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The Jew of Malta

3.6  ·  Rating details ·  2,733 Ratings  ·  106 Reviews
'Tell me worldlings, underneath the sun, If greater falsehood ever has been done'

The Jew of Malta, written around 1590, can present a challenge for modern audiences. Hugely popular in its day, the play swings wildly and rapidly in genre, from pointed satire, to bloody revenge tragedy, to melodrmatic intrigue, to dark farce and grotesque comedy. Although set in the Mediterr
Paperback, 176 pages
Published May 30th 2009 by Bloomsbury Methuen Drama (first published 1589)
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Bill  Kerwin

This is a profoundly subversive black comedy which shows its contempt for the practitioners of each of the three major religions, all of whom Marlowe sees as being motivated by nothing save avarice and (occasionally) lust.

Barabas the Jew of Malta--aided by his psychopathic Muslim slave Ithamore--plots the destruction of both Christians and Muslims and eventually falls into a boiling cauldron he has prepared for his remaining enemies, but not before contriving half-a-dozen murders, poisoning an
David Sarkies
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who love political intrigue
Recommended to David by: Saw a complete collection in a book shop
Shelves: tragedy
A complex play of love, revenge, and murder
1 February 2014

For a long time I felt that Kit Marlowe's best play was The Tragical History of Doctor Faust, and though I had read this play previously, it had not stuck in my head in the same way that Doctor Faust did. I suspect it is because the last time that I read this collection of plays I had read them all on one go (that is reading the plays one after the other without reading something different in between) and because I had been so blown away
If you haven't read Marlowe, I recommend him. He's more lurid and over the top than Shakespeare, and nowhere near as subtle - well, not subtle at all, if we're being honest - and he's not as good, but then it's a little uncool to compare anyone to Shakespeare. He is good.

Sucks to be this guy, really. He was very popular in his time, and then along came Shakespeare and whammo, he's a footnote. It's not Marlowe's fault he was the guy right before The Guy.

Anyway, if you want to see how the two comp
Feb 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love me little, love me long; let music
Whilst I in thy incony lap do tumble.

I blame Kalliope for this detour. It was her lengthy survey of Kit's bio that led me here. Maybe Derek Jarman gave a deserved shove as well. Bugger. I watched Jubilee last night. It shocked me and left me slightly listing. Perhaps that was simply Adam Ant. Later that night I crept upstairs and fetched this play before slipping into slumber. I awoke to a world gone white. It has snowed like mad all day. My wife and
Andrei Tamaş
Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Terminând cartea, am în minte apariţia sâmburelui scepticismului (de orice natură ar fi el, dar aici e vorba de credinţa religioasă). Fiind a doua piesă scrisă de Marlowe pe care o citesc -"Doctor Faustus", la fel ca romanul omonim al lui Thomas Mann ori ca "Faustul" lui Goethe, rămânând în seria capodoperelor circumscrise orizontului lăcomiei de cunoaştere-, am simţit ochiul viclean al scriitorului. În zilele noastre, libera exprimare este literă de lege, în schimb în vremurile Evului Mediu, Ch ...more

Why, is not this    

A kingly kind of trade, to purchase towns    

By treachery, and sell 'em by deceit?    

Now tell me, worldlings, underneath the sun

If greater falsehood ever has been done?

Christians, Turks and a Jew behaving very badly. Marlowe's hyperbole 450 years ago reads like today's headlines.
Jul 08, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
”Ay, daughter, for religion / Hides many mischiefs from suspicion.”

Christopher Marlowe’s ferocious play The Jew of Malta, which was written around 1589 and 1590, is generally said to have influenced Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, but I must say that having the latter play at the back of my mind while reading Marlowe’s revenge tragedy, my admiration for the Malta play was, on the whole, rather dampened for there are worlds between these two plays. But maybe, it is not quite fair, anyway, t
Feb 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a play that grabs your attention immediately, but unfortunately peters out a bit at the end. The first half of the work, though lacking the sheer poetic beauty of Tamburlaine or Dr. Faustus, is exciting reading and, I would imagine, even better viewing. Few books hook me immediately like this one.

I must admit I picked it up with some trepidation. Was it a racist rant? Well, it certainly showcases every Jewish stereotype known to Elizabethan England, and maybe adds some new ones. But it i
Roman Clodia
Nov 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marlowe's dark and savage play of Machiavellian cunning and guile, written over by issues of race and early capitalism.

