The Jew of Malta Essay

1421 Words6 Pages
Marlowe’s representation of Barabas in the play The Jew of Malta is an interesting one; it could be argued that there is an ambiguity in his representation of the Jew. At first, the reader is tempted to pity Barabas due to his unjust and discriminatory treatment by the Christians as they are not only ‘harsh and unfeeling, but actively vindictive’; however we then see him as capable and able to defend himself when assuming vengeance on those who have wronged him following Elizabethan Jewish stereotyping. Nonetheless, to agree with Bevington and Rasmussen’s statement, the reader cannot help but to be impressed by Barabas’ skill as he plots and deceives. According to the Christians, Barabas is a villain and Marlowe’s construction of Barabas is unlikely to be exempt from anti-Semitic stereotypes. Marlowe naming the protagonist Barabas for instance would create automatic negative thoughts because of its biblical references. It was originally the name of the murderer who the Jewish people chose to set free and Jesus Christ was crucified in his place. Therefore, for a Christian audience in the Elizabethan period, the allusion is explicit: the character is a murderer and the ethnic group to which he belongs committed the ultimate crime by sacrificing Jesus Christ. Furthermore, in Act One Scene Two when Ferneze demands the property of the Jews, one of the knights justifies his actions by referring to the Jews’ biblical sinfulness: ‘If your first curse fall heavy on thy head, / And make thee poor and scorn’d of all the world, / ‘Tis not our fault, but thy inherent sin’ (1.2.111-13), ‘a clear reference to his religion’. At this point, the reader may feel sympathy towards Barabas and this sympathy Edward Rocklin suggests may be ‘quite intense’.However, it can be suggested that although Barabas is presented negatively because of his religion, so are the Christians, which in a
Open Document