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The Jew of Malta | Study Guide

Christopher Marlowe

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The Jew of Malta | Quotes


[The] Jew, / Who smiles to see how full his bags are crammed, / Which money was not got without my means.

Machiavel, Prologue

Machiavel's brief prologue introduces the play, sets the tone, and foreshadows all that will come. The character, based on Niccolò Machiavelli, who was known and abhorred by Elizabethan audiences as a notorious schemer, remarks that Barabas has succeeded in accumulating vast wealth by applying the "policy" that Machiavelli himself has advocated in his The Prince. Readers can be sure that the play will show Barabas as a ruthless schemer in the mode of Machiavelli himself.


Nay, let 'em combat, conquer, and kill all, / So they spare me, my daughter, and my wealth.

Barabas, Act 1, Scene 1

Marlowe leaves readers in no doubt that Barabas is out for himself and no one else. His own person, his daughter, and his wealth are all that matter to him.


Your extreme right does me exceeding wrong.

Barabas, Act 1, Scene 2

The line compactly juxtaposes right and wrong, emphasizing what Barabas sees as the flaws in the Maltese worldview and system of justice.


A counterfeit profession is better / Than unseen hypocrisy.

Barabas, Act 1, Scene 2

In the tenuous argument here, Barabas contends that a false statement or commitment made openly is to be preferred to hypocrisy. As it happens, Barabas is adept at both strategies.


Honor is bought with blood and not with gold.

Ferneze, Act 2, Scene 2

Ferneze's bombastic assertion here, in context, is somewhat hollow, since it will be the Spaniards, rather than the Maltese, who will bear the consequences of resistance to the Ottomans.


As for myself, I walk abroad a-nights / And kill sick people groaning under walls; / Sometimes I go about and poison wells.

Barabas, Act 2, Scene 3

In this semi-comic catalog of outrageous actions, Barabas boasts to Ithamore of his virtuosity in particularly heinous crimes.


O, my master has the bravest policy.

Ithamore, Act 3, Scene 3

The quotation exemplifies the meaning of "policy" in Elizabethan English: "stratagem," "self-interest," or "craftiness."


Thus every villain ambles after wealth, / Although he ne'er be richer than in hope.

Barabas, Act 3, Scene 4

Barabas mutters these words as Ithamore makes a quick exit to fetch the pot of rice that Barabas will use to poison the nuns. The Jew is under no illusions about the greed of his newly purchased slave.


Ah, gentle friar, / Convert my father that he may be saved, / And witness that I die a Christian.

Abigail, Act 3, Scene 6

Abigail's dying words convey her newly found piety and sincerity. Doubtless, most of Marlowe's audience would have found her refuge in the Christian faith to be laudatory.


Look, look, master, here come two religious caterpillars.

Ithamore, Act 4, Scene 1

Ithamore, ever the cynic, here refers to Friar Barbardine and Friar Jacomo. Barabas replies, "I smelt 'em ere they came." Readers clearly see that Marlowe freely attacks religion in all its guises, whether Christian, Jewish, or Muslim.


I'll be thy Jason, thou my golden fleece.

Ithamore, Act 4, Scene 2

The classical allusion here is to the Greek myth recounting the heroic journey of Jason and the Argonauts to find the golden fleece. Ithamore combines the allusion with a pun, in which "fleece" also means "to plunder" or "cheat."


Was ever Jew tormented as I am?

Barabas, Act 4, Scene 3

Barabas laments the misfortune of being blackmailed by his slave Ithamore. Typically, he overstates his grief.


Come, let's in. / To undo a Jew is charity, not sin.

Ithamore, Act 4, Scene 4

Ithamore uses false arguments and bias to justify the blackmailing of Barabas. Ironically, when he and Barabas first met, they vied with each other, each boasting about his criminal, evil acts.


Thus, loving neither, will I live with both, / Making a profit of my policy; / And he from whom my most advantage comes / Shall be my friend.

Barabas, Act 5, Scene 2

These words, spoken late in the play, sum up Barabas's Machiavellian philosophy of self-interest, advantage, and cunning strategy ("policy").


Die, life! Fly, soul! Tongue, curse thy fill and die!

Barabas, Act 5, Scene 5

Barabas's last words show him defiant to the end. It is fitting that the murderer who condemned his own daughter to die with an elaborate curse (Act 3, Scene 4) should die a violent death with a curse on his lips.

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