The Museum of
the yiddish world
Origins of the
Dem Purim Shpiele
Seated right, with beard and
striped headdress is Jeno Rosenthal, acting as Jacob. Standing on the far
right is Bela Rosenthal, playing the part of Shimon.
It is said that
Yiddish theatre, written and performed for the most part by Jews,
originated in the various traditional Purim plays. These satirical plays
were generally derived from the biblical Book of Esther, though this
particular Purim Shpiele, whose cast of characters is pictured below, had
to do with Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers to Ismael.
Often, the subject of a Purim Shpiele was topical. These plays, usually
performed by amateurs, were presented in various European countries in the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Often these plays were performed in
synagogue courtyards and involved not just the cast members but some
within the synagogue's congregation as well.
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