Jewish Gentleman

Richard Brome (before 1640)

Historical Records

Stationers' Register

Entered by Andrew Crooke, 4 August 1640:

six Playes vizt, Christianetta. The Iewish gentleman. A new Academy or Exchange. The love sick Cort. The Covent Garden. and The English Moore or mock Marriage by Mr. Rich: Broome.

(Bentley, 3.58)

Theatrical Provenance

King's Revels/Queen Henrietta's Men?

Probable Genre(s)

Comedy? (Harbage)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

None known

References to the Play

None known

Critical Commentary

Bentley suggests that the context of this record might be the breaking of Brome's contract with the Salisbury Court theatre, and that therefore there is a possibility that the play dated from 1635-9, the period of Brome's tenure as dramatist to the King's Revels/Queen Henrietta's Men. He points out, however, that "It cannot be demonstrated that even a majority of the six were old Salisbury Court plays" (3.70).

Steggle believes that three of the other five plays on the list, The English Moor, The Love-Sick Court, and The New Academy, belong to the period of Brome's tenure as chief dramatist to the King's Revels/Queen Henrietta's Men at Salisbury Court; but one is certainly earlier (The Weeding of Covent Garden), and little can be said for certain about the date of the other lost play on the list, Christianetta, or Marriage and Hanging Go by Destiny (q.v.). Steggle (118-23) also notes that Brome claimed only to have written seven new plays for the King's Revels/Queen Henrietta's Men in the period 1635-39. All seven of these seem to be already accounted for without The Jewish Gentleman.

Abrahams (259) assumes that The Jewish Gentleman had a sympathetically presented Jewish central character. Steggle (130) notes that Brome refers to Jewishness in his play The English Moor, and specifically to the idea that a Christian who practises usury is, in effect, almost Jewish.

For What It's Worth

Abrahams assumes that the central character was both Jewish and sympathetic, but both halves of this assumption should be treated with care. One useful reference point might again be The English Moor, a play with a similarly oxymoronic title. In that play, though, the central character is not really a moor, but an Englishwoman who, in the course of the play, is forced by her jealous husband to take on the disguise of a moor. She eventually escapes, and sheds her moorish disguise.

Other plays which might also be relevant intertexts, since their titles trade on the idea of a paradoxically inappropriate "gentleman", include Rowley's A Shoemaker a Gentleman; the anonymous "A Gentleman No Gentleman, A Metamorphosed Courtier", one of the lost plays on Hill's List; and, an only slightly more distant analogue, Moliere's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. The second of these is lost, but the plays of Rowley and of Moliere are available. In Rowley's tragicomedy, a gentleman is forced by circumstances to become a shoemaker, before eventually becoming a Christian martyr; in Moliere's satire, a bourgeois man attempts to learn the behaviours and fashions necessary to become a gentleman. Considering these two together with Brome's The English Moor, one sees something of the range of possible plays that could arise from a title such as The Jewish Gentleman.

Works Cited

Abrahams, Israel. Jewish Life in the Middle Ages. New York: Macmillan, 1896. Internet Archive
Steggle, Matthew. Richard Brome: Place and Politics on the Caroline Stage. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004.

Site created and maintained by Matthew Steggle. Updated 2 December 2009.