Shakespeare’s portrayal of Shylock as a cruel and vengeful Jew in the early 16th century gave rise to some of the most enduring racial stereotypes. He also gave Shylock depth and sympathetic qualities. In one of the most stirring speeches in all of Shakespeare, Shylock underscores his humanity, famously asking, “hath not a Jew eyes?” Yet the conclusion of that monologue requires further examination as it ends with the Jew’s assertion that he learned revenge from his Christian neighbors. Is there a basis for this claim? What is the Jewish understanding of revenge and retributive punishment? How do we reconcile the divine prohibition against revenge in the Hebrew Bible with its description of God as vengeful? And of what relevance is the long-suffering biblical Jacob, whose life is discussed by the characters in this play?
In this episode, Rabbi Dr. Dov Lerner offers a master class on biblical exegesis, the relationship between interpretation, law, and justice, and what we can learn from Jewish tradition about how to end the cycle of vengeance.
Twice Blest was recently selected as one of the top 20 Shakespeare podcasts by Feedspot.
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Hosted by Straus Center Resident Scholar Dr. Shaina Trapedo
Outro by Straus Scholar Ayelet Brown
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