Study Guide

The Jew of Malta

The Jew of Malta Summary

So here we are on Malta, an island in the middle of the Mediterranean. But this is pre-yacht days; instead of a relaxing vacation spot, Malta is an international hub of cultures, trade and politics.

Meet Barabas. Barabas is both the wealthiest merchant around and a member of Malta's "alien" Jewish community. What does that mean? He can live and conduct business on Malta, but he's not exactly a citizen.Barabas has two priorities: money, and his only daughter, Abigail. Between these two, he's done pretty well for himself, even managing to live peacefully with Malta's Christian government, led by Governor Ferneze and the Knights of Malta.

One problem: Malta is in a tricky political situation. Even though it's home to a majority Western, Christian population, it lives under shadow of the Turks (read: Ottoman Empire). To stay safe, Malta pays a monetary tribute to the Turks. In exchange for this protection money, the Turks protect them. From themselves. But they haven't paid the money in the decade, and Calymath, the son of the Turkish Sultan, is getting impatient.

What's a Governor to do? Why, go exploit the wealthiest sort-of-citizens of his population, of course!

Barabas and his fellow Jews are rounded up and brought before the Senate house, where they are given a choice. They must either:

  • give up half of their wealth and property on the spot
  • convert to Christianity
  • if they neither convert nor fork over half their estate, they lose all their estate

Barabas refuses, obviously, so Ferneze immediately confiscates all of his property and turns his house into a nunnery—complete with a hidden stash of gold that Barabas hasn't 'fessed up to. But Barabas has a plan: Abigail will pretend that she wants to convert to Christianity and join the nunnery. Oh, and meanwhile? Ferneze is striking a deal with the Spanish navy to fight the Turks.

Are you following all this? Well, buckle up, because it's about to get really confusing.

With his recovered gold, Barabas buys a slave, Ithamore. At the market where he's buying Ithamore, he talks to two guys: Lodowick and Mathias. Both these guys are really into his daughter Abigail, and Barabas separately promises to hook each of them up with Abigail. What about Abigail? She actually digs Mathias, but Barabas doesn't care. He actually wants the two guys to kill each other. And they do, when they fight a duel because they both think they're engaged to Abigail.

Body count: two.

Abigail thinks this is not too cool, and she decides to become a nun for real. Barabas is Not Happy, and he and his new partner-in-really-horrifying-albeit-creative-crimes, Ithamore, arrange to poison the entire nunnery. In her death throes, Abigail clues the friar Bernadine in to what Barabas has been doing, and he, along with fellow friar Jacomo, go to confront Barabas.

But Barabas has a plan. (Again.) He pretends to convert to Christianity and the two friars actually get into a bidding war over who gets to accept Barabas (and his money) into his respective monastery. Big mistake. Barabas kills Bernadine and then successfully frames Jacomo for it—and then the government executes Jacomo for murder.

Body count: four.

Meet some new character. Bellamira (local prostitute) and Pilia-Borza (her pimp) are plotting to get at Barabas's wealth. So, Bellamira seduces Barabas's loyal (and evil) servant Ithamore. Then, she and Pilia-Borza convince him to start blackmailing Barabas for money.

But Barabas has this sitch under control, too. He comes to Bellamira's house dressed as a fiddling clown, and convinces her to take his flowers. Which are poisoned. They don't take effect immediately, but we think the body count is about to get higher.

Ferneze is prepping Malta's fortifications for the oncoming Turkish siege, when Bellamira and Pilia-Borzacome to him and accuse Barabas of all the murders. Ithamore throws in his own testimony. Ferneze throws everyone in prison just to be safe, but surprise! All of them die. Guess the poisoned flowers really did work.

Except for Barabas, of course. Barabas has taken one of those nifty I'm-Not-Dead-I-Just-Look-Dead potions, so he's still very much alive when Ferneze has his body tossed over the walls.

Calymath, the Turkish leader, is ambling about the outer walls of Malta, trying to figure out how to best invade the city when he comes across Barabas, now wide awake and rarin' for some payback. They strike a deal: Barabas will help the Turks invade Malta, and Calymath will make Barabas governor.

And guess what? The plan works. Pretty soon, the Turks are in control of Malta, Ferneze and his buddies are in chains, and Barabas is declared governor.

But Barabas still isn't finished. He secretly makes a deal with Ferneze to kill all of the Turks in Malta in return for a huge sum of money, which Ferneze raises from the other Maltese citizens. Unfortunately for Barabas, this plan doesn't go so well. It almost works, until Ferneze betrays him at the last minute.

