Study Guide

The Jew of Malta Quotes

  • Lies and Deceit

    [the Jew] Who smiles to see how full his bags are crammed,
    Which money was not got without my means. (Prologue 31-32)

    This isn't quite as good as seeing baby pictures, but it does tell us something about what Barabas was like before we meet him. Two things to notice: (1) Machiavel is indicating that Barabas wasn't above deceit beforehand, and (2) it sounds as though his deceit is intrinsically tied up with his love of money. Hey, Marlowe, the 13th century called: it wants its stereotypes back.

    Daughter, I have it. Thou perceiv'st the plight
    Wherein these Christians have oppressed me.
    Be ruled by me, for in extremity
    We ought make bar of no policy. (1.2.267-70)

    This is right after Ferneze has confiscated Barabas's property, which Barabas has claimed is an act of "policy," or political scheming. He's telling Abigail that, given that they're "in extremity," they have to fight fire with fire, and employ their own "policy," i.e. trickery, to help themselves. And you know what? So far, we're kind of agreeing with him.

    We Jews can fawn like spaniels when we please,
    And when we grin we bite; yet are our looks
    As innocent and harmless as a lamb's. (2.3.20-22)

    If you can't beat them, you might as well live up to their expectations. This is one of the many places where Barabas's bad personality seems to be because he's Jewish rather than because he's, you know, a murderous psychopath. And we think he's totally playing it up.

    Thus every villain ambles after wealth,
    Although he ne'er be richer than in hope (3.4.53-4)

    Translation: LOL, Ithamore. Barabas says this right after he's promised Ithamore to fully embrace him as his heir. So, just when we think that Barabas and Ithamore are totally evil BFFs, Barabas reveals that he's using Ithamore in the same way he uses everyone else.

    Now I have such a plot for both their lives
    As never Jew nor Christian knew the like! (4.1.115-6)

    Barabas doesn't just lie, cheat and steal—he really gets a kick out of it. And something else: here's he's not just saying that he's just can't help being evil because he's Jewish. He's actually so evil that even Jews can't imagine how evil he can be.

    And, thus far, roundly goes the business.
    Thus, loving neither, will I live with both,
    Making a profit of my policy,
    And he from whom my most advantage comes
    Shall be my friend. (5.2.111-15)

    Friendship on Malta: not unlike Snakes and Ladders. Barabas doesn't really like anybody, but he also isn't going to turn up his nose at making nice with somebody who can help him. Even his right-hand-man, Ithamore, is simply a tool he leverages for "advancement."

    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?(5.5.46-50)

    Who's the boss? Barabas! Well, for a few minutes, anyway. This comes late in the play, by which point the stakes have been upped from Barabas sneaking a bag of gold out of his house to gaining control of all of Malta. Even here, though, Barabas isn't as interested in actually ruling Malta as he is in the awesomeness of his plot.

    Leave nothing loose, all leveled to my mind.
    Why, now I see that you have art indeed. (5. 5.3-4)

    Barabas is ordering his carpenters to build the mechanism he's going to use to murder Calymath. This is kind of cool because we get to see Barabas's plot in real life. Instead of just quietly plotting and playing people off of each other, he's escalated to "leveling the world to his mind." He's not just fitting the plots to his environment; he's changing the environment to fit his plots. (In other words: he's totally terraforming Mars.)

    Barabas: […} Say, will not this be brave?

    Ferneze: Oh, excellent! Here, hold thee, Barabas.
    I trust thy word, take what I promised thee.

    [Ferneze offers Barabas the money again]

    Barabas: No, Governor, I'll satisfy thee first… (5.5.41-44)

    Ferneze trusts Barabas about as far as he can throw him (not far), but he knows there's no one better when you need to build a nefarious death-trap. Barabas has the market on nefarious death-traps cornered. Pro tip to Ferneze: if Barabas is refusing money, though, you'd better watch out.

    Know, Governor, 'twas I that slew thy son;
    I framed the challenge that did make them meet.
    Know, Calymath, I aimed thy overthrow,
    And, had I but escaped this stratagem,
    I would have brought confusion on you all… (5.5.81-85)

    In classic villain form, Barabas spends half of his death speech making sure that Ferneze and Calymath know about his plots. For a guy who's spent the majority of this play lying (and definitely to these two), why is it so important to him to confess?Actually, would you even term this a "confession'?Would you take your last moments to tell everyone "Guess how evil I am?On second thought, never mind.Let metell you how evil I am.REAL EVIL, folks"?

  • Prejudice

    I crave but this: grace him as he deserves,
    And let him not be entertained the worse
    Because he favours me. (Prologue 33-35)

    Going a little meta here, but roll with us: there's a lot of prejudice in this play, but the audience is only sensitive to it because, well, there's a lot of prejudice in the real world. Machiavelli's closing words in the Prologue tell the audience that they shouldn't let their own prejudices determine their opinion of Barabas. Also interesting? He doesn't warn them against judging Barabas on the basis of his Judaism, but rather because he "favours" Machiavel.

