The famous tragedy of Barabas, the Jew of Malta, who has amassed more wealth than the entirety of Malta. His fortune is seized by his enemy the Governor of Malta, Ferneze, so that he may bribe the Turkish Warlords and prevent Malta from being invaded at a time when the tiny country provided a strategic military position and important trade routes through the Mediterranean. This drama greatly depicts the tragedy of a man who is forced into fighting dark deeds, with dark deeds.--Submitted by Ben Douglas
A Maltese Jew's barbarous revenge against the city authorities, has a prologue delivered by a character representing Machiavelli. It was probably written in 1589 or 1590, and was first performed in 1592. It was a success, and remained popular for the next fifty years. The play was entered in the Stationers' Register on 17 May 1594, but the earliest surviving printed edition is from 1633.
This play, composed by so worthy an author as Master Marlowe, and the part of the Jew presented by so unimitable an actor as Master Alleyn, being in this later age commended to the stage; as I ushered it unto the court, and presented it to the Cock-pit, with these Prologues and Epilogues here inserted, so now being newly brought to the press, I was loath it should be published without the ornament of an Epistle; making choice of you unto whom to devote it; than whom (of all those gentlemen and acquaintance within the compass of my long knowledge) there is none more able to tax ignorance, or attribute right to merit. Sir, you have been pleased to grace some of mine own works<1> with your courteous patronage: I hope this will not be the worse accepted, because commended by me; over whom none can claim more power or privilege than yourself. I had no better a new-year's gift to present you with; receive it therefore as a continuance of that inviolable obligement, by which he rests still engaged, who, as he ever hath, shall always remain, Tuissimus, Tho. Heywood.<2>.
Gracious and great, that we so boldly dare ('Mongst other plays that now in fashion are) To present this, writ many years agone, And in that age thought second unto none, We humbly crave your pardon. We pursue The story of a rich and famous Jew Who liv'd in Malta: you shall find him still, In all his projects, a sound Machiavill; And that's his character. He that hath past So many censures<3> is now come at last To have your princely ears: grace you him; then You crown the action, and renown the pen.
It is our fear, dread sovereign, we have bin<4> Too tedious; neither can't be less than sin To wrong your princely patience: if we have, Thus low dejected, we your pardon crave; And, if aught here offend your ear or sight, We only act and speak what others write.
We know not how our play may pass this stage, But by the best of poets<5> in that age THE MALTA-JEW had being and was made; And he then by the best of actors<6> play'd: In HERO AND LEANDER<7> one did gain A lasting memory; in Tamburlaine, This Jew, with others many, th' other wan The attribute of peerless, being a man Whom we may rank with (doing no one wrong) Proteus for shapes, and Roscius for a tongue,-- So could he speak, so vary; nor is't hate To merit in him<8> who doth personate Our Jew this day; nor is it his ambition To exceed or equal, being of condition More modest: this is all that he intends, (And that too at the urgence of some friends,) To prove his best, and, if none here gainsay it, The part he hath studied, and intends to play it.
In graving with Pygmalion to contend, Or painting with Apelles, doubtless the end Must be disgrace: our actor did not so,-- He only aim'd to go, but not out-go. Nor think that this day any prize was play'd;<9> Here were no bets at all, no wagers laid:<10> All the ambition that his mind doth swell, Is but to hear from you (by me) 'twas well.
FERNEZE, governor of Malta.
LODOWICK, his son.
SELIM CALYMATH, son to the Grand Seignior.
MARTIN DEL BOSCO, vice-admiral of Spain.
MATHIAS, a gentleman.
BARNARDINE, > friars.
BARABAS, a wealthy Jew.
ITHAMORE, a slave.
PILIA-BORZA, a bully, attendant to BELLAMIRA.
KATHARINE, mother to MATHIAS.
ABIGAIL, daughter to BARABAS.
BELLAMIRA, a courtezan.
MACHIAVEL as Prologue speaker.
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