Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Duchy of Württemberg

*Duchy of Württemberg (WUR-tehm-bayrg). German principality in what is now southwestern Germany. Bisected by the Neckar River, the duchy has hilly green country with cultivated river valleys, and mountains of the Swabian Alps and part of the Black Forest. During the eighteenth century, bumpy roads were frequented by peddlers and others on foot who competed with the carriages and horses of the nobility. Stuttgart and the newer ducal residence in Ludwigsburg were headquarters of courtly life, whereas Wildbad, a Black Forest spa, was for their recreation. Free cities such as Esslingen, islands within the duchy not controlled by the duke, dotted the landscape. The naturally prosperous duchy was impoverished by the wasteful misrule of Karl Alexander, the duke who employs the protagonist, Josef Süss Oppenheimer, as his privy financial councillor.

*Oppenheimer’s palace

*Oppenheimer’s palace. Stuttgart residence of the duchy’s finance minister, Oppenheimer, who uses his office—a typical role for court Jews at the time in which the novel is set—to amass a fortune. His palace displays expensive tapestries, cabinets of jewels, and busts of sages that signal his worldly success. Decorated with Leda and the Swan on the ceiling, his bedroom is the scene of many amorous conquests. Exotic tokens such as an Arabian steed and a parrot in a gilded cage represent his cultural sophistication and power. Everything in the palace advertises his exquisite taste and high fashion, in marked contrast to his origins in Frankfurt’s Jewish ghetto.


*Frankfurt. German city from whose Jewish ghetto Oppenheimer comes. The...

(The entire section is 704 words.)