In Rome, for many centuries, it was mandatory for the city’s Jews to take part in gross and degrading carnival spectacles. Making use of various historical records of such celebrations, this article explores the cultural construction of Jewish character within carnival against the background of religious ideas about Christian identity and alterity. In contrast to Christians, whose constitutions were believed to include a spiritual essence, or ‘soul’, Jews were construed to lack spirituality entirely. Learned churchmen have argued that Jews were unable to perceive the ‘truth’ of the doctrines of the Christian religion. Allowing themselves to be controlled by their bodies, unlike good Christians, they were viewed as being akin to beasts in human guise. But the Jew, according to this culturally determined view, not only furnished a caricature of what, according to Christian values, were vices, but also represented a real threat to the Christian community.


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pp. 37-52
Launched on MUSE
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