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The Jew of Malta | Study Guide

Christopher Marlowe

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The Jew of Malta | Act 4, Scene 2 | Summary



Pilia-Borza tells Bellamira that he has delivered the courtesan's letter to Ithamore. The Turkish slave enters, uttering a monologue in which he recounts the calm, submissive behavior of Friar Jacomo at the priest's execution. Bellamira showers Ithamore with compliments and endearments, yet her comments aside to Pilia-Borza make clear that she is putting on an act. The three conspire together to blackmail Barabas, and Ithamore writes the Jew a letter demanding 300 crowns. Pilia-Borza exits to deliver the letter. Ithamore then lyrically responds to Bellamira's seduction. Pilia-Borza re-enters with the money, and the blackmailers, encouraged by their prompt success, write another letter, this time for 500 crowns. Bellamira kisses Ithamore as the scene concludes.


This scene adds a new, somewhat bizarre twist to the plot. Blackmail and treachery seem to spread like wildfire as Bellamira, Pilia-Borza, and Ithamore turn on the Jew of Malta—and seem likely to turn on each other. The sordid action highlights extortion and lechery. At the same time, Ithamore responds to Bellamira's seductive advances with snatches of "high" poetry sprinkled with classical allusions. Ithamore's line "I'll be thy Jason, thou my golden fleece" crystallizes these contrasts, as he alludes to the epic tale of Jason and the Argonauts in Greek mythology and at the same time puns on the word "fleece," which can mean "to plunder." The dialogue verges on comedy when, at the end of the scene, Bellamira theatrically throws the bag of extorted gold aside in order to kiss Ithamore.

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