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Shakespeare's Judaica and Devices 1 editions

Shakespeare's Judaica and Devices
David Basch
About the Book

APRIL 23, 1996
by David Basch

In his new book, Shakespeare's Judaica and Devices, David Basch
continues the explorations of the peculiarly Judaic content to be
found in the works of William Shakespeare and in the "devices," the
visual artifacts, that have been associated with him. This Judaic
content goes beyond acknowledged biblical influences and includes
Judaic literatures barely known to the Gentile world. Basch began this
investigations with his 1994 book, The Hidden Shakespeare, in which he
documented both apparent and hidden Talmudic and Aggadic (Judaic
non-legalistic) elements in the poet's work that reveal purposive,
telltale messages of his Jewish origin and his wish to communicate
this as a legacy.

The pages of this very readable sequel to Basch's earlier book
positively pulsate with more revelations about the poet himself.
Presented are new in-depth studies of some of the previously
investigated works plus an assortment of brief to extensive treatments
of additional plays. Of particular note among these are the analyses
of two of Shakespeare's major plays, The Tempest and Hamlet.

In the full-scale treatment of The Tempest - a play that has been
considered one of the poet's most mysterious - Basch finds a
substantial presence of Judaic elements that serve as the master keys
to the play's meaning. These occur in the imagery of the play,
infusing its action and shaping its message. Prior to Basch's
analysis, it could not be dreamed that The Tempest could constitute
the poet's interpretation of the Jewish concept of sin and repentance,
complete with the themes of the Jewish High Holy Days and their scheme
for the restoration of man to a state of spiritual purity.

In Basch's treatment of Hamlet, his earlier account is much amplified,
indicating the many telling indications that this play is, without
doubt, the poet's rendering of the Bible's Book of Ecclesiastes. Added
to the earlier account is the elucidation of the Talmudic
controversies that are imbedded in the play and which are central to
its understanding. Far from being peripheral features, mere parochial
indulgences, these Talmudic elements enable the unraveling of many of
the puzzling aspects of this play and are testaments to the poet's
astounding literary mastery, demonstrating his capacity to relate
multiple levels of reality describing the doubleness of existence.
Thus, this play not only fascinates in its unfolding of complex
characters within a gripping story but also as the poet's
interpretation and philosophical commentary on the work of the Bible
upon which it is patterned.

Among the many topics dealt with in the book is the compelling new
evidence that Shakespeare was a participant in the writing of the King
James Version of the Bible. As Basch shows, it is not without basis
that some commentators have found in the majestic cadences of the King
James Version signs of a Shakespearean literary influence. Also
treated are the indications of Shakespeare's sometime use of the names
of his characters for revelatory purposes and the suggestion that some
of these characters are meant as portraits of real persons close to
him, some bearing on his Jewish self-revelation.

Not least of the valuable material in Basch's book are the
explorations of the visual artifacts, the "devices," whose creation
were certainly brought about by the poet. In shedding light on these,
Basch demonstrates how the poet's Coat of Arms - a penned sketch
deceptive in its apparent simplicity - is actually a complex vehicle
for revelation of the poet's Jewish origin. In deciphering it, Basch
calls attention to the work of the late Leslie Hotson of Yale
University, who first proposed that certain Elizabethan portrait
devices depicted William Shakespeare and the "friend" of the Sonnets.
These had been painted by Nicholas Hilliard, the period's master of
miniatures. Not only is there a review of Hotson's evidence, but Basch
adds considerably to it as he further discloses overlooked revelatory
features in these works pertaining to the poet. Basch shows that they
indeed give the world a view of the handsome countenances of a
red-haired poet and his mysterious friend.

It is abundantly clear that with the new dimensions added by Basch's
books, we have entered a new era in Shakespearean scholarship. The
full impact of this will surely take many years to explore and will
necessarily involve the subsequent work of many scholars and
commentators. Only a few years ago scholars lamented the ironic fact
that the poet, a man who had held a mirror up to nature and revealed
through his characters the hidden depths of man, would himself remain
forever hidden. Basch's work has now rendered such observations
altogether obsolete.

Shakespeare's Judaica and Devices
(ISBN: 1-57087-057-8; ISBN: 1-57087-274-0)
Revelatory Press,
P.O. Box 1041,
Fairfield, CT, 06825

1 edition First published in 1996

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Cover of: Shakespeare's Judaica and Devices
March 1996, Revelatory Press
Shakespeare's Judaica and Devices
Unknown Binding - 1 edition


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