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Fiddler on the Roof Cecilia H. C. Liu 輔仁大學英文系所劉雪珍副教授 English Department, Fu Jen University Aug. 23, 2005.

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Presentation on theme: "Fiddler on the Roof Cecilia H. C. Liu 輔仁大學英文系所劉雪珍副教授 English Department, Fu Jen University Aug. 23, 2005."— Presentation transcript:

1 Fiddler on the Roof Cecilia H. C. Liu 輔仁大學英文系所劉雪珍副教授 English Department, Fu Jen University Aug. 23, 2005

2 Outline Background: Shtetl, Diaspora, SabbathShtetlDiasporaSabbath Librettist: Joseph SteinLibrettist Composer & lyricist: Jerry BockComposer & lyricist Plot Characters Tevye’s Family Tree Themes and Discussion QuestionsThemesDiscussion Questions Tradition, Prejudice, Love, Social Roles, Resiliency, AssimilationTraditionPrejudiceLoveSocial Roles ResiliencyAssimilation

3 Sketches of some of Chagall's fiddlers. Marc Chagall, an influential Russian/French painter and stained glass artist ( ) The Fiddler 1914

4 Background Excerpt from Life is With People: The Culture of the Shtetl by Mark Zbrowski & Elizabeth Herzog (New York: Schocken, 1973). Consult.

5 Shtetl The small-town Jewish community of Eastern Europe--the shtetl--traces its line of march directly back to Creation. The Exodus from Egypt, the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, are seen as steps along the way, historical events no less real than the Spanish Inquisition or the Russian Revolution. It is the Covenant with God, says the shtetl, that has enabled a weak and homeless people to survive the great empires of Egypt and Babylon, Greece and Rome, Byzantium and Islam, and has caused their sacred books to enter into the Holy Writ of half the world.

6 Diaspora Under the Covenant, the people of Israel are bound to accept God as their only God. They are bound also to fulfill all His commandments, the six hundred and thirteen precepts included in the original Law as handed down on Mount Sinai. The wanderings of the Diaspora have been marked by a series of new centers for studying the Law, shifting from one country to another as circumstances changed. The exiles spread into all parts of Europe and the East, but where conditions were most favorable, a center of learning would blossom and Jews from less favored places would flock to build up a prosperous community.

7 Sabbath (1) It is told that God said to Israel, "If you accept my Torah and observe my Laws, I will give you for all eternity the most precious thing that I have in my possession." "And what," asked Israel, "is that precious thing Thou wilt give us if we obey Thy Torah?" God: "The future world." Israel: "But even in this world should we have a foretaste of that other?" God. "The Sabbath will give you this foretaste."

8 Sabbath (2) The Sabbath is a day of rest, joy and devotion to God. Sabbath brings the joy of the future life into the shtetl. This is the climax of the week, "a different world, no worry, no work." One lives from Sabbath to Sabbath,'working all week to earn for it. The days of the week fall into place around the Sabbath. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are "before Sabbath," and they draw holiness from the Sabbath that is coming. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are "after Sabbath," and they draw holiness from the Sabbath that is past. Any delicacy that one finds during the week should be bought and kept, if possible, "for Sabbath."

9 Librettist: Joseph Stein The musical Fiddler on the Roof opened at the Imperial Theatre on September 22, 1964 and ran until July 12, 1972 completing an impressive 3,242 shows. Librettist Joseph Stein wrote for Broadway, as well as the newly expanding media, television. Prior to Fiddler he wrote such shows as Plain and Fancy, Mr. Wonderful (starring Sammy Davis, Jr.), The Body Beautiful (in collaboration with the same composer and lyricist as Fiddler), Juno and the Paycock, and Take Me Along (an adaptation of O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness). After Fiddler, though, he wrote only one other commercially successful show-a little thing called Zorba the Greek.

