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I've just finished season 2 of Penny Dreadful and Lyle mentions to Vanessa about his "secret" and I didn't know what it was but someone online said the secret he doesn't want people finding out is that he's Jewish?

Is this true and if so why would he not want people knowing?

  • Given his dandy nature and the way he acts around Ethan, I assumed he was gay, which was a bad thing back then. – Omegacron Jul 7 '15 at 15:02
  • @Omegacron I don't think this is the case as he seems quite relaxed about being gay I think. – SaturnsEye Jul 7 '15 at 16:04
  • @SaturnsEye same goes for being Jewish in the late 19th century. And there was no relaxation about anything then either. – Ihor Sypko Jul 7 '15 at 20:00
  • @IhorSypko Was being Jewish bad in the late 19th century? – SaturnsEye Jul 8 '15 at 14:44
  • @SaturnsEye - Jews have been held with suspicion & contempt for centuries. Despite what they teach kids in school, that was not something that originated with Nazi Germany - it was just an attitude that Hitler took advantage of. Likewise, homosexuality has always been kind of an "underground" thing that wasn't mentioned in polite society. – Omegacron Jul 8 '15 at 17:53
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No it's not true. His "secret" is that he's a homosexual. Lyle uses the phrase "the tribe into which I was born" which has confused your online informant as the word tribe is sometimes used to indicate Jewishness. Victorian England was fairly relaxed about Jews (e.g. Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (born D'Israeli)) but homosexuality was a criminal offence, albeit rarely prosecuted.

  • I concur, there would be no reason for him to conceal his Jewishness, but there would be a very good reason to conceal his homosexuality. – T.W.R. Cole Sep 12 '16 at 23:45
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Actually, Lyle is the keeper of at least 2 secrets. However, the secret to which he is referring when he beseeches Victor Frankenstein not to share with others "the tribe into which he was born," he is most definitely referring to the fact that he is a Jew. This request is the bookend to what happens at the gate before they enter the "witches castle" together. At this point, Lyle, anticipating that he might die, recites the Shema, the Jewish declaration of faith and monotheism. When they end up surviving and emerging from the castle together, he is making reference to what he did and the Hebrew prayer he offered up earlier. Moreover, the use of the word tribe would definitely be an allusion to Judaism as we Jews are the descendants of the 12 Tribes of Israel. Finally, just to cement this point, because I think people have some misinformation about how antis elitism would've manifested itself at this time and in this context, Lyle would've feared discovery because, had anyone known he was Jewish, he would've likely experienced considerable backlash and his social circle and even his academic/scholarly life would've been seriously circumscribed. Many many institutions in Victorian England forbade membership and even admission to Jews. To your point about Disraeli, Benjamin Disraeli was indeed the Prime Minister of England, one of Queen Victoria's favorites, I believe. However, Disraeli's father, significantly, had converted to Christianity, and he was not raised in Judaism.

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