Julia Pascal’s The Yiddish Queen Lear, a dramatic adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear,
merges racial identity politics with gender politics as the play both traces the history of
the Yiddish theatre and offers a feminist criticism of Shakespeare’s text. The use of Lear
as a source text for a play about Jews illustrates that contemporary Jewish engagements
with Shakespeare are more varied than reinterpretations of The Merchant of Venice.
Identity politics are employed in Pascal’s manifestation of the problematic relationship
between Lear and his daughters in the form of a conflict between the play’s protagonist
Esther, who struggles to preserve the tradition of the Yiddish theatre, and her daughters
who prefer the American cabaret. Gender politics are also portrayed with Pascal’s use of
a strong woman protagonist, which contributes to the feminist criticism of Lear as well
as subverting the stereotypical representation of the domestic Jewish female figure in
other dramatic texts.