Belonging and Longing of the Beautiful Jewess and the Jewish Villain in the Nineteenth-Century German, English and French Novel
The antithetic pair of the Jewish Villain and his daughter the Beautiful Jewess made their entry into literature with Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ and Marlowe’s ‘The Jew of Malta’. Nineteenth-century non-Jewish novelists re-use them to reflect their ambiguous feelings towards Jews. As an object of conquest and conversion, the character of the Beautiful Jewess is portrayed as belonging to the Bible and the Orient. Due to his resistance to conversion the Jewish villain is confined to the fading ghettos where he withdraws into an inanimate world of his own creation. Although following different paths, their longing to belong to society is denied. At the end of the nineteenth century a passage from religious to racial Anti-Semitism takes place, leading them back to the status of pariah. From now on both of them are accused of coveting the money of a decadent aristocracy, who is struggling to cope with economic change. She is reduced to a prostitute and he to a dangerous cosmopolitan parvenu, exposing the shattered values of nineteenth-century society.
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