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Old 10-05-2006, 09:57 AM
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[quote]Edinburgh theatre asked to apologise after anti-Semitic leaflet

By Ashley Perry


The Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh has been asked to apologise after being accused of including an anti-Semitic caricature in a flyer advertising the Shakespeare play The Merchant of Venice.

The flyer included an image of the main character Shylock wearing the clothes of a Hasidic Jew with the words, "And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" in bold letters.

Although the play is about a Jewish money lender, Jon Benjamin, Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews told the Scotsman newspaper that he was not objecting to the play but the image of the Jew depicted on the flyer.

"It’s a play with many layers that explores prejudice. But that falls by the wayside in the flyer when you see what a lot of people think a Jew looks like, with the words about revenge," Benjamin said.

Controversial play

The Merchant of Venice has long been controversial for its use of medieval anti-Semitism.

The play depicts the figure of Shylock in many negative ways. Shylock is a usurer, a profession that was one of only a few that was open to the Jews in medieval England. In the play, Shylock demands a literal pound of flesh from the hero and is almost never referred to by name but merely as “the Jew.”

A spokeswoman for the Lyceum said in response to the complaint, "To be honest, we are surprised by this response to our advertising material. The text is a direct quote from one of the most powerful scenes in the play."

But Ephraim Borowski, the director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, said: "It is particularly inappropriate that the Lyceum should choose to advertise its production with a picture of a contemporary Orthodox Jew alongside a quotation about revenge that resurrects a traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes."

Challenge to interpret stereotypes

Jimmy Chislom plays Shylock in the play and is depicted in modern day Ultra-Orthodox garb rather than the type of dress a Jew may have worn at the time. William Shakespeare wrote the play at a time when no Jew was allowed to reside in England thanks to a decree of expulsion centuries earlier.

According to a pre-review in The Herald “The challenge for director Mark Thomson and actor Jimmy Chisholm is to strike a balance between the world of the play and our own experience of anti-Semitism.”

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