7: Oral history excerpt, Harold Bloom on Maurice Schwartz as Shylock, 2019, and review excerpt, “Jacob P. Adler’s Shylock Scores,” 1903.
In an excerpt from an oral history interview, the literary critic Harold Bloom recalls seeing renowned actor Maurice Schwartz as Shylock in a Yiddish performance of The Merchant of Venice. A review from The New York Herald describes an earlier performance in which another famed Yiddish theater actor, Jacob P. Adler, performed the role of Shylock in Yiddish while the rest of the cast performed in English.
Suggested Activity: Ask students to consider how it would change their perception of the character of Shylock if he spoke a language other than English. What if he spoke a Jewish language specifically? Would a Yiddish-speaking Shylock be significantly different from a Hebrew-speaking Shylock or a Spanish-speaking Shylock? Why or why not? What if Shylock was the only character in the play speaking that language? If students in the room have studied another language, have them perform a scene in which all the characters speak English but Shylock speaks another language (translations of The Merchant of Venice into Hebrew, Spanish, Yiddish, and other languages should be relatively easy to find either on the internet or in a library).
Sources: Harold Bloom, interview by Christa Whitney, "'The First Shakespeare Plays I Ever Saw Were in Yiddish': Harold Bloom Remembers Maurice Schwartz as Shylock," Yiddish Book Center: Wexler Oral History Project, Sep. 22 2019, https://www.yiddishbookcenter.org/collections/oral-histories/excerpts/woh-ex-0006761/first-shakespeare-plays-i-ever-saw-were-yiddish-harold-bloom-remembers-maurice-schwartz.
"Jacob P. Adler's Shylock Scores," New York Herald (New York, NY), May 26 1903, 10.