In the resulting chain of events, the Turkish army is destroyed (exploded, actually); Barabas is killed in the trap he devised for Calymath; and Calymath emerges as the Last Turk Standing. And by Standing, we mean Utterly At Ferneze's Mercy, because, hello, no more army.Ferneze, once again large and in charge, declares his intention to ransom Calymath (his dad's the Sultan of Turkey) for the restoration of Malta.

  • Prologue

    • Enter Machiavel, the ghost of everyone's favorite ruthless political strategist, Niccolò Machiavelli.
    • He wants us to know that even his haters love him, because his brutal, pragmatic tactics ultimately lead to power.
    • Once he's bragged a bit about his methods, he reminds himself that he's here to tell us "the tragedy of a Jew."
    • He asks that we judge this man "as he deserves," and not pre-judge him because he favors Machiavel's methods.
  • Act 1, Scene 1

    • Meet the Jew. What a coincidence: he's named after the Biblical Barabbas.
    • Barabas is "in his countinghouse, with heaps of gold before him," because apparently Marlowe never met an anti-Semitic stereotype he didn't like.
    • Barabas cozies up with his impressive stash of gold, silver and jewels, chuckling about the power it gives him.
    • A few merchants drop by to talk about his incoming ships of wares.
    • Barabas is clearly kind of a big deal in Malta—everyone knows his ships when they see them, and to get credit at the customhouse all you have to do is name-drop "Barabas the Jew."
    • Barabas, alone now, claims that his riches are the "blessings promised to the Jews."
    • He says that Maltese Christians are essentially jealous haters.
    • Jews may not get to be kings, he says, but whatevs. They get to be super-duper rich, which is a lot more stable and permanent than kingship.
    • (Oh, and by the way, he has a daughter.)
    • A bunch of Barabas's fellow Jews enter with the news that a fleet of Turkish warships is approaching Malta, looking to cause trouble.
    • Uh-oh.
    • Barabas tells them to chill out. Who cares if the Turks want to war with the Maltese Christians?
    • As long as they don't involve Barabas, his daughter, or his money, the Christian-Turkish beef isn't his problem.
    • We find out that there's a treaty between the largely Christian population of Malta and the scary Turks who control most of the surrounding area.
    • The other Jews tell Barabas that he still has to show up at the senate house (think City Hall) to watch the proceedings.
    • Secretly, Barabas knows something's up—the Maltese have been paying off the Turks for a long time in exchange for safety, and the Turks have continued upping the price.
    • Barabas figures the Christians can no longer afford the tribute and the Turks have come to take over Malta.
    • Again, though, why should Barabas care? He closes the scene uttering some Latin to the effect of "sorry man, no es my problemo."
  • Act 1, Scene 2