    Enter Barabas in his counting-house, with heaps of gold before him (1.1)

    Okay, so this is actually a stage direction, but whatever. If you're watching the play, this is the first thing you see: a Jewish guy, named after a famously bad Jewish guy, indulging in a stereotypically Jewish pastime (counting his money, of which he has a lot). Before Barabas ever says a single word, you're set up to understand that he's going to be characterized largely as a stock Jewish character; he's already the anti-Semitic Big Bad.

    BARABAS: Are strangers with your tribute to be taxed?

    SECOND KNIGHT: Have strangers leave with us to get their wealth?
    Then let them with us contribute.

    BARABAS: How, equally?

    FERNEZE: No, Jew, like infidels.
    For through our suff'rance of your hateful lives,
    Who stand accursed in the sight of heaven,
    These taxes and afflictions are befall'n (1.2.62-5)

    Barabas wants to know why all the Maltese Christians aren't contributing to the tribute money, at which point Ferneze pulls the Not Really Citizens Card.The Jews, who are "accursèd in the sight of heaven," aren't allowed to be proper citizens, so obviously they can be subjected to special (and in this case really arbitrary and unfair) treatment. Way harsh, Tai.

    If your first curse fall heavy on thy head
    And make thee poor and scorned of all the world,
    'Tis not our fault but thy inherent sin. (1.2.107-9)

    Here, Ferneze claims that confiscating the Jews' property is really just the proper order of things. Why? Because Christians think Jews have "inherent sin" because they basically voted for the crucifixion of Christ way back when. That's right: Ferneze is telling the Jews that he's taking all their stuff because it's his religious duty to punish them for something the Jews did 1500 years ago. What a nice guy, right?

    BARABAS: Good sir, your father has deserved it at my hands,
    Who, of mere charity and Christian ruth,
    To bring me to religious purity
    And, as it were, in catechizing sort,
    To make me mindful of my mortal sins,
    Against my will, and whether I would or no,
    Seized all I had, and thrust me out of doors,
    And made my house a place for nuns most chaste.

    LODOWICK: No doubt your soul shall reap the fruit of it. (2.3.70-77)

    Sure, we could have easily put this in the Themes: Hypocrisy section, but it works here, too: Ferneze can get only away with hypocrisy because of the prejudices against Jews. Here, Barabas is laying out the super obvious wrongs that Ferneze has done him, but Lodowick thinks it's fine. Why? Because, Barabas is telling the story of "a powerful man took advantage of me and stole everything I had," but Lodowick is hearing the story of "a good Christian man corrected, as was his religious duty, a sinful Jew."

    But I perceive there is no love on earth,
    Pity in Jews, nor piety in Turks. (3.3.47-8)

    Abigail, having learned of her father's hand in Mathias and Lodowick's deaths, basically decides that all of these groups are equally contemptible (including her own religious community) and becomes a nun. Girl, we hear you. This place kind of drools. That said, it's debatable whether joining a nunnery in Marlowe's world actually gets you to a better place.

    But now experience, purchased with grief,
    Has made me see the difference of things. (3.3.61-62)

    Abigail is one of the few characters who doesn't make a lot of bigoted remarks. Here, though, when she's committing to really become a nun, she says she's become sensitive to the "difference of things," a signal that even she is becoming prejudiced. But is this really prejudice? Maybe not. She sees the difference through "experience"—the exact opposite of pre-judice.

    Ithamore: 'Tis a strange thing of that Jew: he lives upon pickled grasshoppers and sauced mushrumbs.

    Barabas: [Aside]: What a slave's this? The Governor feeds not as I do.

    Ithamore: He never put on a clean shirt since he was circumcised.

    Barabas: [Aside]: Oh, rascal! I change myself twice a day.

    Ithamore: The hat he wears, Judas left under the elder when he hanged himself.

    Barabas: [Aside] 'Twas sent me for a present from the Great Cham. (4.4. 60-67)

    Ithamore was all about being Barabas's "fellow" when he was a disempowered, newly bought slave. But now that he's sitting pretty with Bellamira and her pimp, he gets to be to be as prejudiced as everybody else. Also, was anybody else amused that Barabas has a hat given to him by a Chinese Emperor who's been dead for 300 years or so?

    To undo a Jew is a charity and not a sin. (4.4.79)

    Ithamore is echoing Barabas's earlier declaration to Abigail that "It's no sin to deceive a Christian" (2.3.309-12). The Christians and the Jews both appear to believe that you only have to be nice to people in your own religious communities. Nice people, right?

  • Wealth

    And of a carat of this quantity,
    May serve in peril of calamity
    To ransom great kings from captivity.
    And thus methinks should men of judgment frame
    Their means of traffic from the vulgar trade
    And, as their wealth increaseth, so enclose
    Infinite riches in a little room. (1.1.30-37)

    Diamonds are a man's best friend. They're not just shiny; they can get you out of serious trouble. In fact, the exact situation Barabas describes here happens at the end of the play: Ferneze refuses to return Calymath (a 'captive king', of sorts) to his father, the Turkish Sultan, unless the Sultan forks over the money for the restoration of Malta.

