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Jonas Barish

Jonas A. Barish, one of the world’s leading scholars of Shakespeare, English drama, Ben Jonson and “antitheatrical prejudice,” died April 1 at Oakland’s Kaiser Hospital of respiratory complications from pneumonia. He was 76. He had been a member of the English department from 1954 until his retirement in 1991.

Barish first came to scholarly eminence through his work on Shakespeare’s contemporary, Ben Jonson. His book “Ben Jonson and the Language of Prose Comedy” (1960) was a landmark in the interpretation of Jonson’s plays and the analysis of 17th-century prose style.

Barish edited Shakespeare’s “All’s Well That Ends Well” and wrote numerous scholarly articles on Jonson, Shakespeare and other Elizabethan and Jacobean playwrights.

His most remarkable scholarly and critical work is a long study of “The Antitheatrical Prejudice” (1981), on the history of hostility to theater expressed in drama and literary theory, in several languages, from Plato’s time to the present. It received the American Theatre Association’s Barnard Hewitt Award for “outstanding research in theater history.”

Barish was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and received two Fulbright fellowships and two senior fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities. At Berkeley he was awarded two of campus’s highest honors – faculty research lecturer and the Berkeley Citation.

Barish was born in 1922 in New York City. He received his BA from Harvard in 1942 and served in the U.S. Army in Europe from 1942 to 1945. He returned to Harvard for his MA (1947) and PhD (1953) in English literature. Before joining the Berkeley faculty, he taught English at Yale.

Barish is survived by his wife, the former Mildred Seaquist, whom he married in 1964; two daughters – Judith of San Francisco and Rachel of Ann Arbor, Mich.; and a sister, Grace Pologe of Teaneck, N.J.

Donations in Barish’s memory, payable to the Regents of the University of California, may be sent to the Department of English for the Jonas A. Barish Memorial Fund.

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