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Analysis

The Jew of Malta Allusions & Cultural References

When authors refer to other great works, people, and events, it’s usually not accidental. Put on your super-sleuth hat and figure out why.

Biblical References

  • Barabas is a clear allusion to the Biblical Barrabas
  • The Jews' part in the crucifixion of Christ is referenced throughout
  • Abraham (1.1.102) (2.1.14)
  • Job (1.2.179)
  • Genesis 17:11 (2.3.8)
  • Matthew 10:16 (2.3.36-37)
  • Abraham and Isaac (2.3.52)
  • Samson and Delilah (2.3.228)
  • Cain and Abel (2.3.301) (3.4.26-33)
  • Judas (4.4.65)

Classical References

  • Agamemnon and Iphigen (1.1.135)
  • Venus (1.2.372) (4.2.96)
  • Morpheus (2.1.36)
  • Apollo (2.1.61)
  • The Hydra (3.4.100)
  • The river Styx (3.4.102)
  • Jason and the golden fleee (4.2.92)
  • Bacchus (4.2.94)
  • Adonis (4.2.96)
  • Dis (4.2.99)

Literary and Philosophical References

  • Niccolò Machiavelli is referenced throughout the play
  • Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice: more of a Shout-Forward, because the Merchant of Venice is written after The Jew of Malta and is heavily informed by it.
  • Terence, Andria (1.1.186)
  • Lady Vanity (2.3.118): stock character in early modern drama
  • Occasion (5.2.45): a stock character in early modern drama

Historical References

  • The play is based on the real Siege of Malta, 1565
  • Vespasian and Titus's 70 BCE conquest of Jerusalem (2.3.10): The Roman Emperor and his son, Titus, sacked Jerusalem in 70 BCE to quell a major Jewish revolt.
  • King Philip II of Spain (2.2.7)
  • 1522 Turkish conquest of Rhodes (2.2.31): The Knights of Malta used to be stationed on Rhodes until ousted by the Suleiman I
  • Maccabee Revolt (2.3.155): The first successful Jewish revolt, 175-134 BCE
  • Charles V (2.3.189)
  • Alexander the Great (3.4.97)
  • Cesare Borgia (3.4.98): the son of Pope Alexander VI, who is rumored to have poisoned his father and was much admired by Machiavelli
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