    Who hateth me but for my happiness?
    Or who is honoured now but for his wealth?
    Rather had I, a Jew, be hated thus
    Than pitied in a Christian poverty (1.1.109-12)

    On Malta, people give you kudos for being rich, not righteous. If Jews are the ones with the money, then Judaism is the way to go, right? Well…not quite. By the end of the first act it's clear that Christians don't dig poverty any more than the Jews. The allocation of wealth may depend more upon whether you're part of the majority part than on your religion.

    Honour is bought with blood and not with gold. (2.2.56)

    Bosco says this, but—spoiler alert—it's a lie. A big, fat, lie. First of all, as Barabas has helpfully pointed out, in Malta people are honored precisely for their wealth. In addition, Bosco isn't offering to help Ferneze fight the Turks because it's honorable, he's doing it so he can sell his slave on Malta and get some gold for himself.

    Everyone's price is written on his back,
    And so much must they yield or not be sold. (2.3. 3-4)

    Important? Oh yeah. (Check out Symbols: The Slave Market for more about this.) While the officer is describing how the slaves all have a certain price, we're pretty sure it applies to everyone in the play. Think, for instance, of Barabas himself, who offers to cooperate with his arch-enemy Ferneze near the end, but only for a price.

    Faith, master, I think by this
    You purchase both their lives… (2.3.369-70)

    There isn't any actual money changing hands in the Lodowick-Mathias plot (well, except for Abigail), but Ithamore is marveling at how Barabas's trickery "purchases" their lives. It looks like cold, hard cash may not be the only form of currency in this play. (Go check out Barabas's remark that he"purchase[s] towns/By treachery and sell[s] 'em by deceit [5.5.46-48].)

    But now experience, purchased with grief,
    Has made me see the difference of things. (3.3.61-62)

    We just like this quote for word choice: Abigail is talking about the one thing you can't buy (experience), but the theme of wealth and buying/selling is so pervasive in this play that her experience is described as having been "bought." Nice, Marlowe.

    Ferneze: What wind drives you thus into Malta road?
    Bashaw: The wind that bloweth all the world besides,
    Desire of gold. (3.5.2-4)

    To the Maltese, Turks are about as different (non-Western) and otherized (non-Christian) as it gets. But money is universal. Although Barabas describes himself as 'purchasing towns by treachery' (5.5.46-47), the Turks were doing it before it was cool. With actual money.

    You shall convert me; you shall have all my wealth. (4.1.79)

    Cornered by the friars, Barabas plays his trump card: conversion. Of course, this being a Marlowe play, point isn't that Barabas will become a Christian, but whichever order he joins will get his wealth.

    Why, is not this
    A kingly kind of trade, to purchase towns
    By treachery and sell 'em by deceit? (5.5.46-48)

    Barabas's "argosy" (fleet of merchant ships) from the first act is looking like small potatoes now. By the end of the play, the stakes are so high that Barabas isn't gunning for money; he's out to control all of Malta.

    Will Knights of Malta be in league with Turks,
    And buy it basely, too, for sums of gold? (2.2.28-9)

    Sounds good, but Bosco is actually mocking a fundamental truth of this play: you can absolutely buy peace (or war, for that matter) with money. Bosco himself isn't offering to help out Malta because it would be honorable to defend a fellow Christian community; he wants a strategic place to sell his slaves.

  • Religion

    I count religion but a childish toy
    And hold there is no sin but ignorance (Prologue 14-15)

    Jews, Christians, Muslims—it's all the same when you're Machiavelli; religion is just a tool one uses to manipulate other people. So who agrees with Machiavelli in the play? While Barabas is touted as the main Machiavellian of the play, Ferneze is the one who really trots out religion to do his dirty work for him.

    You'll make 'em friends? Are there not Jews enough in Malta,
    But thou must dote upon a Christian? (2.3.358-59)

    Why can't you just find a nice Jewish boy? (Preferably a doctor.) In addition to demonstrating that parents haven't changed much in 500 years, Barabas is hinting at the dark future: he's already made it clear that Abigail will marry a Christian over his dead body (actually, over Mathias's dead body); just think of how he'll take the news when she becomes a nun.

    A fair young maid scarce fourteen years of age,
    The sweetest flower in Cytherea's field,
    Cropped from the pleasures of the fruitful earth
    And strangely metamorphosed nun. (1.3.13-16)

    Mathias is eyeing Abigail, who's pretending to be a nun to get back into her old house. Keep those words "strangely metamorphosed" in mind as you read on—unlike Barabas, who straight-up refuses to convert, Abigail's religious commitments are considerably more fluid. (Until they're not.)

    It's no sin to deceive a Christian,
    For they themselves hold it a principle,
    Faith is not to be held with heretics;
    But all are heretics that are not Jews. (2.3.309-12)

    Check out the way Barabas bases his Jewish practices upon Christian ones—he's adopting this Christian principle of not holding "faith" with non-Christians and then conveniently switching out their values for his.

    Will Knights of Malta be in league with Turks,
    And buy it basely, too, for sums of gold? (2.2.28-9)

    Bosco and Ferneze are making a bargain: Bosco and his Spanish navy will back up the Maltese against the Turks. Why? Because Christians should stick together. Except not really. The real reason is that Bosco thinks Malta is a good investment, so he's actually buying his own "league" for "sums of gold."

