Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 532


Barabas (bah-RAB-uhs), the wealthy, miserly Jew of Malta who guides his actions by Machiavellian policy that transcends all human ties of affection and loyalty. With considerable reason, he resents the Christian rulers of Malta, who arbitrarily deprive him of his fortune, and he chooses a particularly cruel form of revenge, setting the young man his daughter loves against the governor’s son in a duel fatal to both combatants. Rejected by the two people for whom he has any feeling, his daughter and his servant Ithamore, he contrives the murder of each and finally betrays Malta to its Turkish enemies. He is caught in the trap that he lays for Selim Calymath and dies cursing humankind.


Abigail, his daughter. She lies and professes her conversion to Christianity as a means to retrieve her father’s hidden treasure, but the death of Mathias so disillusions her that she enters a nunnery to escape Barabas’ evil.


Ithamore (eeth-uh-MOH-ree), Barabas’ slave, who is as ruthless as his master. He carries out the murder of Abigail, the friars, and the nuns, and he delivers the fraudulent challenges to Mathias and Lodowick as the Jew wishes. He readily betrays his master, however, to Bellamira, hoping to make her his mistress with his own eloquence and Barabas’ money.


Ferneze (fehr-NAY-zay), the governor of Malta. He con-siders the need of his state to meet the demands of the Turks ample justification for his confiscation of the wealth of the Jewish merchants. He grieves deeply for the death of his son and vows vengeance on those who caused his slaying. It is his craftiness that finally brings Barabas to destruction.

Don Mathias

Don Mathias (ma-TEE-uhs), a good young man who wins Abigail’s love and tries to gain her father’s favor. He is, in a sense, the innocent victim of Barabas’ vendetta against Malta, although he is too ready to be jealous of Lodowick’s attentions to Abigail.


Lodowick (LOD-oh-wihk), Ferneze’s son. Knowing of his friend Mathias’ love for Abigail, he visits Barabas’ house to catch a glimpse of her and is himself captivated by her beauty. His jealousy also is aroused by Barabas’ carefully planted suggestions of Mathias’ claims on his daughter, and he is ready to accept the false challenge.

Selim Calymath

Selim Calymath (SEE-lihm KAL-ih-math), the leader of the Turkish embassy that demands ten years’ tribute from Ferneze. He takes Malta through Barabas’ treachery, but he finds himself betrayed by his accomplice and is held as hostage by Ferneze after Barabas’ death.


Bellamira (BEHL-uh-mee-ruh), an ambitious courtesan who uses Ithamore’s susceptibility to her charms as a means to acquire some of Barabas’ money.


Pilia-Borsa (PEEL-ee-uh-BOHR-sah), her accomplice, a greedy, resourceful rascal.


Katherine, Mathias’ devoted mother. She joins Ferneze in his vow to take vengeance on those who set their sons against each other.


Barnardine (bahr-NAHR-deen) and


Jacomo (yah-KOH-moh), lecherous, avaricious friars who are murdered after they try to blackmail Barabas with information revealed by Abigail in her dying confession.

Martin Del Bosco

Martin Del Bosco (mahr-TEEN dehl BOS-koh), the vice admiral of the king of Spain. He promises to help Malta resist the Turks.

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