How can I get a modern translation of The Jew of Malta

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Interesting question! Technically, Christopher Marlowe wrote his play The Jew of Malta in what linguists consider Modern English. Without going into too much detail, Modern English as we know it begins after what linguists call The Great Vowel Shift. This event marked major historical changes in the sounds and vocabulary of the English language. Medieval English is hardly recognizable for modern English speakers and requires a translation to be understood.

By contrast, The Jew of Malta is intelligible for modern readers. However, that does not mean it is easy! Much of the syntax from the 1590 play is archaic, and the metered iambic structure can be confusing. However, if you pay attention, Marlowe’s word-choice contains few words unknown to most modern English users.

Examine Barabas’s first six lines from the opening scene of The Jew of Malta to illustrate this point.

So that of thus much that return was made;
And of the third part of the Persian ships
There was the venture summed and satisfied.
As for those Samnites and the men of Uz
That bought my Spanish oils and wines of Greece,
Here have I pursed their paltry silverlings.

As you can see in this excerpt, two of these unknown words are references to places (Uz) and people (Sanmites) that are unfamiliar to modern audiences. A modern translation would not change this unfamiliarity. The verb “pursed” is still in use but uncommon. “Silverlings” is a reference to silver coins. The meanings of both examples are discernible from their broader context. Although the sentence structure can be convoluted to suit the iambic pentameter of Marlowe’s play, the actual language of the play is straightforward. I would argue that no translation of The Jew of Malta is required. Although there are some paraphrased versions, most of the versions of Christopher Marlowe’s play online use the exact language of the 1592 original.

Perhaps what might best help you is an annotated version to help you with unfamiliar allusions and words that are dated. There are several that you can find for free across the Internet and a few that you can purchase in print. eNotes study guides can also help clear up areas of confusion you may have about the plot and characters. I hope this helps!

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An interesting question. There are numerous electronic versions of "The Jew of Malta" available. One is provided by eNotes; other sites provide other versions. However, most of the versions I'm familiar with—perhaps all—keep the original vocabulary, or at least part of it. The version at this website is pretty clear: http://www2.prestel.co.uk/rey/jew.htm

I'd use it and the eNotes summary and explanation and between the two you should have a clear modern version.

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