    Then were my thoughts so frail and unconfirmed,
    And I was chained to follies of the world;
    But now experience purchased with grief,
    Has made me see the difference of things.
    My sinful soul, alas, hath paced too long
    The fatal labyrinth of misbelief,
    Far from the Son that gives eternal life (3.3.59-65)

    Abigail take the leap to truly convert and become a nun. She has decided the leave the messy "follies of the world" and escape society. What we want to ask is: do you think that the "fatal labyrinth of misbelief" is Judaism, or the tangled web of treachery that her father is stretching across Malta?

    Ithamore: Fie upon 'em, master. Will you turn Christian when holy
    friars turn devils and murder one another?
    Barabas: No, for this example I'll remain a Jew.
    Heaven bless me! What, a friar a murderer?
    When shall you see a Jew commit the like? (4.1.188-92)

    Man, friars do get the fuzzy end of the lollipop in this play. Barabas has just tricked Jacomo into thinking that he's murdered his fellow friar Bernadine, saying that Christianity clearly isn't the way to go if friars kill each other. And, sure, Jacomo hasn't actually murdered Bernadine, but there are plenty of other reasons you make label him a "devil." For one, he thinks he actually is a murderer, and does his best to get away with it.

    Make account of me
    As of thy fellow. We are villains both;
    Both circumcised, we hate Christians both. (2.3.213-15)

    It's too bad (NOT) that Barabas isn't negotiating peace in the middle east, because it sounds like he has it all worked out: Jews and Muslins should get along, because they're both circumcised, evil, and Christian-hating. Talk about brotherly love.

    Use him as if he were a Philistine:
    Dissemble, swear, protest, vow to love him,
    He is not of the seed of Abraham. (2.3.228-30)

    Another example of how good behavior is only owed to people within your own community. It's okay to lie to Lodowick, Barabas tells Abigail, because he's a non-Jew (not a son of Abraham). He tells Abigail to act like the Philistine Delilah, who pretends to love the Israelite Samson and later betrays him to his death.

    What, Abigail become a nun again?
    False and unkind!
    …'Tis time that it be seen into,
    For she that varies from me in belief
    Gives great presumption that she loves me not
    Or, loving, doth dislike of something done. (4.1.1-12)

    When Barabas reads that Abigail's has become a nun, he takes it as a personal betrayal. During this time period, "unkind" would mean both "not nice" and "not the same kind." Barabas really does believe that the Christians are categorically different creatures than Jews. The fact that Abigail wants to join them indicates that she is of their "kind," and not his.

  • Hypocrisy

    Rather had I, a Jew, be hated thus
    Than pitied in a Christian poverty;
    For I can se no fruits in all their faith
    But malice, falsehood, and excessive pride,
    Which methinks fits not their profession (1.1.113-17)

    Why on earth would anybody want to be a Christian? If you ask Barabas, all they do is talk about how righteous they are and then turn around and do the opposite. And they don't make good money. Definition of the fuzzy end of the lollipop.

    Honour is bought with blood and not with gold (2.2.56)

    Think about the context here: Bosco is offering to fight off the Turks so that he can sell his Turkish slaves on Malta, and Ferneze breaks his promise to the Turks. Now that he's got some back-up, he can get them killed and then make money off of the Turkish slave trade. See any honor there? We sure don't.

    Excess of wealth is cause of covetousness,
    And covetousness, oh, 'tis a monstrous sin. (1.2.122-23)

    Ferneze is preaching that, on top of all of his other totally legit reasons for confiscating Barabas's wealth, he's doing Barabas a favor by saving him from the sin of covetousness. This is pretty rich coming from a guy who's blatantly stealing from a disenfranchised minority group to save his own bacon.

    Barabas: Entreat the Abbess to be entertained.
    Abigail: How, as a nun?
    Barabas: Ay, daughter, for religion
    Hides many mischiefs from suspicion. (1.2.276-79)

    Barabas is fighting fire with fire here: if Ferneze can steal from the Jews by using the talisman of religiosity, so can Abigail. While it makes perfect sense that you'd pretend to be a nun in order to sneak into a nunnery, Barabas remarks more broadly that people expect you're doing good if you act under the mantle of religion.

    It's no sin to deceive a Christian,
    For they themselves hold it a principle,
    Faith is not to be held with heretics;
    But all are heretics that are not Jews. (2.3.309-12)

    It was a pretty common view among both Christians and Jews that promises made to people of other religions weren't actually binding—those considered heretics were 'faithless', and so you weren't obligated to "keep faith" by sticking to the promises you made them. That…sounds like a recipe for disaster.

    \BARABAS: Are strangers with your tribute to be taxed?

    KNIGHT 2: Have strangers leave with us to get their wealth?
    Then let them with us contribute (1.2.59-61)

    Well, no one's really right here. Barabas acts as though he owes Malta nothing, even though, as the Knight points out, his success has depended upon being allowed to live and work on Malta. The Knight, for his part, acts like the Jews are just being taxed like any normal citizen, when really they're being singled out.

