Arts & Culture

Shall I Compare Thee to a Jewish Lady?

Was Merchant of Venice written by a female British Jew? John Hudson thinks so. The 54-year-old social theorist is convinced that much of the work attributed to Shakespeare was actually written by Amelia Bassano Lanyer, known for being one of … Read More

By / February 28, 2008

Was Merchant of Venice written by a female British Jew? John Hudson thinks so. The 54-year-old social theorist is convinced that much of the work attributed to Shakespeare was actually written by Amelia Bassano Lanyer, known for being one of the first women to publish her own poetry, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum in 1611. Lanyer was part of a family of Semitic Italian court musicians who lived as clandestine Jews. After spending most of his adult life helping big companies market effectively, John Hudson enrolled in a postgraduate program at the Shakespeare Institute and spent four years studying the Bard's plays. The result was an authorship theory that attributes much of Shakespeare’s work to Amelia Bassano Lanyer. Lanyer was mistress to Lord Henry Hudson, the man in charge of the English theater and patron of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men—the company that performed Shakespeare’s works.

Paying close attention to all of the musical references and knowledge of plants, law, military life, and falconry in the plays, John Hudson found that they matched the kind of education Lanyer would have had. Not only that: Hudson also found “literary signatures” where he thinks Lanyer left intentional clues about her name in a number of plays. His hypothesis was recently recognized by the Shakespearean Authorship Trust as one of their top eight authorship theories. Eventually, Hudson started a theater group, which he named the Dark Lady Players, to stage a production based on his findings. Their performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream was described as showing that:

Oberon is the figure of Yahweh (God of the Jews), who is embroiled in the Jewish-Roman war against Titus Caesar (embodied by Titania) over the abduction of the true Jewish Messiah (the Iudean or ‘Indian’ boy); the “flower, love in idleness” (a pun on idolatry), represents the Gospels; and the end of the play is a Jewish apocalypse characterized by the distribution of dew — as in the Zohar. The staging was never heavy-handed and there were some uproariously funny moments, punctuated by scenes of violent carnage and deep, spiritual pathos. The overall tone was of a promising marriage between strict comedy and strict tragedy.

Can’t wait to see what they do with Merchant of Venice