Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Barabas, a Christian-hating merchant of Malta, receives in his countinghouse a party of merchants who report the arrival of several vessels laden with wealth from the East. At the same time three Jews arrive to announce an important meeting at the senate. The import of the meeting is that the Turkish masters of Malta demand tribute long overdue. The Turkish grand seignior purposely lets the payment lapse over a period of years so that the Maltese will find it impossible to raise the sum demanded. The Maltese have a choice of payment or surrender. The Christian governor of the island, attempting to collect the tribute within a month, decrees that the Jews will have to give over half of their estates or become Christians. All of the Jewish community except Barabas submits to the decree of the governor. The governor seizes all of Barabas’s wealth as punishment and has the Jew’s house turned into a Christian convent.
Barabas, to avoid complete ruin, purposely fails to report part of his treasure hidden in the foundation of his house. Then he persuades his daughter, Abigail, to pretend that she has converted to Christianity so that she might enter the convent and recover the treasure. Abigail dutifully enters the nunnery as a convert and subsequently throws the bags of money out of the window at night to her waiting father.
Martin Del Bosco, vice-admiral of Spain, sails into the harbor of Malta for the purpose of selling some Turkish slaves he...
(The entire section is 821 words.)
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Act I Summary
The Jew of Malta opens with Barabas in his counting house, busily counting his most recent earnings and hoping that his vessels will do well on their current journey. Soon, several merchants enter to tell Barabas that his ships are in the port, each laden with wealth. Barabas is pleased that his ships have arrived safely, in spite of the many risks that his wealth-laden ships face on the sea. When he is alone, he credits God with making him rich, saying that Abraham and his descendents were promised much happiness. He would rather be an envied and hated Jew than a poor Christian, with only his faith to sustain him. Barabas soliloquizes that he is content not to be a ruler but would rather profit from rulers. At that moment, three Jews enter to tell Barabas of the arrival of a delegation from Turkey. Barabas is unconcerned, since he does not care for his adopted country and cares only for the well-being of his daughter and his wealth. But the Jews also bring word of a meeting in the Senate House, at which all Jews must be present.
The next scene takes place in the Senate House. The Turks have arrived to demand that a tribute, long overdue these past ten years, be paid. The governor of Malta requests a month so that he can try and collect the money. After the Turks leave, Governor Ferneze calls the Jews in to tell them of the demand. He relates the information that Malta lacks the money for the tribute because of the expensive wars just passed. But...
(The entire section is 422 words.)
Act II Summary
The act opens with Abigail throwing jewels and gold out of a window to her father, waiting below. In the next scene, Martin Del Bosco, a vice-admiral from Spain, arrives in Malta to conduct a sale of slaves that were rescued after the sinking of some Turkish ships. Ferneze, though, is frightened of the Turks, who will oppose the sale. However, Del Bosco convinces the governor not to pay the tribute previously assessed by the Turks, claiming instead that Spain will become Malta's protector. At the slave sale, Barabas buys Ithamore, whose price is cheaper than the first slave that Barabas encounters. As these two exchange their personal histories, it becomes apparent that Barabas and Ithamore have very similar personalities. At the same time, Barabas manages to entice both Lodowick and Mathias with promises about his daughter. When Lodowick arrives at his home, Barabas instructs a reluctant Abigail to entice Lodowick into making love to her. When Mathias arrives, Barabas suggests to him that Lodowick is a persistent and unwanted suitor. But when Mathias leaves, Barabas has Lodowick betrothed to Abigail, even though she protests that she loves Mathias. Barabas next gives Abigail to Mathias, who is further incited to kill Lodowick. The act ends with Ithamore carrying a false challenge from Lodowick to Mathias.
(The entire section is 215 words.)
Act III Summary
The act opens with a brief scene, in which Ithamore sees a courtesan, Bellamira, and desires her. The action then shifts to Lodowick and Mathias who meet near Barabas' house, duel, and each man kills the other. Ferneze and Katherine arrive, and each one mourns the death of a beloved son. The scene next shifts to Ithamore who is laughing at the cleverness of Barabas' revenge. Abigail soon enters, and Ithamore explains the simple plot that resulted in the deaths of Lodowick and Mathias. Abigail is shaken by her father's treachery and by the deliberate pain that he has caused her, and in response, she once again enters the convent, intending to become a nun. This time she is sincere in her desires and even writes to her father that he should repent his sins. When Barabas learns of Abigail's decision, he is enraged and promises to disinherit her. In her place, Barabas makes Ithamore his heir, adopting him as a son and giving him access to his wealth. To assuage his anger, Barabas next sends a pot of poisoned rice porridge to the convent, which all the nuns eat and are poisoned. Abigail also eats it, but before she dies she implicates her father in the deaths of Lodowick and Mathias and begs the priest to convert her father and save him. Her implication is given as a confession, and the priest is obligated to hold the account sacred. Meanwhile, the Turks have arrived to demand their tribute, but Ferneze, supported by Del Bosco, refuses to pay. When the Turks leave,...
(The entire section is 266 words.)
Act IV Summary
As the act opens, Barabas and Ithamore celebrate their success at poisoning the nuns. Barabas only grieves that his daughter lived long enough to become a Christian. When the friars arrive to convert Barabas, he is angry that Abigail has betrayed him and promises to be converted. However, his promise sets the two friars to fighting over which one will have the privilege of claiming the conversion and Barabas' wealth, which will go to the winning friar. Barabas is able to send Friar Barnardine off with Ithamore; later, Barabas and Ithamore strangle him. The two conspirators prop the murdered friar up, and when Friar Jacomo arrives, he strikes the body of Friar Barnardine, which topples over, convincing Jacomo that he has killed Barnardine. Barabas and Ithamore promise to turn Jacomo over to the authorities, so that he can be punished. Meanwhile, Ithamore has become enraptured with Bellamira, who is plotting with Pilia-Borza to steal Barabas' money. In his desire for this woman, Ithamore is enticed to blackmail Barabas in an "attempt to gain money." More importantly, Ithamore tells Bellamira and Pilia-Borza of the crimes that he and Barabas have committed. Later, Barabas disguises himself as a musician and gains entrance to Bellamira's house, where he poisons the courtesan, Ithamore, and Pilia-Borza with flowers, which are laced with a slow-acting poison.
(The entire section is 220 words.)
Act V Summary
The act opens with Bellamira and Pilia-Borza confronting Ferneze with their information. The governor orders that Ithamore and Barabas be arrested, and the two are quickly brought in. Ithamore immediately confesses, and Ferneze orders Barabas taken away to prison. Within a few moments, Bellamira, Ithamore, and Pilia-Borza succumb to the poison that Barabas had earlier given them, and word arrives that Barabas is also dead; however, he is feigning death. Ferneze orders that Barabas' body be thrown over the wall, outside the city. The rest of the dead are to be buried. Barabas quickly awakes from the potion that he had consumed earlier and decides that he will help the Turks enter the city and seize it. Calymath promises to make Barabas governor if the siege is successful. The Turks are successful and Ferneze and his men are captured. Barabas is given charge of the prisoners, but he is still not satisfied with his revenge. Barabas next tells Ferneze that for the proper price, he will help him destroy the Turks and have his city returned. Accordingly, Barabas devises a plot to get Calymath and his men to a monastery outside the city walls, where he will then have them killed. Soon, Barabas is busying himself with building a trap that will destroy all the Turks. The men will be blown up, and Calymath and his officers will be cast into a pit of boiling liquid. But at the last minute, Ferneze betrays his co-conspirator, and cuts the cord, throwing Barabas into the boiling...
(The entire section is 278 words.)