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Shakespeare in the Ghetto, the Ghetto in Shakespeare

Art & Society

Scholar Shaul Bassi will explore the history and present situation of the Ghetto of Venice, the place where a cosmopolitan Jewish community has lived since the early 16th century. Having contributed the word ‘Ghetto’ to the global vocabulary, this site was a very vibrant international hub and a point of dissemination of Jewish culture for Jews and non-Jews alike. The facts of the Ghetto will be compared to Shakespeare’s fictions, to consider parallels, prejudices, echoes, resonances. The Merchant in Venice will be discussed as an example of how the Ghetto can draw on its rich legacy to provide topical lessons for the present time and as an artistic achievement that has paved way for the future of the area as a living art center.

Shaul Bassi is Associate Professor of English at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, where he is the director of The International Center for the Humanities and Social Change. He is the author of the Shakespeare in Venice. Exploring the City with Shylock and Othello (with Alberto Toso Fei, Elzeviro 2007) and Shakespeare’s Italy and Italy’s Shakespeare. Place, ‘Race’, and Politics (Palgrave Macmillan 2016). He was the coordinator of the cultural projects related to the 500th anniversary of the Ghetto of Venice (1516-2016). His idea of staging The Merchant of Venice in the Ghetto for the first time in history was inspired equally by his passion for Shakespeare and his commitment to the Jewish past, present, future of Venice, where his family has lived since the 18th century.

Read Professor Bassi’s op ed, “Shylock and Othello in the Time of Xenophobia” in The New York Times.