The Jew of Malta

by Christopher Marlowe

Katy Yut

Christopher Marlowe

  • born in Canterbury in 1564
  • only lived for 29 years
  • literary career only lasted 6 of those years
  • never married
  • died in May of 1593
  • the father of English tragedy
  • father was a shoemaker
  • family was relatively poor
  • eldest child
  • attended King's School
  • then went to Cambridge on a scholarship
  • went to London to produce plays
  • thought to be atheist
  • challenged religious status quo
  • pushed limits in every aspect (political, social, literary, legal, etc)
  • provided violent, sensational fiction
  • wrote about controversial themes
  • one of the first to successfully use blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter) in a play
  • came just before Shakespeare
  • influenced Shakespeare greatly
  • one of the top 10 English playwrights of all time

The Jew of Malta


  • English play
  • written 1589- 1591
  • written in London
  • first successful tragic comedy
  • anti-Semitic


  • island in the Mediterranean
  • Christian majority


  • named after Barabbas
  • Jew that lives in Malta
  • incredibly wealthy
  • main character
  • "bad boy" of the story
  • stereotypical Jewish villain (from perspective of Elizabethan audience)
  • 2 main concerns: money and his daughter (sort of)


  • Barabas' daughter
  • 14 years old
  • willing to do anything for her father


  • governor of Malta
  • Lodowick's father


  • Barabas' slave
  • Turkish captive
  • hates Christians
  • essentially the evil sidekick


  • Christian
  • in LOVE with Abigail


  • Ferneze's son
  • also wants to marry Abigail


  • Christian friar
  • friends with Jacomo (at the beginning)


  • another Christian friar
  • converts Abigail to a nun


  • Turkish leader


  • local prostitute


  • Bellamira's pimp


  • Ferneze is trying to pay the Turks
  • Barabas loses all of his property to Ferneze
  • property is turned into a Christian nunnery
  • Barabas wants revenge, so he comes up with a super convoluted plan
  • sends his daughter to pretend to become a nun
  • she smuggles gold out and gives it to her father
  • Barabas buys Ithamore with the gold
  • tells both Lodowick and Mathias that they're engaged to Abigail
  • both kill each other in a fight due to Barabas
  • Abigail gets super upset
  • becomes a nun for real
  • Barabas is furious
  • plots to kill all the nuns in the nunnery, including Abigail
  • as she's dying Abigail tells Jacomo and Bernadine about everything her father has done
  • the two friars go to talk to Barabas
  • he convinces them he wants to convert to Christianity
  • they start fighting over who gets him (and his gold)
  • Barabas kills Bernadine and blames Jacomo
  • Jacomo is executed by government for murder
  • Bellamira and Pilia-Borza want Barabas' wealth
  • Bellamira seduces Ithamore
  • Ithamore is now against Barabas and starts blackmailing him
  • Barabas plots to poison Bellamira
  • Bellamira and Pilia-Borza tell Ferneze about everything that Barabas has done
  • everyone is thrown in jail (Bellamira, Pilia-Borza, Ithamore, and Barabas)
  • the poison takes effect, everyone dies (except Barabas)
  • the bodies are thrown over the wall
  • Barabas wakes up
  • Barabas meets with Calymath and agrees to help him invade Malta in return for the position of governor
  • Turks overtake Malta
  • Barabas becomes governor
  • Ferneze is imprisoned
  • Barabas makes a deal with Ferneze to kill the Turks for a lot of money
  • Ferneze agrees but betrays him at the last minute
  • Turkish army gets destroyed
  • Barabas is killed in the trap he set for Calymath
  • Ferneze is governor again
  • holds Calymath hostage in return for Malta

Merchant of Venice

  • written by William Shakespeare
  • written around 1596

Plot Summary

Bassanio asks his friend Antonio for money so that he can woo this girl he really likes, Portia, who's really rich. Antonio agrees, but he doesn't have any money with him at the moment because he invested all of it in some ships that are still at sea. So the two go to find someone willing to loan Antonio some money. They come across Shylock, this Jew that Antonio doesn't really like because he charges interest. Shylock agrees to loan them the money without interest on the conditions that if Antonio doesn't pay him back, Shylock gets a pound of his flesh.

The Merchant of Venice (2004) - Official Trailer

Comparison Between the Two


Not even remotely similar.


Both are set in Italy.

Merchant of Venice in Venice, and The Jew of Malta in Malta.


Barabas vs Shylock
  • deal with money (merchant and loaner)
  • have a beautiful daughter (Abigail and Jessica)
  • derived from Jewish stereotypes
  • love money more than anything (even their daughters)

Abigail vs Jessica

  • fall in love with Christian boys
  • love their fathers (for the most part)


Judaism vs Christianity
  • theme seen in both plays
  • Barabas and Shylock are both Jewish
  • majority of society is Christian
  • conflict between faith and desires is evident

Marlowe vs Shakespeare


  • lived in London
  • lived at the same time
  • wrote plays
  • were very successful and accomplished



  • little education
  • never learned foreign languages
  • never left England
  • didn't learn legal, military, social, (etc) aspects of life


  • very well educated (2 degrees)
  • learned many languages and even translated foreign literature
  • understood the finer aspects of life (political, military, legal)
  • traveled frequently

Some argue that Shakespeare wrote Merchant of Venice due to the popularity he witnessed The Jew of Malta receive and knew he would make money.

The evidence of this is limited and many believe Shakespeare to be one of the greatest playwrights of all time, arguing that he wrote it for enjoyment and because he had the talent and creativity to do so.

Others claim that he wrote it as a response to refute the overwhelming anti-Semitic nature of The Jew of Malta.

Shakespeare often alluded to Marlowe's works, and even duplicated lines found in Marlowe's writing. Many believe that Shakespeare didn't have the experience or qualities to possibly have written the phenomenal pieces attributed to him. One theory is that Marlowe, whose death is shrouded with unknown, actually faked his death to write under the name of William Shakespeare. Nothing handwritten by Shakespeare has been found, except a single signature.


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"Malta Map." Malta. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.


Misiura, Linda. "Shakespeare vs Marlowe." Literary Analysis. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct.

2013. <>.

"The Jew of Malta." SparkNotes. SparkNotes, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.


"The Jew of Malta." Shmoop. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.


"The Merchant of Venice (2004) - Official Trailer." YouTube. YouTube, 13 Feb. 2007.

Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <>.

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