Christopher Marlowe "The Jew of Malta". Barabas character in his opening speech

Essay, 2013

3 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Barabas is a very rich but never as a citizen of Malta accepted Jew, who is hated for being rich and for being a Jew. He therefore is more or less alienated from Malta’s Christian society although he is quite important for the people. Barabas, however, seems to accept his social position; in fact, he even prefers to be hated, but rich, successful, and Jewish instead of being "pitied in a Christian poverty." At the beginning of the play, Barabas is displayed as a wealthy and shrewd but also very selfish and intelligent man, whose motivation is money only. During the story Barabas undergoes a change of personality and presents his evilness more and more. He shows his true face, which is cruel, controlling and radical. Barabas turns into an immoral figure: cunning, cynical, gory, brutally calculating and greedy, without any conscience and belief, what makes him very dangerous. Strategically, he commits several crimes, such as the murder of a whole convent of nuns, including his own daughter, after she abandoned her loyalty to him. In doing so, he is honest about his crimes and motives towards the audience and even seems to be proud of those. According to that, Barabas does not kill for need but for revenge and desire. It turns out that he is just power-hungry and scheming. Barabars therefore represents a very anti-semitically inspirited Character. The question regarding Barabas progress during the play is how much one is actually able to figure out about Barabas real character at the beginning of the play. One can assume that he does not completely change but simply progressively exposes his real character. Focusing on his first monologue, it shall be elaborated what the opening speech by Barabas tells us about his character.

Barabas does not occur evil in the beginning of the play. He is a Jew who does his business and reading his monologue, it becomes more and more obvious that he is just all about money. Barabas refers about his ships, which are on their way from Persia and Arabia, returning with valuable carriage. “There was the venture summ'd and satisfied” and now the ships are to bring back the silver and gold and all that wealth after selling rare goods from Spain and Greece to the Arabians and Persians. Barabas praises the Arabians for paying “The things they traffic” and all their depts “so richly” in pure gold. These statements describe Barabas’ ongoing transaction and his possession of gold and money. Anyway, so far, none of his actions are against any rules or laws and yet nothing immoral can be detected. In the following lines Barabas defines those people, who, in his opinion, destroy the goodness of trade and pervert the process of easy trade. In the course of this he names “The needy groom” and the cheapskates “whose steel-barr'd coffers are cramm'd full” and who wasted their lives. Undoubted, this explicates what is most important in Barabas life, and how he decides between good and bad people: For him it is all about money and money making, not about the persons and their cast of mind. Barabas condemns those, who hinder his transactions or who are not willing to trade, and praises those who enable easy and profitable trade. Furthermore, he criticizes religion and people who believe in it and therefore “Would make a miracle of thus much coin”. Although Jews are nowadays regarded as religious, and religion in general used to be important back in 1590, Barabas is displayed as an irreligious person, which already becomes obvious in his opening speech. Instead of praising god and religious people, he praises money and trade. Barabas in a way criticizes the Christian religion by disregarding the conviction of people, who adopt sudden wealth as a godly miracle (these people could only be Christians or Turks, since the stereotype of a Jew was involved in finance, banking, or pawnshop and therefore had to have another conviction of money than a godly one). A fact which also gets deepened later when Barabas places revenge and money over a human’s life. Barabas accepts the Indian miners who “trade in metal of the purest mould”, as well as the Arabians, for their ability to transact. His role model is “The wealthy Moor, that in the eastern rocks without control can pick his riches up”. He is mainly interested in wealth and money, diamonds, gold, silver, pearls, opals, sapphires, robins, and so on. “This is the ware wherein consists my wealth”.


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Christopher Marlowe "The Jew of Malta". Barabas character in his opening speech
National University of Ireland, Galway
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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christopher, marlowe, malta, barabas
Quote paper
Melissa Grönebaum (Author), 2013, Christopher Marlowe "The Jew of Malta". Barabas character in his opening speech, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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