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Deborah is a German play by Salomon Hermann (von) Mosenthal (1821-1877)[1]

The original text

Based on the story of the travails of the Jewess "Rebecca" in Sir Walter Scott's famous novel Ivanhoe, Mosenthal's German version was first performed in Budapest and Vienna in 1849 and in Berlin in 1850. Published in Pesth (Pest, Hungary) by Heckenast and in Leipzig by Wigand in 1850.

Translations and adaptations

Besides many other theatrical works based on Ivanhoe, there were a number of English, French and Italian versions of Mosenthal's play.

The best known in English is Leah, the Forsaken by Augustin Daly (1838-1899)[2], which was the first English version. Originally performed in New York in 1862, followed by a run in the Adelphi Theatre, London during 1863-4, it became immensely popular. (Also found as Leah, or The Forsaken, Leah, or The Jewish Maiden, or simply Leah).

Two other versions of the Mosenthal play opened in 1864: Deborah, or The Jewish Outcast, written by an unnamed author, opened at the Grecian Theatre, Hoxton, in February while Deborah, the Forsaken, or The Jewish Maiden's Wrong! (on occasion Leah the Forsaken, or The Jewish Maiden's Wrongs), by Charles Smith Cheltnam (1823-1912)[], opened at the Princes Theatre Glasgow on 18 May 1863, then played at the Royal Victoria Theatre in Waterloo in July, becoming almost as well-known as Daly's version.

Translated into French as Debora by Léon Halévy (published in 1860) and into Italian as Deborah by

Performance history in South Africa

1867: Performed for the first time in South Africa as Leah the Forsaken, or The Jewish Maiden's Wrongs by "Le Roy's Original Company" in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town on 18 and 25 February, with The Legend of St Croix ("A gentleman of Port Elizabeth").

1875: Performed as Leah, or The Forsaken by Disney Roebuck and his company in the Bijou Theatre, Cape Town, on 5 April, with The Illustrious Stranger (Kenney and Milligen).

1875: Performed as Leah, or The Jewish Maiden by Disney Roebuck and his company in the Bijou Theatre, Cape Town, on 24 July. The afterpiece of the evening was apparently The Illustrious Stranger (Reece) , but the entry for this date in F.C.L. Bosman (1980:p.325) is rather confusing, giving the afterpiece as Brown and the Brahmins or Captain Pop and the Princess Pretty eyes (sic!) or The Illustrious Stranger" - i.e. giving the whole of burlesque's pedigree.

1878: Leah, the Forsaken performed on 30 and 31 August by the Smith and Thatcher Company in the Athenaeum Hall, Cape Town, with Ada Ward, Henry Smith and Richard Thatcher. (The second evening included a "screaming race" on the bill.)


Nadia Valman. 2007. The Jewess in Nineteenth-Century British Literary Culture, Cambridge University Press: p.34-39[3]

Jonathan M. Hess. 2018. Deborah and Her Sisters: How One Nineteenth-Century Melodrama and a Host of Celebrated Actresses Put Judaism on the World Stage, University of Pennsylvania Press.

D.C. Boonzaier, 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1932. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.221-2, 323-340, 350, 359, 363, 372.

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