    • At the senate house, we have two main groups of people: Callapine, Calymath and their posse of Turks; and Ferneze (the Governor of Malta), along with other Maltese statesmen and the Knights of Malta.
    • Knights of what? These dudes were a Christian military order that, after being ousted from Rhodes, operated out of Malta.
    • See, the Ottoman Empire and Christian West (Spain, in particular) were embroiled in a huge turf war over Malta, and the Ottomans laid a famously bloody siege on Malta in 1565. The Knights eventually won, after reportedly having used the heads of Turkish captives as cannonballs. Talk about terminating with extreme prejudice.
    • So, Ferneze is in hot water here—not only has Malta not paid this year's tribute, it hasn't paid for ten years. No way no how can Ferneze rustle up that kind of cash by normal means.
    • This next bit reads a bit like a mobster flick: Ferneze promises he can get the money if the Turks give him a month, and after some back and forth, the Turks agree to leave for now, but there better be some serious dough on offer when they return.
    • Ferneze, relieved for moment, immediately calls the Jews to him, where he starts explaining the problem, and then asking for their "aide."
    • Barabas objects, obviously, pointing out that the Jews aren't even normal citizens of Malta, they're "strangers" (political aliens), and shouldn't be taxed to help Malta.
    • In turn, Knights of Malta point out that the Jews were citizen enough to be making huge amounts of money in Malta, and it's therefore their duty to contribute.
    • Things then get nasty, when Ferneze says that the Jews should contribute not because they live and work on Malta, but because they're Jews "Who stand accursèd in the sight of heaven."
    • And here's the big solution: every Jew must either give up half his estate ("estate" being all of his money and property) or convert to Christianity.If he refuses both, hey! He has to give up his entire estate.
    • The three other Jews present, duly freaked, immediately agree to give up half.
    • But Barabas is used to running the rodeo, so he basically snickers in response.
    • Unfortunately, Ferneze has one thing Barabas doesn't: an army. So he snickers back and says that all of Barabas's money and property has just become Maltese property.
    • Oh, but he's generously going to allow Barabas to continue living in Malta. As opposed to shipping him off to That Country For Really Upset Poor People, one assumes.
    • Ferneze again justifies his unfair bargaining tactics by referring to the Jews'"inherent sin."Low, low blow."
    • Barabas is all, "and the crucifixion of Christ is my fault how, exactly?" Ferneze sidesteps the question and tells him that, if he's truly a righteous man, things will work out.
    • Halftime note: during this entire (very long, very busy) scene, check out how many times the words "policy" and "profession" are used. We're thinking this will turn out to be important.
    • Not content with simply taking his stuff, Ferneze orders Barabas's house to be turned into a nunnery.
    • Barabas indulges in some (in our opinion) totally justified wailing here about how Ferneze has taken everything from him, how can he survive, why don't you just kill me while you're at it, etc.
    • Ferneze and his knights faff off to collect Barabas's wealth, and all of Barabas's fellow Jews try to console him, reminding him of the trials of Job.
    • Barabas remains by the fact that Tomorrow Is Another Day. (This is one of the many ways in which Barabas differs from Scarlett O'Hara.)
    • Fun fact: when reading about how everybody around Barabas is telling him to be "patient," keep in mind that in Renaissance times this word would have still clung to its original Latin root, "patior," which means "I suffer." So "be patient" meant something more like, "Sit down and suffer in silence." And our boy Barabas is not into suffering.
    • The other Jews depart and Abigail enters, understandably worked up about what's gone down between her father and the Maltese.
    • Not to worry. Barabas wasn't dumb enough to not have a secret stash of gold hidden in the house.
    • There's a hitch, though: the house is already being converted into a nunnery and Barabas can't go inside, because he's a man. (It would seems that the Maltese bureaucracy works a lot faster than our present-day ones.)
    • Hold up, though! Abigail's a girl, right? So why doesn't she just show up at her old house claiming to want to become a nun, find the treasure and then sneak it out to her dad?
    • Sounds like someone's been watching Sister Act.
    • Becoming a nun is apparently no big deal in Malta, since Abigail just trots up to the Abbess and Friars explaining that she really, really wants to be a nun.
    • Within a few lines they decide, yeah, sure, the daughter of the most famous Jew in town wants to be a nun now? Seems legit. Come on in!
    • Barabas helps out: he appears on the scene and throws a fake hissy fit about Abigail converting to make sure everyone's convinced, and then whispers to Abigail where he's hidden the treasure in the house.
    • As everyone leaves, Mathias enters, having seen Abigail promising to become a nun.
    • His friend Lodowick, Ferneze's son, approaches and asks him why he's in a bad mood.
    • Mathias is sad because he thinks that Abigail is way, way too hot be a nun.
    • We also find out that Abigail is 14—because it wouldn't be Renaissance drama if all the girls weren't creepily underage.
    • They decide to go see Abigail.
  • Act 2, Scene 1

    • Barabas lurks outside a window of his house-turned-nunnery at night, being not at all creepy, and waiting for Abigail to toss down the riches he'd hidden inside.
    • She finds the gold and throws it down to her father.
    • Barabas is super happy about this, and cuddles his moneybags lovingly while babbling about "my girl, my gold, my fortune." Because that's a totally normal thing for a father to do.
    • Shakespeare time! Take a look at Act 2, Scene 8, lines 15-22 in The Merchant of Venice to see how this daughter-money confusion plays out there.
  • Act 2, Scene 2

    • Bosco, the Vice Admiral of Spain (meaning he's a Big Deal in the Spanish navy) has just arrived on his ship, the Flying Dragon, which sounds pretty fierce as far as ships go. (But not as boss as this one.)
    • Bosco's meeting with Ferneze and the Knights of Malta because he wants to sell the Greek, Turkish, and African slaves he's captured. At least he's not discriminating?
    • Problem is, Ferneze explains, the Turks only just agreed to not invade Malta and are probably really not cool with the idea of the Maltese selling Turkish slaves.
    • Bosco doesn't get it—the Maltese are Christians, right? So why are they in cahoots with the Muslim Turks?
    • Ferneze explains the treaty Malta's made with the Turks, and the money he's raised to pay them off.
    • Bosco tells him to keep the money. Spain will fight off the Turks if Malta becomes part of Spain and lets the Spanish sell slaves there.
    • This sounds like a great deal to Ferneze, who likes the idea of killing the Turks a lot more than giving them money.
  • Act 2, Scene 3

