Christopher Marlow was born in 1564, as William Shakespeare. This play was probably written in 1589; however, it was not actually published until 1633, after Marlowe’s death in 1593 when he was just 29 years old. This play was performed for many years and had a great influence on Shakespeare’s The Venice Merchant. •1. Summary of the play The play is set on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. Calymath (the Turkish prince) arrives to exact Malta’s tribute which has been accumulated to a considerable sum. Ferneze (Maltese governor) cannot pay the tribute immediately, but he promises to pay within a month.
After the Turks leave, Ferneze decides to collect the needed money from the Jews of Malta: each Jew must give up half of his fortune. Barabas complains strongly, so his full fortune is confiscated. The Jew tries to keep part of his fortune which was hided in his mansion. Having confessed falsely, Abigail was admitted in the nunnery (formerly Barabas’ mansion) and recovered her father’s hidden fortune. Meanwhile, the Spanish Martin Del Bosco convinces Ferneze to break Malta’s agreement with Turkey, promising to write the Spanish king for military help.
Del Bosco also sells Ferneze his slaves, and Barabas ends up buying the Turkish slave Ithamore at the marketplace. At the marketplace, Barabas also runs into Mathias and Lodowick. Each young man desires to see Abigail, and Barabas promises his favours to each, but at the same time, Barabas is planning their death helped by Ithamore. Broken by his father’s selfishness and the death of her lover Mathias, Abigail on her own decides to enter the nunnery once again. Barabas, afraid that Abigail will betray him, poisons all the nuns included her own daughter Abigail who is the last to die.
Before this, she manages to give friar Barnardino a written confession of her father’s crimes. Barnardino in companion with the friar Jacomo get to face Barabas and insinuate they know about the Jew’s crimes. In response, Barabas says that he would like to repent and become a Christian. Naturally, he will donate his huge fortune to whichever monastery he enters. The two friars, being from different monasteries, fight to win Barabas’ favour, each hoping to benefit from the Jew’s considerable fortune.
Barabas once again has set a trap; he will kill both of the friars without arousing suspicion. Ithamore knows plenty of incriminating information. Once he is seduced by the courtesan Bellamira, Ithamore begins to blackmail Barabas with threats to confess if the Jew does not send him gold. In the last scene of the fourth act, Barabas arrives at Bellamira’s house in the disguise of a French musician and poisons his blackmailers. Meanwhile, the Turkish Bashaws have arrived. In response to Ferneze’s refusal to pay, they declare war on Malta.
In the final act, Ferneze prepares to defend Malta against the Turks. Ithamore, Bellamira, and her attendant Pilia Borza enter and all play their parts in revealing Barabas’ crimes, but the Jew’s poison takes effect and they all fall dead. Barabas meanwhile has been captured, but he pretends he is dead through the effect of a drug. He finds himself left outside the city walls. The Jew betrays Malta and leads the Turks into the city. He takes position as governor but he decides to return Malta to help Ferneze to massacre the Turkish forces.
The Turkish troops also believed the Jew’s trick. But Ferneze turns the tables on Barabas at the last moment, and Barabas dies. Ferneze takes Calymath as a prisoner in order to ensure Malta’s future safety. •2. About Barabas Barabas in the Jew of Malta is an extremely revengeful and ambitious character. He challenges the power with a great cunning. The accumulated tributes, Malta has to pay to the Turks, are more than this country can afford, that is why the governor of Malta is determined to ally to the Catholic Spain if this huge European power keep at bay to the Turks.
Spain would take advantage of the sales of Turkish slaves in Malta and many other advantages in business. Malta wouldn’t have to pay the tribute to Turkey and could keep the money collected among its Jew population. This selfishness characterizes all the agreements between the Mediterranean governments. The word that designates these actions is “politics” and the Jew, Barabas, perceives this selfishness is the ruler’s main principle: “I, policie? That’s their profession, /and not simplicity as their suggest.
” Besides, the rulers speak frankly about this, as we can see when Del Bosco is asked “what wind drives you in thus into Malta Rhode? And one of his Bashaws answered: “the wind that bloweth all the world besides, /desires of gold. ” In this world in which each nation an d each man take care only of their own self-interest, the Jew of Malta appears at the beginning of the play as victim. Ferneze states Malta as the unique priority and states this:” to save the ruine of a multitude: /and better one want for a common good, then many perish for a private man”.
But actually, their taxes on the Jews are hugely unfair. Moreover, Farneze, expect to keep the confiscated fortunes, once the alliance with Spain lets Malta to avoid the tributes that owes to the Turks. These unfair circumstances give Barabas the opportunity to create eloquent speeches against intolerance. He reproaches the Christians for using the scriptures to confirm the measures which go against the Jews: “What? Bring your scripture to confirm your wrongs? / Preach me not out of my possessions.
