Jews and the English Stage, 1667-1850

Preliminary

The prominence of Jews in the field of enter? tainment is a phenomenon around which a considerable literature has grown up. One of Lucien Wolf’s first efforts in journalism was an article entitled ‘Jewish Actors/ in the St. James1 Gazette of 27 August 1885, republished in the Jewish Chronicle for 26 May 1893 with the title ‘Astley’s Jews’, and I cannot resist quoting the beginning ofthat article both for its content and style: ‘The Hebrew has been the classic mime of the world’s history and the Jewish actor is the final product of the procrustean bed of the Hebrew Diaspora.’

The emergence of the Jew as a popular entertainer seems to stem from certain features of Jewish social life mainly connected with weddings and festivals. On the Continent the seven-day feast in celebration of a wedding was accompanied by continuous musical performances as well as the presentation of Hebrew

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