10 Composer & lyricist: Jerry Bock Fiddler's composer and lyricist, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, were the dominant musical theatre writing team of the 1960s. Their work is characterized by a focus on the idea of ordinary people and how they deal with misfortune. Together this team created an array of award-winning shows (with a few non- lauded works, too, of course). They started with Body Beautiful, followed by the big success Fiorello!. After this Tony-winning effort the team bobbled a bit with Tenderloin (doomed from the name, perhaps?), then went on to create She Loves Me, Little Shop Around the Corner, and then their biggest success of all, Fiddler on the Roof. After Fiddler the team would join forces on The Apple Tree and The Rothschilds, but after that went their own professional directions.

11 Plot In the Russian village of Anatevka in the early 1900s, a poor milkman named Tevye struggles to maintain Jewish traditions. Challenges come when the three oldest of his five daughters reject the time-honored system for getting a husband (an official matchmaker chooses and the father approves). Instead they select their own mates based on romantic love. More change arrives with state-sponsored anti-Semitism and the birth pains of the coming revolution against the czar.

12 The Tevye stories Fiddler on the Roof is based on the Tevye stories created by Sholom Aleichem in the late ninetenth- and early twentieth-centuries (read more on Sholom Aleichem here). The stories of Tevye and his family have much in common with other characters in Sholom Aleichem's considerable body of work. The Tevye stories are rooted in biblical lore and morality, they value learning over wealth, and most importantly, the characters feel oppression but retain their faith through it all. It has been noted that Aleichem based the tales of the Tevye's few joys and many hardships on the adagehere As long as a Jew can still draw breath and feel the blood beating in his veins, he must never loose hope.

13 The Tevye stories Unlike the family in Fiddler, in the Tevye stories our hero has been blessed with seven, not five, daughters. Of course, seven daughters compounds Tevye's problems greatly because he has to wonder how an honest, hard-working dairyman provides dowries for seven women. Fiddler follows the stories of Tzeitel, Hodel, and Chava as young women, however we may be glad the story stops at the point it does. Although the ending of Fiddler is somber, it pales in comparison to Aleichem's Tevye stories.

14 The Tevye stories In these stories, Tevye's two youngest daughters, Schprintze and Bielke, grow up to give him even more to worry over. Sadly, in the Tevye stories Schprintze commits suicide when she is abandoned by a rich young man whose family disapproves of her because of her family background. Bielke, too, struggles with the issue of how she and her family are perceived. Her resolution, although not as self-destructive as Schprintz's, is no less heartbreaking. Bielke agrees to an arranged marriage with a rich man, however the man thinks Tevye is beneath him and urges him to leave the country. Bielke is torn between the two men in her life but sides with her husband, turning her back on her father.

15 Characters Tevye, the father Golde, the mother Tzietel, the eldest daughter Hodel, the 2 nd daughter Chava, the 3 rd daughter Shprintze, the 4th daughter Bielke, the youngest d. Yente, the matchmaker Lazar Wolf, the butcher Grandma Tzeitel Avrahm (the bookseller) Nachum (the beggar) Motel, the tailor Perchik, a student from Kiev Fyedka, a Russian Rabbi Mordcha (the innkeeper) Mendel (the Rabbi's son) Constable, the Russian Fruma-Sarah The Fiddler

16 Teyve’s Family Tree

17 THEMES The tension between tradition and social change, self-sacrifice, romantic love, accepting others, religious faith and anti-Semitism.

18 Themes and Discussion Questions Tradition Prejudice Love: Romantic Love, Familial Love, Metaphysical Love Social Roles Resiliency Assimilation

19 Tradition What is the role of tradition in keeping societies together? What traditions do we have in place in our own culture right now that help guide us, as a group? Trace the significance of tradition through the plot of Fiddler. What happens to the characters in their world as traditions begin to change? What is the underlying message? Villagers of Anatevka do not always necessarily get along. What internal forces (meaning forces within the shtetl itself) serve to threaten the traditional lifestyle?

