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The Jew of Malta
Transcript of The Jew of Malta
Philipps - Universität Marburg
PS: Early Modern English Drama, Tue 10-12
Presentation by Celia Naranjo Cruz, Corinna Hunger, Fabian Schassberger, Tim Sensenig
The Jew Of Malta
Why we chose this play
We wanted to get away from Shakespeare because when studying the Early Modern English time period, his plays are the most dominant, and there is already a lot out there to read. We wanted to dig a little deeper and challenge ourselves. After a few discussions, we settled on The Jew of Malta because we also recognized the author’s name, Christopher Marlowe, but were not familiar with his work and because online plot summaries made it sound like a very interesting read.
Portrayed as a blood thirsty, evil, selfish man who kills and robs in order to be as wealthy as he is.
Article by Alfred Harbage entitled “Innocent Barabas” suggests that, while seemingly bad, Barabas is really just a character/role stuck in a pre-ordained hierarchy and in which he characters, or character group leaders of the play, Ferneze, Del Bosco, Calymath and Barabas, are found (Harbage 53): Ferneze, a Christian ruler, Del Basco, Admiral from Spain, Calymath, from Turkey, and Barabas, the Jew.
These characters have a “natural” hierarchy that the Elizabethan audience would have understood, and this hierarchy appears in the way the men die (Ferneze, the best of the group as a Christian leader, leaves to the end of the play; Del Bosco as a Western European survives and is successful in his mission; Calymath of Turkey is unsuccessful in his mission, but at least survives the cauldron; Barabas the Jew is at the bottom of the group and he dies in a tragic death of his own making).
Barabas is not necessarily wicked or possessed but simply playing his role like a good man.
Discussion revolved around her strength as a female character --> ended on the fence because Abigail’s motives are not always clear.
She converts to Christianity, but we don’t know if it’s because she truly was convicted and was standing up for her right to believe what she wanted, or if she was doing to annoy and disgruntle her father, a stark Jew.
If she didn’t because of her own convictions, then we said she could be considered a strong female character, but if she did it because of her father, then she is weak and immature.
The prologue is recited by Macheville who discloses the religion as “a child's play”, and he invites us to jugde The Tragedy of a Jew that he is going to narrate.
Act I :
Barabas is in his office contemplating all his wealth, his businesses are successful and he has a great fortune. He receives the news that Turkish troops have arrived in Malta. They require a payment to Malta that the city is unable to pay. To get the money, the governor Ferneze dictates that Jews should give half of their wealth or convert to Christianity. Barabas refuses and loses all his possessions, including his house which becomes a convent.
To recover the secret treasure he had hidden in his mansion, his daughter Abigail pretends to be a nun and retrieves the jewelries. Barabas is rich again, he has a mansion and even buys a slave, Ithamore who becomes his companion.
After Mathias and Ludovico, who were both in love with Abigail, die in a duel, Abigail decides to become a nun. Barabas denies his own daughter and kills her and the other nuns with poison.
Bellamira, a courtesan who has seduced Ithamore, attempts to blackmail Barabas. At first he accepts but then he gets rid of her, Ithamore, Belladina and Pilia (friends of hers).
Act V :
While the venom takes effect, the courtesan and Pilia tell the governour about Barabas´ crimes. They all get arrested and die. Only Barabas escapes and helps the Turks to invade Malta. Barabas becomes the new governour and Ferneze offers him a reward if he helps the Christians to reclaim the city. Moved by his greed, Barabas accepts. He deceives the Turks but gets tricked too and dies.
Harabage, Alfred. “Innocent Barabas.” The Tulane Drama Review 8.4 (1964): 47-58. Print.
Marlowe, Christopher. The Jew of Malta. Manchester 1983. Print.
Swan, Arthur. "The Jew that Marlowe Drew". <http://www.jstor.org/stable/27532503>
Hunter, G. K. "The Theology of Marlowe's 'The Jew of Malta.'" Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 27, (1964) : 211-240. Web. 2 Dec. 2013.
“I am a Jew”
We also talked about the role of Jews within the society back in that time.
Remember the term “Englishness”: the Elizabethans felt quite uncomfortable with foreigners in England, due to a growing sense of nationhood
Elizabethan Theatre had to tend mass audiences --> cruel Jew had an enormous impact on the audience
Barabas is depicted as the stereotypical Jew: extremely rich, cunning, deceiving, hooked nose, deadly
Turks (as outsiders!) the only decent in the play --> tribute they want is legally justified and in the beginning truly enforced by peace --> but the turks are no main characters in the play
Characteristics of Revenge Tragedies
In one of our discussions, we made a list of how this play reflects the qualities of a revenge tragedy of the Early Modern English Period. We decided it fits well because it can be argued that the play has meta-theatrical and supernatural aspects as well as protagonist-disintegration, strong women, dark humor insanity and a foreign setting.
Enter FERNEZE governor of Malta, KNIGHTS, and OFFICERS; met by CALYMATH, and BASSOES of the TURK.
FERNEZE. Now, bassoes, what demand you at our hands?
FIRST BASSO. Know, knights of Malta, that we came from Rhodes, From Cyprus, Candy, and those other isles That lie betwixt the Mediterranean seas.
FERNEZE. What's Cyprus, Candy, and those other isles. To us or Malta? what at our hands demand ye?
CALYMATH. The ten years' tribute that remains unpaid.
FERNEZE. Alas, my lord, the sum is over-great! Ihope your highness will consider us.
CALYMATH. I wish, grave governor, 'twere in my power. To favour you; but 'tis my father's cause,Wherein I may not, nay, I dare not dally.
Enter FRIAR JACOMO and FRIAR BARNARDINE.
BARABAS. I smelt 'em ere they came.
ITHAMORE. God-a-mercy, nose! Come, let's begone.FRIAR BARNARDINE. Stay, wicked Jew; repent, I say, and stay.
FRIAR JACOMO. Thou hast offended, therefore must be damn'd.
BARABAS. I fear they know we sent the poison'd broth.
ITHAMORE. And so do I, master; therefore speak 'em fair.
FRIAR BARNARDINE. Barabas, thou hast—
FRIAR JACOMO. Ay, that thou hast—
BARABAS. True, I have money; what though I have?
FRIAR BARNARDINE. Thou art a—
FRIAR JACOMO. Ay, that thou art, a—
BARABAS. What needs all this? I know I am a Jew.
FRIAR BARNARDINE. Thy daughter—FRIAR JACOMO. Ay, thy daughter—
BARABAS. O, speak not of her! then I die with grief.
FRIAR BARNARDINE. Remember that—
FRIAR JACOMO. Ay, remember that—
BARABAS. I must needs say that I have been a great usurer.
FRIAR BARNARDINE. Thou hast committed—
BARABAS. Fornication: but that was in another country; And besides, the wench is dead.