Study Guide

The Jew of Malta Religion

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Religion: it brings people together; it ties us to our past; it encourages us to be kinder and more loving. Right? Well, not in The Jew of Malta. In Marlowe's play, religion is just one more way to make people hate each other. Religion and race are so closely tied that we can't tell if the fight with the Turks is a political battle or a religious battle—or if there's any difference. And take Barabas: do the Maltese Christians hate him because they truly think his religion is wrong, or do they just need someone to blame and steal money from? One thing is sure: by the end of the play, we're not feeling particularly worshipful.

Questions About Religion

  1. Does Barabas fit in with the Jewish community on Malta? Why or why not? How do we even know Barabas is Jewish—does he ever profess any belief or Jewish practice?
  2. Why does Ferneze think it's okay to confiscate the Jews' wealth?
  3. How much is Abigail's identity as Barabas's daughter dependent upon her identity as a Jew?
  4. To what extent does the play attribute Barabas's villainy to his Judaism?
  5. Why does Abigail convert?Do you think it solves her problems?

Chew on This

Nobody really adheres to religious principles in this play; they just use religion as a front to get what they want

Barabas chiefly identifies and defines himself through his Jewishness.

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