    • Barabas wanders the slave market with that bag of gold burning a hole in his pocket. Or codpiece.
    • Even though the Maltese think he's penniless, he's actually just bought a house as big Ferneze's. So take that.
    • Here comes Lodowick. (Oh, by the way? Lodowick is totally Ferneze's son.)
    • Lodowick wants to get in touch with Abigail through him.
    • Barabas has his own plan: killing Lodowick for the dastardly crime of being Ferneze's son.
    • We have a pretty complicated back-and-forth here between Barabas and Lodowick. The two pretend to be talking about whether Barabas can procure a diamond for Lodowick, but of course they're really talking about whether Barabas can hook Lodowick up with Abigail.
    • Using their diamond-as-daughter code-speak, Barabas tells Lodowick to come to his house later, where he'll hand Abigail over to him.
    • Pay close attention to all the stage directions indicating what's being said aloud or in private—Barabas pretends he's going to give up Abigail, while he literally intends to give Abigail to Lodowick over Lodowick's dead body.
    • Barabas goes to look at the slaves, and picks one out because he's so skinny that Barabas figures he won't have to feed him much.
    • This is the kind of good business sense that presumably made Barabas so rich in the first place.
    • The slave is Ithamore, coming at you from Thrace and Arabia. FYI, Thracians were traditionally regarded as scary, barbaric dudes. Spartacus? Thracian.
    • Mathias approaches with his mom, Katharine.
    • She's got mom Spidey-sense, and she immediately knows that something's up when she sees Lodowick and Barabas talking.
    • Barabas denies everything, of course, and he and Mathias proceed to have another coded conversation wherein Barabas promises to help Mathias hook up with Abigail too (this time she's a book instead of a diamond).
    • Mathias buys his story and leaves.
    • Barabas turns to Ithamore to learn more about him, but first he lists his own extracurricular activities, which include such fun endeavors as poisoning wells, committing high treason, and driving people to suicide.
    • Where did he find the time for all this?
    • Hey, this is a Marlowe play. When it comes to evil, it's not about having the time; it's about making the time.
    • Anyway, if Barabas had put out a Craigslist ad for a murderous accomplice, he couldn't have gotten luckier: Ithamore hates Christians.
    • His resume includes burning their villages and spreading poisoned powder on the steps of Jerusalem, just so that all the kneeling pilgrims would be crippled.
    • Ten points for creativity, Ithy.
    • They've walked over to Barabas's old house by now. Barabas calls Abigail out and whispers to her that she has to pretend to be in love with Lodowick. In fact, he's hoping that she can convince Lodowick to propose to her.
    • This is a bad plan for Abigail because, surprise! She's in love with Mathias.
    • Well, so what? Barabas doesn't need her to actually love Lodowick, just pretend for a little while.
    • Abigail and Lodowick disappear inside, and Barabas lets us know that he's plotting Mathias's death as well.
    • Man, we'd hate to see his to-do list.
    • Mathias appears, hoping to see Abigail.
    • Barabas is all, man, you know I love you. I want you marry Abigail; Abigail wants you to marry Abigail; but this Lodowick guy has been hitting her up with letters and presents and stuff, so…
    • Mathias is understandably ticked off about hearing how his friend has been making the moves on his crush.
    • Lodowick and Abigail emerge from the house holding hands, which gets Mathias even more riled up.
    • Barabas has to hold Mathias back from trying to jump Lodowick on the spot and sends him off.
    • Lodowick approaches Barabas, wondering why Mathias had taken off in a huff.
    • Barabas explains that Mathias has got it bad for Abigail and has sworn to kill Lodowick.
    • Lodowick asks for Barabas's permission to marry Abigail, explaining that he's been in love with her for along time and doesn't care about Barabas's wealth (or the apparent lack of it).
    • Note: long time? He literally met her like three minutes ago.
    • Barabas pressures Abigail into agreeing to marry Lodowick, even though she's totally sobbing. He explains that it's tradition to cry after you get engaged. Yeah, totally!
    • Mathias pops back in just as Lodowick (now thinking himself engaged to Abigail and threatening to kill Mathias) leaves.
    • Are you still with us?
    • Barabas tells Mathias that Lodowick wants him dead, and then offers him Abigail, having now ensured that both these guys want to kill each other.
    • Mathias, now also thinking himself engaged to Abigail, flies off to intercept Lodowick.
    • Abigail is pretty distraught, and promises to make the two friends again and marry Mathias.
    • Barabas doesn't get why she can't just find a Nice Jewish Boy. (Try JDate?)
    • Ithamore and Barabas shut Abigail in the house, and Barabas orders Ithamore to bring a letter to Mathias.
    • Here's the truck: Barabas has written the letter, but they're making it look like Lodowick did.
  • Act 3, Scene 1

