“Right on, Vashti!”: Minor Characters and Performance Choices in the Synagogal Megillah ReadingJonathan Homrighausen
- Religious studies
Every Purim, synagogues read the biblical Book of Esther aloud in liturgy, a tradition that exemplifies how synagogue performance practices elaborate on, revise, and refine minor characters in the text. This paper studies four such minor characters in performance from the second century to the present: Haman’s sons, Zeresh, Harbona, and Vashti. These characters evince ways in which performance practices of biblical texts construct moral and psychological assessments of characters in the story, through the interaction of audience, performer, text, and liturgical framing. Further, biblical characters are performed differently in ways which parallel textual interpretation of biblical texts as well as changing social trends and values. In performance, the narrative-critical work of characterization comes alive.