20 Tradition (2) How do you define "tradition"? In your definition is tradition static, never changing? Should it be? Can it be? Where do you see evidence of tradition evolving in Fiddler. In what way are the evolving traditions in Fiddler a good thing? In what way are they a threat? In the end, what's better: change or stasis? How do you arrive at your answer? When Tevye says "If I bend too far, I will break," what does he mean? Do you agree? What traditions are important to groups to which you belong? What value do you attach to your own personal traditions?

21 Prejudice In what ways, both obvious and more subtle, do you see the outside world's prejudices threatening the way of life in Anatevka? The constable is a complex character. How can he seem to be Tevye's friend and still lead the attack against him? Why does the constable say he does this? Is "obeying orders" ever a legitimate excuse for carrying out a violent action? Where should one draw the line? Why?

22 Prejudice (2) What causes members of one group to dislike and distrust one another? What happens when these attitudes are officially sanctioned? Can you think of examples in the world today where hate and discrimination of a group of people is considered appropriate and acceptable?

23 Love: Romantic Love What role does romantic love play in Anatevka? How does the older generation view romantic love? Why? What is the purpose of arranged marriages? What are the benefits and the drawbacks? At one point in the show Tevye asks Golde whether or not she loves him. After twenty-five years of marriage she can't answer him directly. She intimates that his question is foolish and lists off all the things she's done for him. What does her hesitation in answering say about how she perceives the idea of being "in love"? Do you think Tevye and Golde's love is a romantic love? Why or why not? Have they always felt about each other the way they do when we see them in the play?

24 Love: Familial Love Tevye and Golde's lives are hard partly because they have five daughters to provide for. What sorts of sacrifices do they make for their children (or do they not make any at all?)? How do you characterize each parent's attitude toward the family? What kind of a father would you say Tevye is? What kind of mother is Golde? How do they compare to contemporary parents? Are their parenting skills on par with parents of today? Why or why not? Each of Tevye's grown daughters struggles to reconcile their duty to their family, their duty to their selves, and their duty to God. What sorts of concerns do the women entertain when deciding their course of action? Do you think the daughters acted properly? Do you think they should have done what they did? Why or why not?

25 Love: Metaphysical Love How do you characterize the relationship the villagers of Anatevka have with God? Is there a limit to what the people of the shtetl will and will not endure based on their devotion to God? What do we learn about Tevye based on his discussions with God? Why does it matter that Chava is married by the priest? What are the immediate and the far-reaching implications of this act?

26 Social Roles What are considered appropriate roles for men and women of Anatevka? What tasks are assigned to each group? How did the women characters in Fiddler break out of their subservient roles? In what way did they remain in the traditional roles? In the end, do you consider the women characters to have reinforced traditional roles or to have redefined them?

27 Social Roles (2) What are the roles and duties of the children of Anatevka? In what ways do the children of the shtetl fulfill their roles and in what way do they challenge them? How would life in Anatevka have been different if they didn't have such clearly delineated gender roles? Do you think they would have been better off? What argument could be made for the community being strong because of gender roles?

28 Resiliency How has the resiliency of the Jewish people been a factor in their survival? What keeps them going and makes them strong as a people, allowing them to endure fierce opposition? How do you think Tevye's life changed when he left Anatevka? What parts of his life changed and what parts remained the same? How about for his daughters?

29 Assimilation What special problems face the members of a distinct culture who live within a larger social group while trying to maintain their cultural identity? Many political machines have insisted on assimilation from all its people. What examples of forced assimilation can you recall from your study of the world around you (now and in the past, too). What is generally the result of forced assimilation? Do you get the sense that the people of Anatevka will eventually assimilate into the dominant cultures into which they move? Why or why not?

30 Concluding Remark Fiddler has always been anchored as an ethnic play, but the themes speak to all societies in social and political conflict. What rural society hasn’t had a conflict over the role of women? What minority in an autocratic land hasn’t suffered discrimination and reprisals? The value of Fiddler is that it speaks to this human condition, not to the experience of one group alone.

31 Works Cited Links to Jewish History & Culture. 1 Aug


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