What is the historical context of the The Jew of Malta?

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mstokes's profile pic

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The Jew of Malta is a play by Christopher Marlowe probably written in 1589 or 1590. Its plot is an original story of religious conflict, intrigue, and revenge. The historical setting is against a backdrop of the struggle for supremacy between Spain and the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean. That struggle takes place on the island of Malta. The Jew of Malta is considered to have been a major influence on Shakerspeares Merchant of Venice.

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In the course of Marlowe’s play, the author manages to provide a negative depiction of two major religious groups, the Roman Catholics and the Jews. In both cases, these depictions reflect the general attitude of his English audience toward these two entities. Much of the religious rhetoric in Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta reflects the real-life tensions between the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England, which was formally established by Elizabeth I in 1559.


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