    • Enter Bellamira, the local prostitute.She's upset because ever since the Turks started threatening Malta, business has been slow.
    • People evidently don't feel too frisky when they're under threat of attack.
    • Her pimp, Pilia-Borza (which is a pimp-sounding name, no?) comes in and shows her a bag of silver, which he says he stole from Barabas's house.
    • Looks like Barabas is back in business, and they're going to figure out a way to get at his money.
    • They spot Ithamore and hide the silver.
    • Ithamore glimpses Bellamira, and is immediately stuck by her extreme hotness.
    • But he's admirably goal-oriented, so he continues on todeliver the faked letter and trick Lodowick and Mathias into killing each other.
  • Act 3, Scene 2

    • Mathias and Lodowick, who have by now both been tricked by Barabas and Ithamore into setting up a duel, meet in the street.
    • Barabas looks on from above, cheering for them both in turn.
    • Both guys fall dead.Renaissance-era literary duelists have a knack for managing to kill each other in perfect synchronization.
    • Barabas sneaks away, and Ferneze and Katharine rush out of one of the nearby buildings.
    • After going through the back-and-forth of Your Son Killed My Son! No, Your Son Killed My Son!, the two wonder how the two men, who had previously been really tight, became such terrible enemies.
    • They leave the scene with the bodies of their sons, agreeing to find out what turned Lodowick and Mathias against each other.
  • Act 3, Scene 3

    • Abigail comes upon Ithamore laughing gleefully over the success of his and Barabas's machinations against Lodowick and Mathias.
    • So, Abigail gets to hear about Lodowick and Mathias's deaths from Ithamore.
    • This is probably one of the worst ways ever to hear that your dad has plotted to kill your boyfriend.
    • Abigail, somehow, keeps her cool throughout this exchange, and asks Ithamore to rustle up some of the friars at the nunnery to come talk with her.
    • After delivering some dirty nun jokes, Ithamore complies and goes to the nunnery.
    • Abigail, alone, gets to think about what's happened, now having figured out how she worked into Barabas's plot against Lodowick and Mathias.
    • She gets that Barabas hated Lodowick because he's Ferneze's son, but what did Mathias ever do to him?
    • Basically, she concludes that everyone is awful.
    • Ithamore shows up with friar, Jacomo, and Abigail asks him to make her a nun.
    • Jacomo's confused, because didn't he already make her a nun? And didn't she not like it too much?
    • Turns out, there's nothing like the death of your boyfriend to turn you around on the whole Christian thing.
    • Jacomo agrees, but asks her to stop changing her mind on the whole Nun! Wait, Not a Nun! thing.
    • She's tempted to tell Jacomo that Barabas's various schemes are what's behind her changes in heart, but doesn't.
    • Big mistake, sister.
  • Act 3, Scene 4

    • Barabas is reading a letter from Abigail, and is pissed to find out that she's decided to become a nun For Real Now.
    • He figures out that she knows he arranged Lodowick and Mathias's deaths.
    • Barabas is so angry that he disowns Abigail on the spot, and takes up Ithamore as his heir.
    • Well, not quite. He tells Ithamore that he has one final thing for him to do, before he truly becomes Barabas's heir and thereby achieves the right to inherit all of his stuff.
    • He asks Ithamore to bring in a pot of porridge, and when he arrives with it Barabas explains that he's going to poison Abigail with it.
    • We hereby confiscate Barabas's Number One Dad coffee mug.
    • He tells Ithamore to sneak the poisoned porridge into the nunnery. Since Ithamore can't exactly hand deliver the porridge to Abigail, so they're going to have to poison the entire nunnery.
    • Ithamore runs off to the nunnery with the porridge, excited that he only has one final thing to do before he gets his big payoff.
    • Wrong! Barabas is actually already plotting against Ithamore. DUN DUN DUN.
  • Act 3, Scene 5

    • Ferneze, his Maltese posse, and Bosco (the Spanish navy guy who's going to save Malta's bacon) are having a powwow with Callapine and his Turkish posse.
    • Most awkward garden party ever.
    • Ferneze's time is out, and Callapine is looking for him to pay up on the deal they made in Act 1, Scene 2.
    • Ferneze doesn't beat around the bush. He tells Callapine that they'd rather set their city on fire than give the Turks money.
    • Don't worry, buddy, you won't have to—Callapine and his Turkish army are more than willing to do the heavy lifting on your Raze the Walls of Malta plan.
    • They both seem happy with this state of affairs, and bid each other goodbye.
    • Ferneze gets to work on locking down Malta against the imminent Turkish assault.
  • Act 3, Scene 6

