The Birth of a Hebrew Tragedy:  Woody Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream as a Morality Play

By Marat Grinberg


1. Sander H. Lee, “Existential Themes in Crimes and Misdemeanors” in Woody Allen: a Casebook. Edited by Kimball King (New York:  Routledge, 2001):  59.

2. The centrality of existential themes to Crimes and Misdemeanors has been previously explored by Sander Lee.

3. Martin Buber, I and Thou (New York:  Hesperides Press, 2006).

Harold Bloom, Jesus and Yahweh:  The Names Divine (New York:  Riverhead Books, 2005).

5. Sander Lee has suggested that Levy’s character is also partially based on Primo Levi.  In an interview with Lee, WA acknowledged that Levi is “probably present on an unconscious level” in the film. “Existential Themes in Crimes and Misdemeanors”:  77-78.  To an extent, Levy’s philosophy replicates Martin Bergmann’s own commentary on the Bible.  See Martin S. Bergmann, In the Shadow of Moloch:  the Sacrifice of Children and its Impact on Western Religions (New York: Columbia University Press). I am thankful to Steven Wasserstrom for pointing me in the direction of Bergmann’s writings.

6. Saul Bellow, Mr. Sammler’s Planet (New York:  Penguin, 2004).  Bellow, of course, appeared as himself in WA’s Zelig (1983).

7.The Films of Woody Allen: Critical Essays (Lanham:  The Scarecrow Press, 2006):  34-49.

8. For an analysis of the link between WA and Kafka, see The Films of Woody Allen: 171-197.

9. WA acknowledges as much in an interview about the film.  Cynthia Lucia, “Contemplating Status and Morality in Cassandra’s Dream:  an Interview with Woody Allen.”  Accessed at on 07/20/08.

10. Ibid.

11.“Here I stand and here I struck/ and here my work is done...  Done is done.”  Aeschylus, The Oresteia (New York:  Penguin, 1977):  161-162.

12. It is important to remember that on its own, the Hebrew Bible is weary of any allegorizing.  Its characters are singular in their predicaments.  Imposing allegory on the Bible is part of a hermeneutic process itself.

13. See Poetics by Aristotle.  Translated by S. H. Butcher.  Accessed at  on 01/20/10.

14. I find great Soviet classicist A. Losev’s analysis of the history of interpretations of catharsis to be especially illuminating and comprehensive. See A. F. Losev, Istoriia Antichnoi Estetiki: Aristotel’ i Pozdniia Klassika (History of Ancient Aesthetics:  Aristotle and the Late Classics).  Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1975.

15. Of course, WA already provided a very playful and light commentary on Greek tragedy in The Mighty Aphrodite (1995).

16. Aeschylus:  153.

17. Ibid., 167.

18. Osip Mandelshtam, Collected Works in Four Volumes [Russian] (Moscow, 1990, v. 2):  448.  My translation.

19. For an analysis of Mandelshtam’s Jewishness, see Marat Grinberg, “In the Midst of Judaic Ruins:  Osip Mandelshtam and the Problematics of Russian Jewish Tradition,” Slovo/Word, No. 40 (2004):  116-128.

20. “The Robbery,” season 1, episode 4, 1990.

21. Edouard Roditi, Thrice Chosen (Santa Barbara:  Black Sparrow Press, 1981):  65-82.

22. Thrice Chosen:  17.

23. Ibid., 72.

24. Nevertheless, they are also revealing.  The poem specifically tells of suicide, which becomes significant in light of Terry’s drowning:  “There is no other end but death:/ between death and death, fast or slow,/ no choice but self-inflicted./ Usurp time’s powers, try to cheat/ chance of its tricks, the end/ is still the same:  death by death’s hand/ or death by your own, guided by death’s.” I would argue that WA replaces the notion of chance, central to Match Point, with that of divine/poetic justice. 

25. Ibid., 72.

26. Edouard Roditi, Poems 1928-1948 (Norfolk:  New Directions, 1949):  79-95.

27. Ibid., 74.

28. Ibid., 17.

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