Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Shakespeare in Prague II

Rudolf II was also deposed by his brother in 1611 after a reign notable not only for his shift in attitude toward the Jews and his personal interest in Rabbi Loew, but his absorption in religion, mysticism, and alchemy. He is the person who brought the British magicians John Dee and Edward Kelly to Prague. Shakespeare probably wrote The Tempest in 1611; the scenario involves a similar situation and is the only plot of Shakespeare's not traceable to an obvious source. This parallel is probably well-known to scholars of the play but I'm not sure I've ever come across it; at least it hasn't registered till now. What interests me especially is combining this with the theory that Shakespeare received his background on Jews from Jewish Italian Musicians (as in Shakespeare and the Jews). The stuff I've been reading says that the connection of Rabbi Loew with the Golem is a 19th-century invention, a piece of spurious folklore like so much else--although that's an interesting topic in itself, as with Irish, Scottish, and other folklore of the uncanny that turns out to be inventions of modern nationalist revivals.
If I were to do The Dybbuk in a course on the Uncanny, that could be a focusing topic--the functional equivalent of trick photography, say, in artfully manipulating the audience's response so that they feel a connection to the speciously authentic, numinous, or archetypal. It's relevant to The DaVinci Code and contemporary Christian movements like Pentecostalism, too, that use contemporary media to pretend to present something both ancient and "spiritual." This is worthn considering more as a serious topic for the course.
By the way, here's a quote from Stewart Klawans I filed away years ago:
An archetype is merely a cliche as seen by someone who lacks a sense of humor.
That's from his review of The Doors, appropriately enough.

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