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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Jane Hwang Degenhardt

Second Advisor

Adam Zucker

Third Advisor

Harley Erdman

Subject Categories

Dramatic Literature, Criticism and Theory | Jewish Studies | Literature in English, British Isles | Renaissance Studies


Literary and historical records fueled fantasies of intense difference between the Jews and Christians of early modern England. Representations of Jewishness in the Renaissance theater drew on many of these enduring pejorative fictions, which associated Jews with financial manipulation, corporeal abnormalities, and an innate predilection for iniquity. At the same time, depictions of stunningly beautiful Jewish women and sympathetic, relatable Jewish commoners also emerged on the stage, complicating centuries-old attitudes of antipathy with suggestions of fascination, compassion, and similitude. “The Badge of All Our Tribe”: Contradictions of Jewish Representation on the English Renaissance Stage sheds light on this broader spectrum of Jewish portraiture in the period’s theater. Examining both canonical and lesser-known play texts, the study reveals the contradictory logics associated with Jews and Jewishness in performance and closet drama. Even as unfavorable stereotypes persisted in plays such as The Jew of Malta and The Merchant of Venice, flattering portrayals embedded within those same works and in others—including The Tragedy of Mariam and The Jewes Tragedy—challenge assumptions regarding the dominance of anti-Jewish feeling in the English imagination.

Gendered divergences, as captured by Cary’s Mariam and Marlowe’s Barabas, for example, enrich this study of incongruity by demonstrating the ways that a single period of English theatrical history produced Jewish characters who, on the one hand, embodied goodness and a host of Christ-like attributes, while, on the other, typified villainy and a variety of diabolical proclivities. These conspicuous distinctions contribute to the complex representational work of the stage.

This project focuses in particular on the theatrical uses of gesture, mobility, and material elements, including costumes and props, to analyze the embodied performance of Jewishness and its multidimensional layers of signification. Additionally, it examines the language of Jewishness, including a close analysis of speech patterns and vocal diversity that contribute to the heterogeneity of Jewish dramatic representations. By offering a new account of the representational complexities and contradictions of Jewishness on the early modern stage, this dissertation seeks to enhance our scholarly understanding of Anglo-Jewish culture, English attitudes towards Jews, and the important contributions of drama to constructions of Jewish difference and likeness.