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The Merchant of Venice vs The Jew of Malta

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Kylie Cheung

on 6 March 2014

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Transcript of The Merchant of Venice vs The Jew of Malta

Image from novelguide.com
A play by Christopher Marlowe written in 1592
Plot driven by religious conflict and revenge
Setting in Italy
A rich Jewish merchant is forced to give up his wealth to fight war against the Turks
He seeks revenge for this injustice
Background of The Jew of Malta
#1
The Original Shylock?
My research of
The Jew of Malta
has shown Barabas, like Shylock, is definitely not a 'good' character, evidenced by the ease with which he was able to poison his own daughter and friend. However, this is mostly his drive for vengeance; perhaps he is simply a product of the harshness with which he is treated for being a Jew. This almost certainly inspired Shakespeare's 'villain' Shylock.
How The Jew of Malta Probably Influenced Shakespeare
How The Jew of Malta Probably Influenced Shakespeare
#2
The Defiant Daughter?
Abigail is horrified by her father's plan to exact vengeance on Malta's governor, and flees to a nunnery, converting to Christianity to escape him. Her partaking vows as a nun probably inspired Jessica's vows of marriage with Lorenzo. Both convert to Christianity.
(Image from behindthename.com)
General Similarities with The Merchant of Venice
Setting:
Italy
Conflict
: Anti-semitism, revenge, anger related to money
Character construction
: Both have wealthy Jewish men with daughters they initially care deeply for; these daughters, to some extent, betray them
Other similarities
: A lot of involvement with ships, business, and law
A presentation by Kylie Cheung
The Merchant of Venice vs The Jew of Malta
How the Jew of Malta Probably Influenced Shakespeare
#3
Vengeance and Murder
As previously mentioned, the corruption of Shylock and Barabus is most likely a result of the persecution they have faced. A typical case of when the
bullied
becomes the
bully
, Barabus, who has developed a hatred for all Christians, seeks to destroy his governor and is undaunted with poisoning left and right. This most probably inspired Shylock's thirst for blood.
How The Jew of Malta Probably Influenced Shakespeare
#4
Romantic Love and Friendship
Barabus and Ithamore had a strong partnership, but this was utterly destroyed when Ithamore is led astray and betrays him at the behest of a beautiful prostitute. Perhaps this
VERY SLIGHTLY
inspires the weakening of the friendship of Antonio and Bassanio as Bassanio falls in love with Portia. (Image from bbc.co.uk)
What Shakespeare "Contributed"
A more sympathetic Jew:
Compared with Barabus and his poison streak, his own daughter among his victims, Shylock simply wanting a bargain to be honored hardly seems villainous.
A less innocent daughter
: Abigail is horrified by her father's violent plans for vengeance, but does not do anything to harm or stop him, simply wishing to retire to a nunnery. On the other hand, Jessica steals from and runs away from a father who never tried to do her harm.
A relaxed setting
: In Marlowe's play, Malta is at war with the Turks and there is an air of terror. The more peaceful setting of Shakespeare's allows greater emphasis to be placed on motifs of love, friendship and religion.
Bibliography
Mazer, Cary M. My Problem with Shylock. Penn Arts & Sciences: Department of English. 14 October, 2005. http://www.english.upenn.edu/~cmazer/mvnews.html (14, October, 2005).

Misiura, Linda. The portrayal of Jews in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta. Cedar Crest Academic. 14 July 2007. http://www2.cedarcrest.edu/academic/eng/lfletcher/venice/papers/lmisiura.htm

Humphreys, Arthur. "The Jew of Malta: The Jew of Malta and The Merchant of Venice: Two Readings of Life." Drama for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 13. Detroit: Gale, 1998. October 2003. 1 November 2005. http://www.enotes.com/jew-malta/5385

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