The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe

Title: The Jew of Malta.
Author: Christopher Marlowe.
Date Written: c. 1589-1590.
Earliest Extant Edition: 1633.

Genre: Tragedy.
Language Difficulty Rating: 3 (not difficult).
Setting: Malta.
Format: Verse.

On its face, Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta appears to be a shallow adoption of anti-Semitic stereotypes into what is a very entertaining play. But the issue is more complicated, and more interesting, because Marlowe, who in his lifetime was accused of disseminating atheistic beliefs, targeted all religions, especially Christianity, with criticism for their hypocrisies. So in The Jew of Malta, in which Barabas, the miserly and misanthropic Jewish anti-hero, can exclaim regularly against Christians, pointing out, for example, that “Some Jews are wicked, as all Christians are.”

The Jew of Malta is also one of the easier reads of the Elizabethan canon, and so is a great starter-play for those who want to learn to understand Shakespeare’s work and language in greater depth.

Our Story: Barabas the Jew is the wealthiest man in Malta, but he loses his fortune in a moment when the governor of the island seizes his assets to pay the tribute demanded by the Ottoman Empire. Barabas, outraged, begins to plot his revenge on the governor, his daughter’s suitors, and all who he perceives to be his enemies – which accounts for just about everybody else on Malta!


Download and Read The Jew of Malta:

Online Reading:
Annotated Edition, pdf file

White Background for Printing:
Annotated Edition, pdf file

Theatre Script:
Jew of Malta Script


Still-Familiar Words and Phrases that Research Suggests Appeared
in English Literature for the First Time in The Jew of Malta:

the expression, “a pox on...”
the expression, “all I have is yours
the expression, “leave a drop
the clause, “lost my keys
the expression, “my work is done
the collocation of yield and extortion, as in “to yield to extortion”
the expression, to “force one’s way
sparkling diamond(s)