Barabas, the titular Jew, is one of Marlowe's great 'over-reachers' and his vibrant wickedness combined with his frequent asides that make the audience complicit in his plots work against the stereotypes of the Jewish outsider, especially in a world where no race or religion has moral probity or integrity. The Christian governor steals Jewish money, plots with the Spanish to ov
Jun 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The language is bombastic, passionate and orotund. The plot is full of deceit, betrayal and revenge. It reflects English suspicions and prejudices. Anti-semitic fear and loathing are epitomized in Barabbas, the Jew of the title. The plot also reveals the ancient distrust of the English for those of Mediterranean origin. This play takes 21st century correctness and stomps that sucker flat. So how can a modern reader feel the love for this one? ( I have similar ambiguities about Richard III, too,) ...more
Pobre Barrabás, sólo quería ser rico y tener mucho dinero aglomerado, ¿qué culpa tuvo él que vengan los turcos a amenazar la Isla de Malta y él tenga que pagar los platos rotos?
Esta obra de Marlowe me sorprendió muchísimo porque dado el tema que no me pareció tan "importante" como "Dido", "La masacre de París" o "Doctor Fausto", la creación del personaje de Barrabás, el judío de Malta, es muy compleja y bien lograda. Uno se da cuenta a medida que avanza la obra la crueldad e hipocresía que encie
Imagine a version of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice in which Shylock is the main character. That's sort of what you'll get with this play, which indeed was a huge influence on Shakespeare. To put it out there, this is one of those cases where reading from a post-Holocaust perspective certainly brings the anti-Semitic elements of the text to the foreground, but really none of the monotheistic religions escape Marlowe's indictment. Barabas is a deliciously evil character and the plot remains ...more
Renaissance drama certainly packs a punch. And Christopher Marlowe's The Jew of Malta is no exception. If you're ready for scheming, thieving, poisoning, blackmail, more poisoning, and Death By Cauldron, then you've certainly come to the right place. It's hardly surprising that this play was so popular with the Elizabethans - and it's amazing that Marlowe managed to stuff so much murder and mayhem into just one play.

The Jew of Malta, unsurprisingly, is set on the tiny Mediterranean island, which
Jul 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
The Jew of Malta is one of those glorious rollicking Elizabethan dramas that make modern plays with their bickering couples look merely squalid. Christopher Marlowe does not settle for a single villain or a few venal sins, he goes for massive extortion and wholesale slaughter.

The basic setup is quite simple and maps with depressing ease to modern global politics. The Turks have demanded an impossible tribute from the Island of Malta, and the Maltese government have cravenly raised the amount by
Oct 05, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
So it's all about a bunch of folks toying around with their RELIGIONS in hopes of getting more cash!

Some scenes were amusing, yet a lot were boring and lacked vividness, other scenes came by as absurd and improbable; it was difficult sometimes to go over a scene without keeping a dull face all through out (especially the scenes with the PRO!).

All in all, reading this is not something I would feel thrilled about any time in the future, although I have to admit that the ending was quite satisfacto
Nicolas Shump
Jan 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a much more developed and mature piece of writing than Dr. Faustus. It is longer and better-written. In addition, there are numerous well-developed characters like Barabas and his daughter Abigail.
However, as you would expect, this play is ripe with anti-Semitism and Barabas is totally unredeemable and his servant is even worse.
The plot is better developed than in Faustus, but I feel the ending is a bit rushed. It still is not of the caliber of The Merchant of Venice, but it stands up
Jul 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Jew of Malta is kind of like Merchant of Venice on crack. At least in terms of how conniving, how duplicitous, how despicable a stereotype can be drawn of a Jew. But I think that I'm going to think that every Marlowe play is on crack after reading Tamburlaine. Maybe Marlowe is like a Tarantino kind of playwright, where the delight comes with all extremities being given vent at once.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was meaning to read Marlowe's 'The Jew of Malta' for a long time now. Today, I have finally read the play. Marlowe is one of my favourite playwrights, and I believe the world owes a huge debt to this genius, including, most probably, Shakespeare the Great himself.

