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The Jew of Malta | Study Guide

Christopher Marlowe

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The Jew of Malta | Act 3, Scene 3 | Summary



Ithamore's glee at the destruction of Mathias and Lodowick has no bounds, as he acclaims his new employer's mastery of "policy." He tells Abigail of the young men's duel, about how he and her father arranged it, and of the deadly outcome. For her part, Abigail recoils with horror and shock. She dispatches Ithamore to fetch one of the friars. Before he departs, the slave slyly questions if the friars and the nuns disport themselves sexually with one another.

In a brief soliloquy, Abigail berates her father as "hard-hearted" and set upon "extreme revenge," and she laments that "there is no love on earth." When Friar Jacomo arrives, Abigail begs him to allow her to be readmitted to the nunnery. Jacomo, though surprised, acquiesces. Despite her grief, Abigail promises that she will never betray her father.


Two literary techniques are prominent in this brief scene. The first is situational irony, in which there is a striking reversal between what we expect to happen and what actually happens. Abigail successfully dissimulated when she first joined the nunnery in order to recover her father's nest egg. Now she begs to return to the nunnery of her own accord as she is totally disillusioned with the cynical "policy" of her father. The second prominent device is apostrophe, in which a character addresses a person or thing that is not physically present. Abigail uses this technique to address her father. "Hard-hearted father, unkind Barabas!" she cries and then condemns him for his treachery to Lodowick and Mathias.

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