    Will you then steal my goods?
    Is theft the ground of your religion? (1.2.94-5)

    Here we are again with Barabas's idea that Christians basically talk all day about how good they are and then turn around and do the exact opposite. To Barabas, Christians are inherently predatory. Like sharks. Or housecats.

    What? Bring you Scripture to confirm your wrongs?
    Preach me not out of my possessions.
    Some Jews are wicked, as all Christians are.
    But say the tribe that I descended of
    Were all in general cast away for sin,
    Shall I be tried for their transgression? (1.2.110-15)

    Barabas points out that, even though Ferneze's using the bad rep the Jews get from the Bible to justify his actions, he's really just stealing. Hello, hypocrisy. Even though Barabas claims, reasonably, that he shouldn't be punished for what the Jews did thousands of years ago, he loves pointing the finger at Christians for their own ancient indiscretions.

    A counterfeit profession is better
    Than unseen hypocrisy (1.2.289-90)

    According to Barabas, it's okay for Abigail to pretend to be a Christian and know she's pretending than to truly convert to Christianity while acting, blindly, in an un-Christian way. While Ferneze is probably Barabas's star example of a hypocrite, do you think he's unaware of his own hypocrisy? Further, do you think that this statement is affirmed or undercut by the way the play ends?

    ITHAMORE: Fie upon 'em, master.Will you turn Christian when holy
    friars turn devils and murder one another?

    BARABAS: No, for this example I'll remain a Jew.
    Heaven bless me! What, a friar a murderer?
    When shall you see a Jew commit the like? (4.1.188-92)

    So, Jacomo hasn't actually murdered Bernadine, but both friars have acted in such a way that it's been confirmed that they are "devils." They've shown they care more about money than about justice, and Jacomo, who actually thinks he has killed Bernadine, tries to run away. Not very Christian, Bernie.

  • Justice and Judgment

    BARABAS:...And therefore ne'er distinguish of the wrong.

    FERNEZE: Content thee, Barabas, thou hast nought but right

    BARABAS: Your extreme right does me exceeding wrong. (1.2.150-52)

    While Ferneze insists that he's doing justice—both in a religious and political sense—when he confiscates the Jews' property, Barabas isn't buying it. He points out that justice isn't an absolute value, and that what's "right" relative to Ferneze's beliefs and values is "wrong" relative to Barabas's.

    BARABAS: For what? You men of Malta, hear me speak.
    She is a courtesan, and he a thief,
    And he my bondman. Let me have law,
    For none of this can prejudice my life.

    FERNEZE: Once more, away with him.You shall have law. (5.1.36-40)

    How the tables have turned. Now that he finds himself in a tight spot, Barabas is suddenly all about following the law. At the moment, it's the only thing standing between him and Ferneze's wrath over the murder of his son Lodowick.

    JACOMO: Good Barabas, let me go

    BARABAS: No, pardon me, the law must have his course. (4.1.179-80)

    Marlowe's really laying on the irony here—Barabas, who's been on the wrong side of the law for basically the whole play, joys in the moment where he gets to use the law to crush his enemy Jacomo. Jacomo is in fact innocent of murdering Bernadine, but is executed anyway. So much for the course of law, huh?

    JACOMO: Villains, I am a sacred person, touch me not.

    BARABAS: The law shall touch you; but we'll lead you, we. (4.1.196-7)

    Jacomo might as well be saying, "Do you even know who my father is?" (Where his father is, uh, the Church.) He's convinced that he's above the law because he's a friar, but Barabas knows better. Maybe there is justice in Malta.

    The gold, or know, Jew, it is in my power to hang thee. (4.3.39-40)

    We love blackmail. Pilia-Borza, of course, isn't going to do the hanging himself; he's counting on his ability to tattle on Barabas to the Maltese courts. So, here's the thing: sure, Barabas is guilty and should be punished. But Pilia-Borza isn't doing this out of justice; he's just using the law as a tool for his own purposes.

    BOSCO: This sudden death of his is very strange.

    FERNEZE: Wonder not at it, sir. The heavens are just.
    Their deaths were like their lives; then think not of 'em. (5.1.54-6)

    Bellamira, Ithamore, Pilia-Borza and Barabas have just been thrown into prison to await "justice," which is presumably an actual trial.(Although, given what we know about how Malta works, it might just be a roll of the dice.) When they all mysteriously die, Ferneze calls it "heaven's justice." Wonder what he'd say if he knew it was really Barabas's justice?

    So, march away, and let due praise be given
    Neither to fate nor fortune, but to heaven. (5.5.123-24)

    Yeah, we're not sure that heaven's justice had much to do with Ferneze's victory. To check out the longer discussion of this quote, drop by the What's Up With The Ending? section.

    Should I in pity of thy plaints or thee,
    Accursèd Barabas, base Jew, relent?
    No, thus I'll see thy treachery repaid
    But wish thou hadst behaved thee otherwise (5.5. 72-75)

    Cue the maniacal laughter: Ferneze has Barabas right where he wants him. And check out that, even though he himself has just betrayed Barabas, Ferneze's acts don't count as "treachery" to him. Why not?

