The Jew of Malta

By Christopher Marlowe, Presented by Sagar Ramesh


BARABAS- Wealthy Jewish merchant, cares for only wealth and daughter

ABIGAIL- Daughter of Barabas, loyal to father

ITHAMORE- Turkish slave purchased by Barabas, shares Barabas' hatred towards Christians, carries out Barabas' bidding

FERNEZE- Maltese governor, an enemy of Barabas, disguises real motives behind ideas of Christian morality, leads union with Malta and Turkey

CALYMATH- Turkish leader

MATHIAS- Abigail's lover and Lodowick's friend.

LODOWICK- Ferneze's son, also expects to have the hand of Abigail

BELLAMIRA- Courtesan that appears later in the plot, and convinces Ithamore to make some pivotal choices

plot Summary


  • Barabas is introduced as a wealthy Jewish merchant, allegedly richer than all of Malta combined; he cares for only his daughter, Abigail, and his wealth.
  • Barabas receives news that he must forfeit a fraction of his estate to the Turks (along with every other Jew)
  • When Barabas fights back, all his wealth is suspended and his house is turned into a convent by the governer, Ferneze
  • Daughter pretends to convert Christian, smuggles out gold from convent at night
  • Ferneze meets with the Spanish Vice-Admiral who wants to sell Turkish slaves in the market place. He convinces Ferneze to break his alliance with the Turks for Spanish protection.

Rising Action

  • Barabas buys Ithamore (slave) in the marketplace, fools Mathias and Lodowick into thinking they will both have his daughter's hand
  • Ithamore writes letters to each young man, kill each other
  • Abigail learns of her father's trickery, Barabas ends up killing all the nuns in the convent with a poisoned porridge of rice including his daughter
  • Abigail gives note to friar with all of her father's crimes
  • Friars Jacomo & Barnardine come to Barabas' house knowing of his crimes
  • He pledges to convert to Christianity and give his remaining wealth away, Friars kill each other over him
  • Meanwhile, Turks discover that the governor has broken ties, wages immediate war


  • After being seduced by the courtesan Bellamira, Ithamore threatens to spill the information about Barabas' crimes if Barabas does not send him gold
  • Barabas appears at Bellamira's house as a French musician, and poisons his blackmailers
  • Turks prepare to attack Malta, Ferneze prepares his men accordingly
  • Ithamore, Bellamira, and her attendant all begin to tell the governor of Barabas' crimes, but the poison kicks in and they all fall dead

Falling Action

  • Meanwhile, Barabas has been captured, but feigns his own death through a specialized drug he reserved for this situation (much like Blackwood in Sherlock Holmes)
  • He later wakes up to find himself outside the city walls, and thus, out of anger, he leads the Turks into the city and betrays Malta
  • The Turkish leader makes Barabas the new governor of Malta, but Barabas analyzes the position carefully, and soon appoints Ferneze as governor once again
  • Barabas speaks to Ferneze as he appoints him, telling him that he will rid Malta of the dreaded Turks by inviting them to a deadly feast (Barabas plans on playing another one of his tricks)
  • The moment Ferneze and his men face Barabas and the Turks for the feast, Barabas falls through a trapdoor and into a fiery cauldron (that he himself designed)
  • Neither the Turks nor the Maltese people help Barabas, realizing that they each have been betrayed by the Jew many a time

important themes


In The Jew of Malta, love is prevalent throughout the city, and causes many character to make some choices they should not have made; whether it be materialistic attachment towards wealth and money, or affection for a woman that results in a fatal duel, love plays a heavy role throughout the story.


Barabas cannot stand to see his wealth slip out of his hands and into the Turks'; he is left enraged and swears to take revenge on the Maltese governor. His anger fuels him to the point where Barabas becomes addicted to executing his deadly plots, taking many lives including that of his daughter. He takes more and more pleasure in killing, and his plot for revenge twists out of his own control.


It is obvious in the story that Barabas is guilty of betraying many parties; from his own Maltese government, to the Turkish army, to his daughter. In the end, his comfort with betraying several people results in his own death; he has nobody to support him, as he has either betrayed or killed anyone associated with him.

connection to "merchant of venice"

  • In "The Merchant of Venice," Bassanio is in need of money, and so he asks Antonio to be the guarantor of the loan. He gets a loan from one of the lenders, Shylock, a Jewish man.
  • Shylock bears a grudge against Antonio, because Antonio calls him out for usury, charging money for interest (a sin in the Catholic church).
  • Shylock agrees to pay Bassanio a loan for no interest, on the condition that if the loan is not repaid in time, Shylock would take a pound of Antonio's flesh.
Like Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice", Barabas shows evidence of humanity, especially when he protests against his wealth being thrown into Turkish hands. His isolation from other characters in "The Jew of Malta" (including other Jews) is extremely prominent, and throughout the plot he operates on his own account, as an individual.

Everyone that once sided with Barabas (even the ones that shared his perspectives and thoughts) lost loyalty for him towards the end of the story, almost characterizing Barabas as a lone wolf to represent the Jewish population. Barabas is often referred to as an "anti-hero", for his criminal-minded approaches that differ from that of the typical hero. Also, both Shylock and Barabas shared stereotypical Jewish values in Medieval England; they were both rich, and shared deceitful characteristics.

works cited

"The Jew of Malta, a CurtainUp review ." on line theater magazine with daily updated news, reviews and features in New York, London, elsewhere. ASC, n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2012. <>.

"ASCs Actors' Renaissance ." ASC 2008 Troupe. ASC, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2008. <

Marlowe, Christopher. "The Jew of Malta Summary | GradeSaver." Study Guides & Essay Editing | GradeSaver. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2012. <>.

Marlowe, Christopher. "The Jew of Malta Themes | GradeSaver." Study Guides & Essay Editing | GradeSaver. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2012. <>.