Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Sandor Goodhart

Second Advisor

Paul W White

Committee Member 1

Sandor Goodhart

Committee Member 2

Paul W White

Committee Member 3

Samantha Blackmon

Committee Member 4

Patricia Sullivan


Critics tend to take one of three attitudes towards the Jewish figure in Early Modern drama: either a) the depiction is intended to be anti-Semitic; b) philo-Semitic; c) that the playwrights are merely observing and documenting the anti-Semitism prevalent in Elizabethan London. This reductive view oversimplifies our understanding of the complexities of Jewish characters on the British Renaissance stage. By looking past the label “Jew” that Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice and Marlowe in The Jew of Malta use, we can understand that the Jewish character is a proxy for more relevant and threatening figures to an Anglican Christian audience: usurer, foreigner, Puritan, Catholic, atheist. The (mis)interpretation of these dramas by scholars and audiences alike has played a supporting role in the history and longevity of anti-Semitism. Destabilizing the idea of anti-Semitism in Renaissance drama will allow for the reexamination of literature without the predetermination of prejudice.