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The Jew Of Malta

1 Pages 345 Words

The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare’s’ play and Christopher Marlowes’ The Jew Of Malta feature main characters – Shylock and Barabas- who are easy to dislike for their intents. It would be normal to be aghast at their deeds. Both characters, however, have their particular reasons-based both in surroundings and circumstance- for their behaviors, and furnish reasons, which may justify them (each to a greater or lesser degree) to the audience.
Let’s first consider the manner in which their respective fortunes are taken from them –the justification of which (or lack thereof) may point to a certain anti - Semitism. In the Jew of Malta, of course, the usurping of Barabas’ fortune seems more arbitrary. For indeed the Governor Freeze takes it upon “… our sufferance of your hateful lives…” (Act II sc. 2 l. 64) -meaning upon the Jews of Malta overall. Barabas, in fact, knows that the decree to take his wealth is arbitrary (“…their arbitrament?” (Act II sc. 2 l. 81). In fact, when Barabas merely takes offense to the reasoning of Freeze; the Governor insists, “…Jew, thou hast denied the articles…” (Act I sc.2 l.93). So Barabas is forced to surrender all of his known estate, despite his offer to the Governor that “…you shall have half ; Let me be used but as my bretheren are.” (Act II sc. 2 l. 92) or without the serious offer to “…become a Christian “ (l. 73) which was the second point in satisfying the decree. Instead, he is to suffer the severest penalty of the decree – to “…lose all he has.” (l. 76-77) No, in truth, Barabas was singled out amongst the Jews because, as the other Jews stated “… the most of us are poor.” And the final justification for the Christian community of Malta, an explanation to the hapless Barabas? It is as the Knight says – “…your first curse fell heavy on thy head…Tis not our fault, but thy inherent sin.” (Act II sc. 2 l. 110)....

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