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The Jewish King Lear: A Comedy in America
"The Jewish King Lear, the late Ruth Gay's fine and lively translation of Gordin's most famous play, along with the richly informative accompanying biographical and interpretative essays by Gay and Sophie Glazer, enable readers without Yiddish to understand what stirred Gordin's original audience so deeply." Stephen Greenblatt, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
The Jewish King Lear, written by the Russian-Jewish writer Jacob Gordin, was first performed on the New York stage in 1892, during the height of a massive emigration of Jews from eastern Europe to America. This book presents the original play to the English-speaking reader for the first time in its history, along with substantive essays on the play's literary and social context, Gordin's life and influence on Yiddish theater, and the anomalous position of Yiddish culture vis-à-vis the treasures of the Western literary tradition.
Gordin's play was not a literal translation of Shakespeare's play, but a modern evocation in which a Jewish merchant, rather than a king, plans to divide his fortune among his three daughters. Created to resonate with an audience of Jews making their way in America, Gordin’s King Lear reflects his confidence in rational secularism and ends on a note of joyful celebration.
"More than any other play in the history of the Yiddish theatre, Jacob Gordin's The Jewish King Lear ushered in a new epoch. Ruth Gay's translation has been rendered with care and intelligence. In the accompanying essays, Gay and Glazer illuminate both the play and the playwright." Joel Berkowitz, author of Shakespeare on the American Yiddish Stage
"Working from a rare and sometimes indecipherable manuscript, Ruth Gay valiantly translated Jacob Gordin's earliest major play in the Yiddish theater. This is one of the few translations of Gordin's works and the only English edition of The Jewish King Lear. The commentary provides helpful historical and biographical background information." Ken Frieden, Syracuse University
"Historian Ruth Gay has done a wonderful job of introducing the Jewish 'Lear' and rendering the text into English....Gay and the critic Sophie Glazer also provide essays on theater history, on Jacob Gordin and on 'Lear' as added value to an already splendid volume." The Jerusalem Report
About the Author
The late Ruth Gay wrote extensively on Jewish history. Her books include Safe Among the Germans: Liberated Jews After World War II and The Jews of Germany: A Historical Portrait, both published by Yale University Press.
Sophie Glazer'’s articles have appeared in The Boston Review, The Forward, Commentary, and The American Scholar. She lives in Fort Wayne.
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