    • Cut to the nunnery. BAM, all the nuns are dropping like flies.
    • Looks like Barabas's porridge has done its job.
    • Abigail, in her death throes, finds friar Bernadine.
    • She confesses everything that happened with Lodowick and Mathias: that Barabas engaged her to them both and then tricked them into killing each other.
    • She gives him a piece of paper which has all of Barabas's misdeeds written on it, but begs Bernadine to not tell anybody about it.
    • Because this is a religious confession, Bernadine is forbidden by church law to go to the authorities with the things Abigail's told him.
    • Abigail thanks him, asks that Bernadine convert Barabas (and thereby save his soul) and dies.
    • After mourning briefly that Abigail died a virgin (note: there are more dirty nun-friar jokes in this play that you can shake a stick at), Bernadine is joined by his fellow friar Jacomo.
    • They agree to bury the nuns and then confront Barabas.
    • Bernadine can't tell anyone official what Abigail told him, but he can go directly to Barabas, apparently.
  • Act 4, Scene 1

    • Barabas is rejoicing at the sound of the church bells, which are ringing to mourn the deaths of all the nuns.
    • Ithamore, high off of success, suggests they go massacre a nearby monastery. For symmetry, presumably. He asks if Barabas grieves for Abigail.
    • No, Barabas says, I'm just upset that she lived so long—he's clearly still angry that Abigail converted.
    • Jocomo and Bernadine approach. Before Barabas and Ithamore can slip away, the friars catch up and start yelling about damnation.
    • Barabas and Ithamore figure that Bernadine knows they poisoned the nunnery, and decide to play it cool.
    • Bernadine's in a tricky situation: he knows that Barabas set Lodowick and Mathias up, but he's bound by church law to not say anything. This results in a lot of half-finished accusations on his part.
    • Barabas, reckoning that he's toast for sure at this point, plays his final card: You know what? I've rethought this whole Jewish thing. It's not for me. In fact, I really want to be Christian, like you guys, and what's more I want to give all of my money away to whatever monastery I join.
    • Jacomo and Bernadine pedal backwards faster than Lance Armstrong does forwards, and instantly start fighting with each other over whose monastery will get Barabas and all his riches.
    • This is another one of those scenes where people are alternatively whispering and speaking aloud to each other.
    • Jacomo wins by persuading Barabas that his monastery is way more chill than Bernadine's (paired with the fact that Barabas is pretty sure Abigail told Bernadine everything) and arranges with Barabas to meet up that night.
    • Bernadine is still having a hissy fit over losing to Jacomo, but true to form Barabas then whispers to Bernadine that he's actually on his side, and not to worry.
    • Jacomo, promising to meet with Barabas later, leaves.
    • Barabas, alone, pledges to kill both friars: Bernadine because he knows too much about Barabas's crimes, and Jacomo because he was the one who converted Abigail.
    • Plus, killing is fun. Yay killing!
    • Ithamore comes back in, telling Barabas that Bernadine is asleep in a room where nobody can hear him if he cries out.
    • They strangle Bernadine with his own belt and then prop the body up so it looks alive.
    • Then they hide out and wait for Jacomo.
    • Jacomo returns to rendezvous with Barabas and, seeing Bernadine's body, thinks that Bernadine is trying to stop him.
    • He tells Bernadine to get out of his way, and when Bernadine of course does nothing (on account of how he's, you know, dead) he knocks the body down.
    • Ithamore and Barabas come out of hiding, all, "Goodness me! Look what you did!You've killed him!"
    • Jacomo thinks he's ok, though, because only Ithamore and Barabas have seen him.
    • Barabas is all, "No, no, justice must be served!"
    • Barabas declares that he'll remain a Jew; apparently these Christian friars are murderers.
    • Ithamore and Barabas tell Bernadine that they're going to take him to the court sessions the next day.
  • Act 4, Scene 2

    • Pilia-Borza is telling Bellamira that he's given Ithamore her letter.
    • Where was Ithamore? At Jacomo's execution. Hm, looks like Jacomo was successfully framed—and hanged—for Bernadine's murder.
    • In the letter, Bellamira tells Ithamore that she's loved him since she first saw him (which is good news, because they haven't officially met yet) and that he should come over to her house.
    • Neither Pilia-Borza nor Bellamira care at all about Ithamore, but want to use him to get to Barabas's money.
    • Ithamore is pretty awestruck by her, and doesn't know why she'd be into him.
    • He comes into the house, and Bellamira and Pilia-Borza act super nice to him.
    • Ithamore thinks these people are messing with him, but Bellamira keeps up her whole "Ithamore, I love you, for real babe" act until he resolves to get at Barabas's wealth so that he can be a rich gentleman who's worthy of her.
    • Ithamore, with Pilia-Borza's help, drafts a letter to Barabas demanding 300 crowns and threatening to reveal Barabas's crimes if he doesn't pay up.
    • Pilia-Borza runs the letter to Barabas, who laughs in his face and sends him back with pocket-change.
    • Ithamore, getting used to the good life with Bellamira (who showers him with clothes, affection and food), is ticked off at Barabas, and writes a second letter demanding even more money, this time threatening Barabas's life.
  • Act 4, Scene 3

