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The Jew of Malta | Study Guide

Christopher Marlowe

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The Jew of Malta | Act 2, Scene 2 | Summary



This brief scene reverts to politics. The high-ranking Spanish naval officer Martin del Bosco has just arrived in Malta. His ship is laden with a cargo of slaves that he aims to sell. When Ferneze, the Maltese governor, tells del Bosco that he dare not purchase the slaves because of his tributary obligation to the Turks, the Spanish officer reassures him, asserting that the Spanish king retains title to the island of Malta and will support Maltese resistance to the Turks. Ferneze, newly confident, agrees with del Bosco's plan.


The plot thickens, as the new Spanish arrival Martin del Bosco contributes a fresh dimension to the ethnic prejudices and hostilities that Marlowe exploits in the play. Instead of Christian versus Jew, there now emerges a Christian versus Muslim element, as the Spanish and the Maltese form an alliance against the Turks. By the end of the scene, Ferneze has exchanged diffidence for bombast, as he acclaims del Bosco as "Malta's general" and rhetorically threatens to send the Turk Calymath "bullets wrapped in smoke and fire" instead of the gold he seeks.

This scene's action is important for a couple of reasons. First, it establishes a three-cornered political tangle (Spain, Malta, and the Ottoman Empire). Second, it sets up Barabas's purchase of the Turkish slave Ithamore, who will prove to play a major role in the drama.

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