This article will discuss two points, half a century apart: the first Hebrew press review of The Merchant of Venice, and the press coverage of the first production of the play on the Hebrew stage and the public debate that accompanied it. The first review was published in the first Hebrew daily HaYom in St Petersburg on 23 August 1887 and addressed the showing of Merchant by Russian actors. The reviewer was the writer and critic David Frischmann. Merchant was first presented in Hebrew in May 1936 by Habima Theatre in Tel Aviv, directed by Leopold Jessner, who had escaped from Germany. The Hebrew press of the time provided extensive coverage around the production of the play in the context of the violent riots in Palestine and the rise of Nazism in Europe. Among the participants in the public debate were major representatives of the intellectual elite of the time.
Gideon Kouts is Professor of Modern Hebrew and Jewish Culture and Communications at Paris VIII University. He is editor of the journals Revue Européenne des Études Hébraïques and Kesher.