    • Barabas is venting about the audacity of Ithamore's first letter when Pilia-Borza returns, bearing the second letter, this time demanding 500 crowns.
    • Barabas is, predictably, not happy about this turn of events.
    • Obviously he wants to kill Pilia-Borza, but he holds off for the meantime. And he makes it clear that he knows Pilia-Borza has stolen from him before.
    • Pilia-Borza doesn't care, though, because he has enough information to get Barabas executed.
    • Barabas figures out that Ithamore has betrayed him, and grudgingly gives Pilia-Borza the money.
    • Pilia-Borza leaves, with Barabas fuming about how he's going to kill Pilia-Borza and Ithamore.
    • He plans to show up at Bellamira's house (where Ithamore is staying) in disguise.
  • Act 4, Scene 4

    • Bellamira and Ithamore are chilling at her place, drinking and pledging their devotion to each other (real on Ithamore's part, fake on Bellamira's), while Pilia-Borza looks on.
    • Ithamore brags to Bellamira about how he and Barabas are responsible for the deaths of Lodowick, Mathias, the nuns and friar Bernadine.
    • Because regaling your lady friend with a laundry list of your heinous crimes is a tried and true dating tactic.
    • Hark, a French musician has dropped by! Mais non! It's actually Barabas in disguise.
    • Bellamira really likes the bouquet of flowers that the French musician (ahem, Barabas) is carrying, and asks to have them.
    • Barabas is happy to comply. Why? Because, kids, poisoned flowers. That's right. Their scent is deadly. They are, like, anthrax daisies.
    • Barabas plays the lute for them whileaping a hilarious French accent and listening to them trash-talk Barabas.
    • After the French-musician-ahem-Barabas leaves, Ithamore tells Pilia-Borza to go back to Barabas and demand 1,000 crowns, instructing him to threaten to reveal Barabas's crimes if he doesn't pay.
  • Act 5, Scene 1

    • Ferneze, Bosco and the Knights of Malta are fortifying Malta's defenses as they prepare for the Calymath's arrival.
    • Bellamira and Pilia-Borza run up, demanding to the see the Ferneze.
    • They tell Ferneze that they have proof (Ithamore's testimony) that Barabas is responsible for the deaths of the nuns, Bernadine, Mathias and, most importantly, Ferneze's own son Lodowick.
    • Barabas and Ithamore are immediately dragged out to Ferneze and asked to confess.
    • Barabas is incredulous—confess? Have you met Barabas?—but Ithamore tells them everything.
    • Well, these aren't exactly credible witnesses: all in all, they're depending on the testimony of a slave, a prostitute and a pimp.
    • Whatever, it's good enough for Ferneze!
    • Barabas is taken away, fervently hoping that his poisoned flowers start working pronto.
    • Katharine comes in and is told that Barabas, who is responsible for Mathias's death, is in prison.
    • Hold up, everybody—an officer comes in to announce that Bellamira, Pilia-Borza, Ithamore and Barabas are all dead.
    • They bring in Barabas's body, and Bosco wonders at how this all happened so quickly.
    • Ferneze, who will never join the cast of CSI: Las Vegas, has no such curiosity—the four deaths are just heaven's justice at work. He orders that all the bodies be buried.
    • All the bodies, that is, except for Barabas's—he doesn't deserve burial, Ferneze decides, and is instead just tossed over the city walls to be pecked at by vultures. Note to public officials: always make sure your sworn enemies are All Dead, not just Mostly Dead.
    • Barabas, now on the other side of the walls, stands up. Probably brushes his shoulders off.
    • He declares that he hates this stupid town, wants to get back at all of the inhabitants, and is going to help the Turks get in.
    • He's in luck! Turkish leader Calymath just happens to amble by at that moment.
    • Barabas declares that he's the Jew whose wealth Ferneze stole to pay off the Turks, and that the Maltese bribed his slave (Ithamore) to accuse him of crimes.
    • He further explains that he drank a potion that made him fall asleep and look dead, so the guards threw him over the city walls.
    • Calymath is impressed, and asks Barabas if he can help him and his army break through Malta's defenses.
    • Oh boy, can he! Barabas agrees to help Calymath get into the city, and Calymath in return promises to make him Governor once they've taken control of Malta.
  • Act 5, Scene 2

