Etching of Joseph

Step 4 of 6

A name for the unnamed

The question leads us to the theatrical performance of a play about Joseph 24 years earlier in Amsterdam. The schoolmaster Cornelius Crocus, who was the first to write a Latin play about Joseph, staged the performance with his pupils before the citizens of Amsterdam in 1535. School plays were an important element in the innovative pedagogy of the new humanist schools that were appearing everywhere. Potiphar’s wife is one of the main characters in the play, and Crocus gives her the name Sephirach.Here you can have a look at the 1537 edition of the play by Cornelius Crocus that introduced the name Sephirach for the character.

Many authors who wrote plays about Joseph after Crocus – and there were many – adopted Crocus’ name for the character. In this way, it became a sort of standard name for the character in northern European, mainly theatrical literature, just as the name Zuleikha and its variants were used in Eastern literatures.

But where did Crocus get the name Sephirach from? Click here if you are interested in reading a few hypotheses.