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The Jew of Malta | Study Guide

Christopher Marlowe

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The Jew of Malta | Act 5, Scene 1 | Summary



Ferneze, governor of Malta, enters, attended by his knights and officers and by the Spanish vice admiral Martin del Bosco. Bellamira tells Ferneze the truth about the death of his son, Lodowick, which resulted from a challenge forged by Barabas. Bellamira and Pilia-Borza also accuse Barabas and Ithamore of murdering the nuns and Friar Barnardine. Ferneze commands Barabas and Ithamore to be arrested, and they are brought on stage. Barabas mutters that he hopes the poisoned nosegay will soon do its work. Ferneze takes no notice of Barabas's complaint that Bellamira is a courtesan and Pilia-Borza is a thief.

Soon news of the deaths of the four arrested characters is reported: Ithamore, Bellamira, Pilia-Borza, and Barabas. Ferneze orders the bodies of the first three to be buried, while the corpse of Barabas should be thrown over the city walls to become the prey of dogs and vultures.

Outside the city, Barabas recovers: he had feigned death by taking a sleeping potion. In dialogue with the Turkish overlord Calymath, Barabas offers to lead a detachment of Turkish troops into the city by a secret route. He will then open the gates so that Calymath's army can conquer Malta. Calymath promises Barabas the governorship if the plan succeeds.


Revenge is the leading theme in this scene. Barabas's strategy with the poisoned nosegay, however esoteric, proves successful, as the blackmailers Ithamore, Bellamira, and Pilia-Borza all succumb to the poison. Barabas's ingenuity is further displayed when he is able to feign death and then, almost like a cartoon character, rise up again to life outside the city walls. Once again, Barabas is back on the offensive, and we have every reason to believe that he will get revenge against Ferneze by delivering Malta to the Turkish besiegers. He says he hopes to see the governor whipped to death.

Marlowe employs dramatic convention several times in the course of this scene. For example, when Ferneze commands Ithamore and Barabas to be arrested, they are brought on stage almost immediately. Time is also foreshortened, and space handled imaginatively, when the scene seems to switch to a location outside the city walls, where Barabas holds his colloquy with Calymath.

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