as Moses Mendelssohn or Mayer Amschel Rothschild had had to.” But Sigmund “had no interest in stepping aside.”

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