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The Jewish community, about 2,000 people, often provided and most likely paid for dramatic spectacles for ducal entertainments.On Fridays, the performances began early since they had to end before Sabbath.
The Venetian diarist, Marin Sanudo, records on Saturday, March 4, 1531, the day after Purim, that "there was performed among the Jews in the 'Geto' a very fine comedy; but no Christian could be present by order of the Council of Ten.It ended at ten o'clock at night." This was almost certainly an annual event, which gentiles must have attended in earlier years, thus arousing the disapproval of the Council.In 1489, as a special request, the story of Judith and Holofernes from the Apocrypha was staged in Pesaro by the Jewish community at its own expense as the main show in the elaborate wedding celebrations of Giovanni Sforza, lord of Pesaro, to the sister of the marquess of Mantua.However, presentations of the Book of Job on the stage have fallen short of proving that it was written for performance.Dramatic intentions are not manifest in post-biblical writing, except in the work of *Ezekiel of Alexandria, who lived in the first century b.c.e. He wrote in Greek, and the known fragments of his work owe their survival to non-Jewish scholars.On the whole, post-biblical literature is without any works intended for performance in a theater.
But the rabbis were fully aware of and generally disapproved of the theaters, amphitheaters, and circuses that existed in their Hellenistic-Roman world.
This indicates that Jews were regularly to be found among the theater-going public. There is a touching passage in the Midrash (Ruth R.
) in which Naomi tells Ruth that if she insists on conversion to Judaism, she will have to deny herself certain pleasures. In Rome during the time of Nero (first century c.e.), there were Jews on the Roman stage as well as in the auditorium.
"My daughter," she says, "it is not the custom of the daughters of Israel to frequent theaters and circuses."The theaters that arose in Palestine during the Hellenistic period were largely swept away by the Maccabean War (167 b.c.e.), but a revival of forms of entertainment took place in the next century under Herod, and the larger cities including Jerusalem had theaters, amphitheaters, and hippodromes. There was no attempt at creating a Jewish playhouse. The hostility of the rabbis was such that they declared it sinful for a Jewish workman to take part even in the building of a stadium or amphitheater (Av. A Jewish actor *Aliturus (or Alityros) is known to have been among the emperor's favorites.
By the second century of the Christian Era, performance of tragedy had practically vanished from the Palestinian theater, and had been replaced by buffoonery, ribaldry, and coarse comedy which sometimes ridiculed Jews and their customs (Lam. He is mentioned by *Josephus without any apparent surprise at finding a Jewish actor in high favor in court.
The sarcophagus of an actress, Faustina, in the Roman catacombs of the first or second century c.e.