In this week’s class, we were tasked with reading Christopher Marlowe’s play The Jew of Malta. By far this was my favorite play that we have read this semester. It is tough to have just one theme to discuss but for this post, I want to discuss the anti-Semitism throughout the play. We talked a lot in class about the anti-Semitism theme that Marlowe shows throughout. I do believe this play to be an anti-Semitic one. Throughout the play, Marlowe makes it very clear that he believes that Christians are the superior people. The best example is when Abigail desires to convert to Christianity:
Then were my thoughts so frail and unconfirmed, And I was chained to follies of the world: But now experience, purchasèd with grief, Has made me see the difference of things. My sinful soul, alas, hath paced too long The fatal labyrinth of misbelief, Far from the Son that gives eternal life.
Marlowe incorporates a powerful sense of humility and Abigail even humiliates herself is conveyed when she says things such as, “I was chained to follies of the world,” and “My sinful soul,”. This makes her speech just seem overblown and staged.
This makes me question if Abigail really does want to convert to Christianity because of feeling alienated due to her Jewish heritage because of how Baraba’s action throughout the play. The part of her speech that bothers me the most looking at this from a modern-day perspective is “difference of things”. This makes me feel bad because it shows the fear and the prejudice that was felt in the 17th century and prior in England. Ultimately this is snubbed because Abigail is “converting” to help her father reclaim some of his possessions. Another example of a higher Christian view is the last two lines of the play:
So march away, and let due praise be given Neither to fate nor fortune, but to heaven.
Here I believe that Marlowe is trying to demonstrate that God has less involvement in religion than what people do. There are multiple instances throughout the play that are out of the Christian god’s hands. All the clergymen are corrupt people. Muslims invade a Christian civilization and a person of Jewish belief becomes the governor. These last two lines really show that Marlowe is trying to show that God is not as big of a factor in the day to day life as some people would believe.
I think that this place talks about topics that are still heavily relatable today. A modern example of this is when Obama took office. I remember that the country was divided into this being a huge step forward for this country. We discussed in class that when he was elected the country was asked if this was the end of racism in America. This statement itself was racist, so this relates to the play and the era it was written in. Marlowe is clearly calling out his peers in showing that people should be allowed to follow whatever faith they want.