    CALYMATH: Oh monstrous treason!

    FERNEZE: A Jew's courtesy.
    For he that did by treason work our fall
    By treason hath delivered thee to us. (5.5.108-10)

    Calymath is that Ferneze and Barabas have destroyed his army, so Ferneze obviously shifts all of the blame onto the Jew. That's easy to do in a society where treason and Judaism go hand-in-hand.

  • Perseverance

    Good Barabas, be patient. (1.2.198)

    Okay, so, maybe not the longest quote, but it still says something important. The other Jews are trying to get Barabas to be "patient," which doesn't mean "hold your horses and wait till it gets better," but rather that Barabas should ride it out suffer for as long as God intends, as did the Biblical Job. But suffering? Not exactly Barabas's style.

    See the simplicity of these base slaves,
    Who, for the villains have no wit themselves,
    Think me to be a senseless lump of clay
    That will with every water wash to dirt! (1.2.216-19)

    Barabas is not on board with all this "be patient" stuff the other Jews are advising—they're basically telling him to lie down and take whatever abuse the Christians mete out. To them, that may symbolize strength and conviction, but to Barabas it's equivalent to being a wimp. Er, a "senseless lump of clay."

    What, will you thus oppose me, luckless stars,
    To make me desperate in my poverty,
    And, knowing me impatient in distress,
    Think me so mad as I will hang myself,
    That I may vanish o'er the earth in air
    And leave no memory that e'er I was?
    No! I will live, nor loathe I this my life.
    And since you leave me in the ocean thus
    To sink or swim, and put me to my shifts,
    I'll rouse my senses an awake myself. (1.2.260-69)

    Activate, Super-Human-Drive-To-Thrive! Not only is Barabas not going to give up, he's also not going to sit around feeling depressed. One of the things that really characterizes Barabas is the gusto and vigor with which he plans and executes his plots. At the moment that he imagines that the cosmos themselves are lined up against him, Barabas, instead of sulking, is waking up.

    In spite of these swine-eating Christians
    (Unchosen nation, never circumcised;
    Such as, poor villains, were ne'er thought upon
    Till Titus and Vespasian conquered us)
    Am I become as wealthy as I was.
    They hoped my daughter would ha' been a nun,
    But she's at home, and I have bought a house
    As great and fair as is the Governor's.
    And there in spite of Malta will I dwell… (2.3.7-15)

    Translation: I beat you jerks once, and I can do it again. Think about the escalation of terms, here: first, Barabas pitted against Christians in general, then against Ferneze in particular, and finally against the entirety of Malta. Wow—talk about making enemies.

    Oh, sir, your father had my diamonds,
    Yet I have one left that will serve your turn.
    [Aside] I mean my daughter—but ere he shall have her
    I'll sacrifice her on a pile of wood. (2.3.50-53)

    Barabas is pretending to offer to hook Lodowick up with his daughter Abigail, but in reality he'd rather kill her than see her marry a Christian. (He even makes a nice little allusion to the way that the Jewish Abraham sacrificed his son Isaac.)But what's the relationship between Abigail's religious identity and Barabas's own religious and cultural insistence on Judaism?

    Abigail, I will. But see thou change no more,
    For that will be most heavy to thy soul. (3.3.70-71)

    Abigail changes her views based on the changing information and circumstances that present themselves to her. This is the opposite of perseverance, but, except for the fact that she ends up dead, it seems pretty reasonable. Discover that your father's evil? Leave him. Figure out that the world's a pretty nasty place? Become a nun. Here, Friar Bernadine just wants her to make up her mind, but his statement is up for debate.

    ITHAMORE: Do you not sorrow for your daughter's death?

    BARABAS: No, but I grieve that she lived so long an Hebrew born,
    and would become a Christian. Catso diabola! (4.1.16-18)

    Well, duh, it's a personal betrayal. But Barabas is particularly disgusted by Abigail's conversion because he can't conceive of ever doing it himself: think of how he reacted when Ferneze asked him to convert earlier on. Genuine conversion is pretty much the opposite of everything that Barabas stands for.

    For, so I live, perish may all the world. (5.2.10)

    Questions about Barabas's character? Look no further than this over-the-top, crystal-clear desire to survive without any regard for anybody else. But does this really sound right? If Barabas's real goal is simply to live, then why not just follow the advice of his fellow Jews in Act 1 and lie low? Isn't it weird that Barabas seems to go out of his way to imperil his life?

    CALYMATH: Ferneze, speak, had it not been much better
    To keep thy promise than be thus surprised?

    FERNEZE: What should I say? We are captives and must yield. (5.2.4-6)

    Now that Ferneze's plan to fight back has failed, has to yield, too. Unlike Barabas, he doesn't have that maniacal "Me, yield? Never!" attitude; rather, he sees giving in (for the moment, anyway) to be the only reasonable solution. And guess who's alive at the end of the play.

