A scene from Modicut's 1926 version of Der dibek (The Dybbuk).
Parody and Opprobrium:
The immense popularity of The Dybbuk and its possession theme gave rise to negative criticism and ridicule. Michael C. Steinlauf offers several examples of Dybbuk parodies. Several days after the 1920 Warsaw premiere, one newspaper columnist described a visit by an emaciated figure that identifies itself as the lover exorcised from Leah’s body on the Elysium stage. Several months later the Humorist Der Tunkeler (pen name of Yosef Tunkel) published a parodic poem that went as follows:
A dybbuk! A dybbuk! A dybbuk! A dybbuk!
With dybbuks we must now contend…
Dybbuks, dybbuks of every kind,
In our Jewish garden like mushroom they grow,
Creeping up to the very first row.
Henryk Berlewi's Dybbuk Cartoon
In Berlewi’s cartoon, a large cow labelled Dybbuk stands with its legs wide apart. Underneath the cow are a group of actors in costume. Under the group is the caption Di vilner trupe (The Vilna Troupe).
Berlewi's cartoon satirized the astounding success of the Vilna Troupe's production of The Dybbuk.
Mazower, D. (2005) On Henryk Berlewi. Mendele Vol. 09.005 [Sequential No. 157].
Modicut Puppet Dybbuk Parody
In New York, Yiddish puppeteers Zuni Maud and Yusl Cutler of the Modicut puppet theater presented a parodic skit called Der dibek where they made fun of the various productions of the play then being performed in English and Yiddish on the New York stage.
Portnoy, E. (1999) Modicut Puppet Theatre: Modernism, Satire, and Yiddish Culture. The Drama Review 43.3. pp. 115-134.
The play was also severely criticized in a literary trial that took place in Tel Aviv in 1926, where its mystical nature was deemed unsuitable for the young Hebrew stage. Similar criticism was voiced by some Yiddish critics, especially leftists, who felt that the play’s popularity hindered the development of the Yiddish stage and shifted its focus away from current social issues of the here and now to pseudo-folkloristic nostalgia. Questions
1. Popular works such as The Dybbuk are always subject to parody, usually achieved by exaggerating certain traits of the original work, using similar techniques to those of the cartoon caricaturist. What made The Dybbuk a convenient target for parody?
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