/some Iewes are wicked, as all Christians are: / but say the tribe I descended of were all in general cast away for sinne, / shall I be tried by their transgression? / the man that dealeth righteously shall lieu: /and which of your can charge me otherwise? ” The references to the bible in this extract emphasize how piteous he shows himself in this moment. Barabas is right when he calls “theft” and not “taxes” to the requisition of his wealth, and we cannot avoid feeling affected by his sad situation.
The funny thing is that, as a Marlowe’s dramatic and moral strategy, in the prologue Barabas has been presented as the same Machiavelli and the Devil’s son, and Machiavelli in the prologue states this: ”I count religion but a childish toy, /And hold there is no sinne but Ignorance”. At the very beginning, Barabas is shown as a unbelievable wealthy man and extremely shrewd and interested just in his own contentment. He is determined to let the Turks to invade Malta and slaughter everyone, he confesses in a soliloquy, if he would have the opportunity to get away with the situation.
” I’le helpe to slay their children and their wiues, /to fire the churches, pull their houses downe. /take my goods too, and seize upon my lands. ” He is completely decided to cheat on the others Jews; he also turns his back on his daughter when she abandons her loyalty to him. Later on we realize that his former speech about the sad situation of the Jews is just a theatrical trick created for the situation and refused in his soliloquies, he is a Jew because he was brought up as a Jew, but he is mainly a Maquiavelli and an immoral figure of vice.
This vicious identity is clearer and clearer along the play, thus the Jew of Malta is developed more by disclosure of character than by change of personality. Barabas does not change but we progressively discover how he really is. Maybe the persecution ordered by Ferneze wakes in Barabas a desire of revenge, but he has always hated everyone and has always looked for his own benefit and survival using any means.
His plan for kidnapping to her daughter and recovering his money hidden in his house, at that moment turned into a nunnery, results comprehensible and in fact Abigail shows herself decided to help him. However, when Barabas ignores Abigail happiness conspiring against her Christian lover Ludowick, just because he is the governor’s son and against Mathias, uses several strategies as the usury, extortion and persuasion which makes him an evil person even before the unfair tax of Farneze. Barabas boasts of his acts as we can read in the following line “Slew friend and enemy with my stratagems.
” He considers Ithamore as one of his friends because: “why this is something: make account of me/ as of thy fellow; we are villainies both: Both circumcised, we hate Christian both” Here the dichotomy of motivation and unmotivated evil (a Samuel Tylor Coleridge’s expression) is evident in this combination of Judaism and pure evilness. Barabas’ vicious evilness is more and more present in his behaviour. Instead of sad laments, we can hear the satisfied laughter of Barabas who wants to solve skilfully all his plans.
Abigail, who finds herself forgotten and rejected by her father; embraces Christian faith as she states “but I perceive there is no love on earth/ pitty in Iews, nor piety in Turkes. ” As a punishment Barabas poisons every nun in the nunnery included her daughter. Barabas also cheats on the friar community taking advantage of their corruptness Barabas is a hypocrisy and disguise master, and he is surrounded by a group of thugs and courtesans that turn against him as the same time that he turns against them.
His achievements in conspiracy and politics drives him to rule Malta, making agreements firstly with the Turks and then with Farneze. Brabas’ evilness is more persistent than even his own life as he lets us know: “Stand close, for here they come: why, is not this/ a kingly kinde of trade of purchase Townes/ by treachery, and sell ‘em by deceit? /Now tell me, worldlings, underneath the sunne, / If greater falsehood ever has bin done“.
Even in the moment of his death, when he is finally betrayed by Ferneze, he yearns for longing his wealth and domination and contemplating his Empire once more as we also saw in Faustus. ”and had I but scap’d this stratagem, /I would have brought confusion on you all, / Damn Christians, dogges, and Turkish Infidels. ” It is interesting how Marlowe gets Brabas’ huge ambition wakes in the readers a great admiration. There is no doubt that Barabas received a severe punishment when, at the end, he falls inside a caldron made by himself; he fell in his own trap and died shouting boastings and challenges.
Anyway, this is an appropriate punishment for a life full of crimes. However, it is difficult to contemplate his end from an instructive and moral point of view because, Ferneze, his nemesis, is neither seen as virtuous character. Although he wants to look pious, (“No, Barabas, to staine our hands with blood / is farre from us and our profession”) he believes in his own policy, which has overcome Barabas evilness. He defeats Barabas by betraying him and then attributes his victory to God.
This is an act typical of Maquiavelli’s disciple, who assigns the highest value to the State survival and uses religion as a mean for shaping the public opinion. If Farneze is an important figure in this play, is not because of his Christian virtue but because of his Maquiavellic virtue Maybe, Marlowe is inviting us to admire this shrewd governor whose policy ensures Malta’s survival and Barabas’ destruction. Marlowe destroys Barabas just for showing the strength of a really Maquiavellic strategist. Marlowe presents to his Elizabethan audiences a proposal which completely disagrees with any religious doctrine.
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Topic: Barabas’ Role in the Jew of Malta
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