    Then, Barabas, breathe forth thy latest fate
    And, in the fury of thy torments, strive
    To end thy life with resolution.
    […]
    Die life, fly soul; tongue, curse thy fill and die. (5.578-89)

    You have to hand it to him: Barabas doesn't go out with a whimper. Even when he's actually dying, he doesn't repent. In fact, it almost sounds like he's ordering his own destruction. His last words are to command the flight of his soul, the final curses of his tongue. This is almost as good as Voltaire's final words.

  • Revenge

    Pray leave me in my patience. You that
    Were ne'er possessed of wealth are pleased with want.
    But give him liberty at least to mourn
    That in a field amidst his enemies
    Doth see his soldiers slain, himself disarmed,
    And knows no means of his recovery.
    Ay, let me sorrow for this sudden chance.
    'Tis in the trouble of my spirit I speak;
    Great injuries are not so soon forgot. (1.2.199-207)

    Barabas is accusing the other Jews of being wusses because they don't take revenge on Ferneze. That said, he also makes the point that they don't have as much reason to seek vengeance as he does because they didn't lose as much as he did. This is kind of interesting, because it makes vengeance seems like a math problem. It's not just a case of "you hurt me, now I'm going to hurt you," it's "you hurt me this much, and I'm thus especially sensitive to the need for vengeance."

    I am not of the tribe of Levi, I,
    That can so soon forget an injury. (2.3.18-19)

    Okay, a little tricky, but what Barabas seems to be saying here is that the desire for vengeance is a key element of Jewish identity. (Hint: tribe of Levi = Jews.)

    Here comes Don Lodowick the Governor's son,
    One that I love for his good father's sake. (2.3.30-31)

    It must be opposite day on Malta, because Barabas doesn't actually love Lodowick. In fact, he plans to kill Lodowick to get revenge on Ferneze. And isn't the only time you see children used against their parents. Think about the way that Ferneze uses Calymath as a bargaining chip at the end of the play to negotiate for Malta's restoration with Calymath's father, the Turkish Sultan. Is that different from what Barabas is doing here with Lodowick?

    FERNEZE: Oh, Lodowick! Hadst thou perished by the Turk,
    Wretched Ferneze might have venged thy death.

    KATHERINE: Thy son slew mine, and I'll revenge his death.

    KATHERINE: Hold. Let's inquire the causers of their deaths,
    That we may venge their blood upon their heads. (3.2. 13-15, 28-9).

    At this point Ferneze doesn't know that Barabas set up the duel that killed his son, and so, unlike the audience, he has no idea that he's embroiled in a revenge cycle that he himself triggered by taking away Barabas's wealth. (It's okay, though; he's totally going to win.)

    Admit thou lov'dst not Lodowick for his sin,
    Yet Don Mathias ne'er offended thee.
    But thou wert set upon extreme revenge
    Because the Prior disposed thee once,
    And couldst not venge it but upon his son,
    Nor on his son but by Mathias's means,
    Nor on Mathias but by murdering me. (3.3.40-46)

    Abigail reasons that Mathias's death is the result of Barabas's "extreme revenge." Buuut, this is kind of questionable. Barabas probably could have killed Lodowick in a million different ways that didn't involve Mathias, and we're not totally with her when she attributes Mathias's death simply to the "extremity" of Barabas's revenge. What do you think?

    Oh, unhappy day!
    False, credulous, inconstant Abigail!
    But let 'em go. And, Ithamore, from hence
    Ne'er shall she grieve me more with her disgrace,
    Ne'er shall she live to inherit aught of mine,
    Be blest of me, nor come within my gates
    But perish underneath my bitter curse
    Like Cain by Adam for his brother's death. (3.4.26-33)

    Barabas takes Abigail's conversion as a personal betrayal, and ends up killing her for it.But it sounds like Barabas needs to read up on his GenesisGod punishes Cain for killing his brother, not Adam.

    ITHAMORE: I am gone.
    Pay me my wages, for my work is done.

    Exit Ithamore

    BARABAS: I'll pay thee with a vengeance, Ithamore. (3.4.114-16)

    Here's a weird one, Shmoopers—why on earth would Barabas ever want to seek revenge against Ithamore? Not only has Ithamore done nothing wrong to Barabas (uh…yet, anyway), Ithamore's actually on his side. You might want to think about this quote alongside the famous "so I live, perish may all the world" (5.2.10) quote. What does these lines say about Barabas's sense of vengeance?

    I'll be revenged on this accursèd town,
    For by my means Calymath shall enter in.
    I'll help to slay their children and their wives,
    To fire the churches, pull their houses down
    Take my goods, too, and seize upon my lands.
    I hope to see the Governor a slave
    And, rowing in a galley, whipped to death. (5.1.62-8)

    Well, this is interesting. Barabas is no longer seeking vengeance against a people or group of people, but rather the civic entity of Malta; the town itself. Why does he want to take down the city? Wouldn't that put an end to his sweet trading deals?