The Jews first arrived in Malta after the Roman Titus ransacked the Temple of Jerusalem in 70AD. One can still find ancient Jewish catacombs scattered across Malta. The 'Menorah' is a prominent feature in such sites. At first, the Jew
May 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
THE JEW OF MALTA is one of the handful of works by Christopher Marlowe, the Elizabethan playwright who dabbled in political intrigue and atheist proselytizing and died in a barfight before the age of 30. As the play opens, the Ottoman Empire is threatening the Christian island of Malta, whereupon the governor expropriates the holdings of a rich Jewish trade to buy the Turks off. Barabas, this Jew of Malta, doesn't take this too kindly and hatches various plans to destroy people close to the stat ...more
Farwa Khtana
The only thing I was thinking whilst reading the play was how incredibly and boldly RACIST it was. I mean, it's OK to rob the Jew of his wealth because HE'S A JEW?????? When he's "dead", the governors see it fit to throw his body over the wall rather than bury it??!!! BECAUSE HE'S A JEW??!!! (I'm practically going mad right now!). How can anyone have enjoyed a play like this? Even if these were prominent stereotypes at the time. I'm a Muslim, and I can't possible imagine what I would do if a sim ...more
Simon Mcleish
Apr 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in March 1999.

Christopher Marlowe's play is certainly not in tune with the spirit of the second half of the twentieth century, with its portrayal of the Jew, Barabas, as the epitome of deceit and treachery. In his introduction to this edition, Peter J. Smith quotes Barry Kyle, who directed a revival in 1987, as originally thinking that the anti-Semitism would make it unstageable. He lessened the impact of this aspect of the play by using a clever trick to mak
Oct 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I actually read an online version of this text provided by my teacher as part of my Introduction to Drama course, so this is not the same version I'm writing about, but is the same work. In many ways, this is the predecessor to The Merchant of Venice, which is a distinction that would already make it notable, but it also has a great amount of value in its own right. While perhaps not as powerful or seemingly progressive as its counterpart, there are very good dramatic speeches, powerful characte ...more
Melissa Colby
Oct 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read. Definitely similar to The Merchant of Venice, but of course Shakespeare one-upped him. Barabas is just not as relatable as Shylock. Barabas is a true villain with no redeeming qualities and Marlow makes his anger less righteous than Shylock's by giving him no human qualities. The plot is thick, which makes the story enjoyable...if that is possible with such a heinous villain and conniving politicians. Marlowe's simpler language makes it an easier read than his contemporary's ...more
Jul 19, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Well, the flat characters are tolerable; the complete lack of subtlety is tolerable, as is the overuse of sex and violence as a device to create tension. I’m okay with all that. It’s my first Marlowe play and I’m a little underwhelmed, but chances are the man has written better plays.

What I find totally, utterly unbearable, that’s the blatant, disgusting anti-Semitism in this play. Call it a masterpiece, call it what you will - you can't rationalise the ugly truth.
May 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ribner'e katılıyorum aslında, bir trajedide karakterin kötü eylemleri hasebiyle yargılanması, cezalandırılması gerekiyor. Burada Barabas'a tıpkı Tamburlaine'de olmadığı gibi ceza yok. Marlowe iyi iyi, ama ne yazık ki kalmış Shakespeare'in gölgesinde işte.
Anthony William
Aug 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: university, theatre
Wow. Dark, hilarious, subversive - loved it!
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"Thou hast committed-"
"Fornication? But that was in another country; and besides, the wench is dead." Oh Barabus, ILU.
Clara Biesel
Sep 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's not my favorite Marlowe, but just a fascinating play.
Слави Ганев
Кой е Кристофър "Кит" Марлоу? Не сте го чували? Не се срамувайте. По нашите географски ширини много хора едва ли знаят за него. Всъщност... много хора и по други краища на земното кълбо, които знаят за него, не са сигурни кой точно е той.

Знаем, че е живял в Англия през Елизабетианската епоха и, че е писал пиеси и поеми също като много по-известния в днешно време Уилям Шекспир. Приживе обаче Марлоу е бил много по-популярен и поставян на сцената. Роден само два месеца преди Евънския бард (да, това
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Christopher "Kit" Marlowe (baptised 26 February 1564) was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. The foremost Elizabethan tragedian next to William Shakespeare, he is known for his magnificent blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his own mysterious and untimely death.

The author's Wikipedia page.
More about Christopher Marlowe...

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“MACHEVILL: I count religion but a childish toy,
And hold there is no sin but ignorance.”
“I count religion but a childish toy
And hold there is no sin but ignorance.”
More quotes…