    • Looks like Spain's navy isn't all that and a bag of chips—Malta's been overrun by the Turks, and Ferneze and the Knights are brought as prisoners before Calymath, his Turks, and Barabas.
    • Calymath makes good on his promise and makes Barabas Governor of Malta, while Ferneze looks on. Sick burn.
    • Calymath furnishes Barabas with some guards, bids him to Live Long and Prosper, and takes off.
    • Barabas, though, knows he has a problem—he may be Governor, but it doesn't do him much good when everybody in Malta wants him dead.If he wants to stay alive, he's going to have to play nice with Ferneze and his peeps.
    • He sends the other prisoners and guards away, so it's just him and Ferneze.
    • To Ferneze's surprise, Barabas doesn't want to kill him—instead, he wants to make him a deal:
    • Barabas will kill Calymath and his men and free Malta in return for an enormous sum of money.
    • He's going to invite Calymath to a banquet, he says, where Ferneze will have to come and perform some undisclosed task.
    • In order to raise the money, Ferneze is set free to solicit his fellow Maltese—apparently "Bake Sale Fundraiser to Massacre Our Turkish Overseers" would have been too obvious.
    • Alone, Barabas again professes that he's loyal to nobody—he's batting for the Turks and the Maltese in turn, and whichever comes out on top is the party he'll align himself with.
  • Act 5, Scene 3

    • Calymath is surveying the battered remains of Malta. One siege and occupation later, and Malta's in pretty bad shape.
    • A messenger comes to Calymath to tell him that Barabas has invited him to a parting feast before Calymath sails off the next morning.
    • Barabas has claimed to have a huge pearl, worth so much money that he can afford to feed the entire Turkish army that night.
    • Calymath thinks this is super nice and agrees. Sucker.
    • The troops will feast in the monastery while Calymath will dine in Barabas's own house.
  • Act 5, Scene 4

    • Ferneze has gathered his Knights and Bosco, and, having presumably explained that he's hatching a plot to free Malta, is telling them that they have to hold off until they hear the noise of a cannon.
    • The plan: when they hear the cannon, come rescue him.
  • Act 5, Scene 5

    • We're at Barabas's place, and he's ordering a bunch of carpenters to build some sort of complicated pulley-rope-crane device.
    • After they've finished and left, Ferneze comes in, carrying a big sack of money he's put together from the Maltese citizens.
    • Like, really really big—100,000 pounds, in fact.
    • Barabas dishes on the plan:
    • There are cannons hidden beneath the monastery where Calymath's army is feasting, and at Barabas's signal the entire thing is going to blow up.
    • The floor of Barabas's house, where Calymath himself is going to be eating, is rigged so that when a cable is cut it drops down into a pit.
    • This last bit is Ferneze's job—he has to cut the cable at the right time.
    • Ferneze hides, and Barabas crows to himself about how very clever his plan is.
    • Calymath comes in, but before Barabas can do much Ferneze bursts out, telling Calymath that he's going to do better by him than Barabas would have.
    • Things are already set in motion, though—a Knight gives the signal to blow up the monastery, and the cable is cut.
    • It's Barabas, though, not Calymath and his bashaws, who falls through the trap door, and into a cauldron which has been placed below.
    • It would appear that Maltese cauldrons are sold in the sizes of Small, Medium, Large and Extremely Nasty Death For Adult Men.
    • As Barabas cries for help, Ferneze explains to Calymath that the trap was devised by Barabas and meant for Calymath.
    • Once Ferneze makes it clear he's not going to help Barabas, Barabas figures now's as good a time as ever to confess to killing his son.
    • While he's at it, he tells Calymath he wants to kill him too—in fact, he wants to destroy all the Christians and Turks.
    • The cauldron is on fire, presumably (we don't actually get a stage direction for this, but Barabas complains of "the extremity of heat," so why not?), and having cursed both Christians and Turks alike, Barabas finally dies. For real, this time.
    • Ferneze, repeating that he's done Calymath a big favor by not killing him, tells Calymath that he has to stay in Malta—after all, all of his Turkish men are dead.
    • Say what? Yep, that's right. That sound you heard? Exploding monastery. Sorry, bros.
    • Ferneze's going to hold Calymath hostage in Malta until his father, the Emperor of Turkey, makes reparations and frees Malta.
    • Ferneze closes the play by swearing he won't let Calymath go until his demands are met, and thanking heaven for his victory.
    • And that's a wrap.