The Jew of Malta Analysis

Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Malta

*Malta. Small Mediterranean island group south of Sicily on which the entire play is set. Because of its strategic location in the Mediterranean, Malta was occupied by a succession of foreign powers, including the Ottoman Turks, who are besieging the island at the time in which the play is set, when the island has a Christian government ruled by the Knights of St. John.

Barabas’s house

Barabas’s house. Home of the wealthy merchant of the play’s title, Barabas, who alienates Malta’s governor by refusing to convert to Christianity or to give the government half of his property. The governor seizes his property to punish him, and transforms his home into a Roman Catholic convent, in which Barabas’s daughter Abigail is entered as a novice. Much of the play’s plot revolves around Barabas’s efforts to retrieve sacks of gold he has hidden under his house’s floor and to exact his revenge.

The convent’s upper and lower levels make for an effective scene on the stage with two voices in the dark. Barabas is on the lower level eulogizing his gold; Abigail is above eulogizing her father. Like the island itself, this protective enclosure is vulnerable; Barabas poisons everyone within his house, including his own daughter.

Barabas also has a second house, which he uses as a secret center for plotting against the city, its officers, and the nuns who occupy his first house.

The Jew of Malta Historical Context

The Catholic World
In the course of Marlowe's play, the author manages to provide a negative depiction of two major religious...

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The Jew of Malta Literary Style

Acts
The Jew of Malta is a five-act play. The exposition occurs in the first act when the audience learns of the injury done...

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The Jew of Malta Compare and Contrast

Sixteenth Century: The Anglican Church is initially established in England in 1534, by Henry VII, who establishes Protestantism as the...

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The Jew of Malta Topics for Further Study

Try to imagine that the Nazis had staged The Jew of Malta during World War II. Discuss some of the reasons why they might have done...

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The Jew of Malta What Do I Read Next?

Doctor Faustusf (1593) is Marlowe's best known and most frequently performed play. This play focuses on a doctor who sells his soul to...

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The Jew of Malta Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources
Clapp, Susannah, "The Jew of Malta," in Guardian Unlimited, October 10, 1999.

Meyers, William,...

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The Jew of Malta Bibliography (Great Characters in Literature)

Bartels, Emily C. “Malta, the Jew, and the Fictions of Difference: Colonialist Discourse in Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta.” English Literary Renaissance 20 (1990): 1-16. An excellent Marxist reading of the text that posits imperialism as the controlling discourse and Malta as the object of the colonizer’s lust.

Bowers, Fredson Thayer. Elizabethan Revenge Tragedy: 1587-1642. Gloucester, Mass.: P. Smith, 1959. Asserts that Barabas fails as a tragic hero because he avenges a material wrong with murder, because his motives are petty and treacherous, and because his demise is unconnected to his revenge.

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