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The Jew of Malta | Study Guide

Christopher Marlowe

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The Jew of Malta | Act 3, Scene 6 | Summary



In a panic, Friar Jacomo and Friar Barnardine deplore the grave illness of the nuns, who are on the point of death. Abigail enters, declaring repentance for her sins. She makes her confession to Friar Barnardine, giving him a paper with the details of Barabas's villainous plot to get rid of Lodowick and Mathias. Friar Barnardine assures her that secrets revealed in confession may never be disclosed to others. Dying, Abigail implores the friar to convert her father to Christianity.

Father Jacomo re-enters to announce that all the nuns have died. Father Barnardine urges that they depart together to confront Barabas. First, however, they will bury Abigail.


Abigail's death marks the climax of the play. Considering the prevalence of deceit, dissimulation, hypocrisy, and betrayal, the audience is compelled to wonder whether Friar Barnardine will keep the "secret of the confessional," namely the details of Barabas's villainy that Abigail has confided in him before her death. One odd feature of the scene is Father Barnardine's regret that Abigail has died a virgin. Perhaps Marlowe alludes here to the widespread scandalous tales of sexual relations between nuns and friars, or perhaps Barnardine simply regrets that Abigail never had the opportunity to wed her chosen suitor, Mathias. The matter is left unclarified and unresolved.

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