English 366C, Section F01: Shakespeare's Comedies and Romances   >   The Merchant of Venice   >   Marlowe's Jew To the previous page To the next page

Marlowe's Jew of Malta

In this first selection from the play you will see that Shakespeare clearly echoed some of Barabbas' attitudes towards his daughter in Shylock's attitude to Jessica, especially in the apparently callous connection between money and love. You may also notice an odd echo in Romeo and Juliet of the opening situation where Barabbas speaks of Abigail appearing above him on the "balcony" space in the theatre. Before this incident, Barabbas has had all his wealth confiscated by the state, and his house converted to a nunnery. He arranges for Abigail to be admitted to the nunnery so that she can get for him some treasure he has hidden there (ironically under a board marked with a cross). He waits under his balcony in the dark.
[Bar.] But stay, what star shines yonder in the east?
The lodestar of my life, if Abigail.
Who's there?
Abig.         Who's that ?
Bar.                       Peace, Abigail, 'tis I.
Abig. Then, Father, here receive thy happiness
Bar. Hast thou't ?
[Abigail throws down bags.]
Abig.         Here. Hast thou't ?
There's more, and more, and more.
Bar.                       O my girl,
My gold, my fortune, my felicity!
Strength to my soul, death to mine enemy!
Welcome the first beginner of my bliss!
O Abigail, Abigail, that I had thee here too!
Then my desires were fully satisfied:
But I will practice thy enlargement thence:
O girl! O gold! O beauty! O my bliss!
                     Hugs his bags.
Abig. Father, it draweth towards midnight now,
And 'bout this time the nuns begin to wake;
To shun suspicion, therefore, let us part.
Bar. Farewell, my joy, and by my fingers take
A kiss from him that sends it from his soul.
Now Phoebus ope the eyelids of the day,
And for the raven wake the morning lark
That I may hover with her in the air;
Singing o'er these, as she does o'er her young.
        (2.1.40-63)

Later in the play, Abigail is released from the convent, but Barabbas uses her to manipulate the deaths of two prominent Christian citizens, one of whom she loves. She then returns to the convent in earnest.

In this second extract, Barabbas has just bought a slave, Ithamore, and is testing him to see if he will be ruthless enough for the tasks that lie ahead (he plans, among other things, to poison all the nuns, including Abigail). The passage plays heavily on the stereotype of the murderous and greedy Jew.

Bar. Now let me know thy name, and therewithal
Thy birth, condition, and profession.
Itha. Faith, sir, my birth is but mean: my name's Ithamore, my profession what you please.
Bar. Hast thou no trade ? Then listen to my words,
And I will teach thee that shall stick by thee:
First be thou void of these affections:
Compassion, love, vain hope, and heartless fear,
Be moved at nothing, see thou pity none,
But to thyself smile when the Christians moan.
Itha. O brave! master, I worship your nose for this.
Bar. As for myself, I walk abroad a' nights
And kill sick people groaning under walls:
Sometimes I go about and poison wells;
And now and then, to cherish Christian thieves,
I am content to lose some of my crowns,
That I may, walking in my gallery,
See 'em go pinioned along by my door.
Being young, I studied physic, and began
To practice first upon the Italian;
There I enriched the priests with burials.
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Then after that was I an usurer,
And with extorting, cozening, forfeiting,
And tricks belonging unto brokery,
I filled the jails with bankrupts in a year,
And with young orphans planted hospitals,
And every moon made some or other mad,
And now and then one hang himself for grief,
Pinning upon his breast a long great scroll
How I with interest tormented him.
But mark how I am blessed for plaguing them;
I have as much coin as will buy the town.
        (2.3.176-203)
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This page last updated on 1 October 2002. © Michael Best, 2002.