What is the historical context of the The Jew of Malta?
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.
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.
The Jew of Malta from Christopher Marlowe probably dates from 1589. Marlowe takes an untypical protagonist for the Renaissance Age, a Jew. At that time, there was a Christian collective fear from this ethnic group, in fact the Jews were all expelled from England in 1290, and the few remaining in the British Islands were supposedly converted Christians. They were blamed for the death of Christ, and it was supposed that they were gaining power and money from the practice of usury – loaning money at a high interest.
On the other hand, the setting for the play is Malta, a Christian island. There took place The Great Siege of Malta in 1565, a famous battle in which the island repulsed the Turks. It seems that Marlowe´s play recalls this historical conflict, but not in an accurate way. Some of the facts that occur in the play are a pure invention from the author.