Yankl der shmid

[Yankl the Blacksmith]


Act I. Frume’s house, Saturday between afternoon and evening prayers. Khaye Peshe the matchmaker has been sent by Yankl the blacksmith to propose a match with Frume’s niece Tamara, a gentle orphan who lives with her aunt and uncle. Normally such a match would be unthinkable, since Tamara comes from a rabbinic family and Yankl is a wagon driver’s son who is known for drinking and womanizing, but Frume is eager to marry off her penniless niece. Yankl says he has given up his vices and tells Tamara that her goodness will keep his baser impulses at bay. Much to her uncle’s surprise, Tamara agrees to the match, and Khaye Peshe leads everyone in celebrating with clapping and dancing.

Act II. A year later, in Yankl’s house. Tamara is pregnant and napping; Yankl tries to tiptoe past her without disturbing her but she wakes up and he calls himself a bear. They discuss their unborn child, whom Yankl hopes will be a boy. Yankl’s mother Mariashe is concerned that Yankl will return to his former ways, but Tamara reminds her that Yankl has behaved properly in the year since their engagement and the eight months since their wedding. Mariashe hopes she is right. When their passionate neighbor Rivke leaves her husband Refoel, Tamara decides (against Yankl’s wishes) to let her board with her and Yankl in order to prove that Yankl has really reformed.

Act III. One month later. Tamara has given birth to a son and it is the day of his circumcision. Yankl is in a celebratory mood and has been drinking. A wagon driver convinces Yankl to repair a broken axel. Rivke flirts aggressively with Yankl as she assists him with his work. He dances with her, acknowledges his passionate nature, sings, and even kisses her, although she complains he has had too much to drink. Mariashe walks in and scolds Yankl for being drunk. Tamara enters, and Yankl asks her to dance with him. He explains that he is joyful because of their son. When he realizes that he is drunk, he compares himself to a dog and a pig and asks Tamara how she can stand to live with him. Mariashe says she knew it all along, but Tamara treats Yankl gently and takes him home.

Act IV. The next morning, in Yankl’s dining room. Tamara, after a sleepless night, calls Yankl over for tea. He has already been awake for a while and refuses to admit he is hungover or to accept Tamara’s offer of a schnapps. After he leaves, Tamara begins to wonder what will become of their marriage, especially after Mariashe tells her that she saw Yankl visiting a tavern. She doubts he will ever change for the better, but tells Tamara to evict Rivke. Rivke and Refoel come in fighting, which Tamara fears will wake the baby, and she tells them to leave. Rivke tells Tamara that she has already paid rent for three months and has a right to stay, even though Tamara points out that she is taking this agreement more seriously than her marriage. Rivke tells her she does not believe that Yankl will throw her out because he kissed her the previous day. Upset, Tamara prepares to leave Yankl. At this very moment he returns and demands to know what is going on. When Rivke tells him what she told Tamara, he throws her out and sends her back to Refoel. Yankl reassures Tamara of his love for her and tells her that he when he went to the tavern he couldn’t bring himself to drink. He and Tamara reconcile. Yankl goes happily back to work.