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.
Özlem Özmen is a PhD candidate in the Department of English Language and Literature at Hacettepe University. She studies contemporary rewritings of Shakespeare’s plays.