    Oh, villain, heaven will be revenged on thee. (5.2.26)

    Malta's been betrayed to the Turks and all the Christians are enslaved, so yeah, Ferneze's plenty unhappy. His response to the situation, though, isn't "I hate you and I'm going to get you back," it's more along the lines of "this isn't the way things should be, so heaven (the ordering principle of the universe) will punish you." Of course, it turns out that he does get revenge. (If you want something done right …)

    …Barabas, since things are in thy power,
    I see no reason but of Malta's wrack,
    Nor hope of thee but extreme cruelty,
    Nor fear I death, nor will I flatter thee. (5.2.58-61)

    With Barabas in control of Malta, Ferneze figures that Barabas is coming for him. But no. Instead, his next move is to make a deal with Ferneze. What does that say about Barabas's motivations?

  • Politics

    What right had Caesar to the Empire?
    Might first made kings, and laws were then most sure
    When like the Draco's they were writ in blood. (Prologue 19-21)

    Calling Draco Malfoy. No, but really: Machiavel is pointing out, accurately, that Caesar had no legal or moral right to rule Rome—he did it by force. Force and terror. And laws and order in general are "most sure" not necessarily when they're the most just, but when their correlating punishments are as harsh as Draco's. (The ruthless Athenian law-giver, not the Harry Potter guy.)

    I must confess we come not to be kings.
    That's not our fault: alas, our number's few,
    And crowns come either by succession
    Or urged by force; and nothing violent,
    Oft have I heard tell, can be permanent.
    Give us a peaceful rule, make Christians kings,
    That thirst so much for principality. (1.1.126-32)

    Jews may not get the big political titles, Barabas says, but who cares? The Christians can be kings all they want. It's better to just lie low, do your thing, make a good living, and let the Christians war amongst themselves for kingship.

    And 'tis more kingly to obtain by peace
    Than to enforce conditions by constraint (1.2.25-6)

    Here, Calymath telling himself why he should give Ferneze an extra month to come up with the money for the tribute. When Calymath says that it's more "kingly" to show leniency, what do you think he means? Do you think he's proven right?

    Ay, policy? That's their profession,
    And not simplicity, as they suggest. (1.2.159-60)

    Barabas is super offended that Ferneze even thinks he's buying the whole "we're fulfilling our duty to God by taking your stuff" spiel. He knows Ferneze's got a political angle, and that his business is in politics, not the "simplicity" of religious principle.

    Everyone's price is written on his back,
    And so much must they yield or not be sold. (2.3. 3-4)

    And here we are in the slave market again, where everybody is assigned a particular value, which determines how much have to "yield." So, is politics just like a big old slave market?

    Thus hast thou gotten, by thy policy,
    No simple grace, no small authority;
    I now am Governor of Malta. True,
    But Malta hates me, and in hating me
    My life's in danger, and what boots it thee,
    Poor Barabas, to be the governor
    Whenas thy life shall be at their command?
    No, Barabas, this must be looked into.
    And since by wrong thou got'st authority,
    Maintain it bravely by firm policy;
    At least unprofitably lose it not.
    For he that liveth in authority,
    And neither gets him friends nor fills his bags,
    Lives like the ass that Aesop speaketh of… (5.2.38-40)

    What good is a badge that says "Governor" if everyone hates Barabas? Until now, his power has come from his ingenuity and cunning. But political power is different: it depends totally on other people. Too bad for Barabas.

    BARABAS: Now tell me, Governor, and plainly too,
    What think'st thou shall become of it and thee?

    FERNEZE: This: Barabas, since things are in thy power,
    I see no reason but of Malta's wrack,
    Nor hope of thee but extreme cruelty,
    Nor fear I death, nor will I flatter thee. (5.2.56-61)

    Ferneze just doesn't get Barabas. In Ferneze's mind, his enemies (Barabas and the Turks) are gunning for his power. But that's not true.Barabas isn't just after power—his bargain to destroy the Turks could actually the only group of people who grant him political power.If he were just playing politics, it probably would've been a safer bet to just cooperate with the Turks.

    Ferneze: Do but bring this to pass which thou pretendest,
    […] And by my letters privately procure
    great sums of money for thy recompense.
    Nay, more: do this, and live thou governor still.
    Barabas: Nay, do thou this, Ferneze, and be free.
    Governor, I enlarge thee. (5.2.85-92)

    Bottom line: do you believe either of these guys? Do you think that Ferneze, if the Turks were taken out of the equation and it was once again A Whole Lotta Christians v. Barabas, would allow Barabas to remain Governor? It just doesn't seem likely.

    And he from whom my most advantage comes
    Shall be my friend.
    This is the life we Jews are used to lead,
    And reason too, for Christians do the like. (5.2. 114-17)

    You'd think that with all of the obvious haterade between the Christians and the Jews, Ferneze and Barabas would refuse to work together. But apparently, political advantage trumps religious principle and personal sentiment. Barabas is willing to play nice with Ferneze to secure his future, and Ferneze, who has both consistently injured and hated Barabas (who had his son murdered), is on board.

    Yet would I gladly visit Barabas,
    For well has Barabas deserved of us. (5.3. 24-5)

    Big mistake, Calymath: our Turkish commander looks positively naïve when he accepts Barabas's dinner invitation. Calymath, for all the might of the Turkish Empire, is unfit for the world of Maltese politics because he's the sort of guy who sticks by his word and cares about what people "deserve." Needless to say, he doesn't last too long.