The Jew Of Malta
Christopher Marlowe’s play The Jew of Malta is positioned right at the beginning of a profound era of restructurual theater dynamics that would lay the seeds for both secular and restructural modern drama . In seeking to understand Mr. Marlowe’s effort we are forced to reexamine those factors that underlined the emergence of the Industrial Revolution and the profound impact of internationalism. This is so because Mr. Marlowe’s work gives the reader an opportu-nity to experience the changing psychological dimensions of both trans-European progressionalism and the separate ‘weight’ of Global interaction and confrontation. Here is a work that is positioned right at the critical moment of world change- in the cultural heart of one of the ‘principle players’ of the moment ( Britain was somewhat on the ‘up swing’ in the time period of Marlowe and Shakespeare, with even greater imperial ‘expansions’ to come on the political/economic stage). The Jew of Malta is an important play that sheds insight into the internal-social /political complexities of its time period. The ‘underreality’ associations of the play establishes a fantasy state that reflects on the composite state of geo-political ‘balances of power’ in that time period as well as the accelerating momentum of extended global trade. It is with this backdrop established that Marlowe proceeds to ‘let us enter into the vibrational climate’ of the culture and the ‘wonder of poetic logics’ through actual fantasy character experiences. I find that for my taste, Mr. Marlowe is as profound as Shakespeare. In many ways he had to overcome an even more difficult set of historical parameters and/or circumstances ( and/or agendas) to create his art. His work paved the way for the ‘embellishments’ of the great William S.
The Jew of Malta is a dynamic play that establishes insight into 1) the emergence of restructual formal design and play writing 2) the state of International affairs and geo-political dynamics 3) the acceleration of internal commerce and the ‘aesthetic nature’ of the new emerging middle class 4) the use of Jewish people as ‘the other’ and 5) the complex situation of women. In the first category, The Jew of Malta can be viewed as a transitional play that helped lay the ground for the more extended structures ( and ‘nuances’) of the Renaissance period. This is true not only because Marlowe precedes Shakespeare in age and linear time but also structurally and conceptually .The Jew of Malta contains a more ‘stilted’ use of sequential structure narrative than is common to the great works of Shakespeare. This is a transitional work that has connections to the formal ‘nature’ of early Medieval play structures and concepts (i.e. symbolic logics and the use of classical iconic aesthetic postulations). To experience The Jew of Malta is to witness the evolution of the European theater tradition and its dynamic techniques. There is a great deal of symbolism in the play, and yet at the same time Marlowe establishes a ‘continuity of events’ that directs and unifies the action/fantasy. As a structuralist, Mr. Marlowe has designed a fantasy that formally unfolds as a ‘consistent event structure’ that details the fulfillment of both intellectual and practical experiences. The conceptual design of the Jew of Malta was consistent with the restructural changes that were transforming the theater in that time period, including: 1) the use of dangerous themes and motivic materials 2) the ‘rotation’ of projected ‘spheres of imaginary action’- (suddenly the actors are talking directly to the audience- out of the ‘real time’ action of the play) and 3) the use of repetition as a formal element. The extended dimensions of the new Renascence theater would see the fomalization of a) ‘spheres of symbolic locations that would allow for the ‘crossing of imaginary boundaries ( extending out from the nebula to the ‘Platae’ of the stage area), – as well as the concept of liminality b) the development of Meta-drama – as a ‘trans-Identity (spatial and temporal) construct that expands the range and focus of restructural play writing and finally 3) the development of fresh interactive strategies for actors and sequential stage production.
In the second category The Jew of Malta gives the reader an opportunity to gain some sense of internationalism in the time period of the dawning 1600′s. The story introduces a broad selection of fantasy characters and draws on the iconic and diverse characteris-tics of the middleeast cultural morass – the gateway to the west, Africa and Asia. The subject of business contracts and international politics in this environment can be sensed in every corner of the drama. It is because of International commerce and political dynamics that Barabas has made Malta his home (he was after all, a successful businessman). The subject of commerce and internationalism has a role in the unfolding drama that is equal to the effects of racism ( as an observed human ‘tendency’- and/or ‘trait’ of human psychology and character interaction dynamics). In seeking to understand the backdrop factors that supported the story line of The Jew of Malta, it is important to remember that the composite world stage itself was at a point of change and that the experiences of Marlowe’s characters reflected the profound uncertainties and value systems of the greater world climate.
The Jew of Malta is a dynamic play that reflects on the value systems aesthetics of the emerging secular middle class social reality- moving into the post-Victorian age (and repositioning itself for the Industrial Revolution). In this work we are able to experience the state of ‘accelerated undercurrents’ that accompanied cultural transforma-tion in that time period – from an agrarian to an urban structure (and finally, to a culture that would experience the affect of the printing press and the ‘motion’ of accelerated cultural dynamics). It is with this phenomenon in mind that one can gain some sense of the intense social struggles that the middle class of the Renaissance period found itself dealing with the subject of wealth and finances would have a direct bearing on the question of social status and cultural manipulation ( including the parameters of individual experience and so-called ‘culturualization’). The time period of the 16oo’s would also be a ‘point of definition’ era for the emergence of new ‘power families’ that would later finance the developing industries that lead to the composite Industrial revolution ( and the ‘new commerce’, – colonialism (!)). Christopher Marlowe’s play goes right to the heart of these profound cultural experiences. It is this factor that makes it so difficult to judge the characters of The Jew of Malta. In seeking to understand the play one is confronted with the ‘natural complexities’ of the modern era. Here then is a crook who would have us become racist(!)(?). This is a story of the complexities of our species in a transition cycle of time. That Marlowe would seek to have the theater go’er identify with ‘the individual’ is what makes his work modern. The thrust of his effort seeks to ‘reveal’ the inner depths of his characters, while at the same time exploring their inconsistencies as well. In this reality fantasy state there are no heroes or villains- only experiences.
Christopher Marlowe decision to focus on the Jew as a subject of ‘experience’ was both interesting and profound. I found his character Barbarus to be very likable and clever- this is true even though it is clear that Barbarus was somewhat of an extremist! ( to put it mildly). Still, I was able to relate to this character almost immediately. It is fruitless to try and isolate morality in a play as complex as The Jew of Malta- in an attempt to understand Barabus’s actions separate from the composite theater of events that defined his experiences. Still, Marlowe made sure to establish that 1) Barabas can kill his own daughter if pushed 2) that conversion to Christianity is equated with absovement 3) that in his haste for revenge Barabas is capable of any heinous crime – that there are no limits to the depth of his evil nature 4) that even a Jewish wealthy person cannot be trusted 5) that the link between Jews and commerce are historical 6) and that Jewish women are desirable even if Jewish men are not ( and the love of a gentile can be ‘transformational’ on the aesthetic and spiritual level). Marlowe is giving his reader an opportunity to experience the Jew as ‘other’ (and yet, by the time the story is finished, its difficult to know who is the hero or who ‘has been heroed’(!)(?)).
The Jew of Malta does nothing to change the image reality constructs for the creative (and uncreative) woman, but only re-enforces what we have learned about the Renaissance period. This is true even though it was always clear that Abigail was a desired ‘object’ of all the principle ‘suitors’(!). Women are desired ( especially on the stage where they are played by men (!)(?))- but are relegated to the ‘backdrop’ of the action, so that the men can ‘get down to the business’ of ‘living’- and ‘transactions’(?)(!). It cannot be ignored that the decision of Abigail to confess the sins of her father lead to the later destruction of Barabus. Evidently, there was much interest in the internal relationship between a father and his daughter in the Renaissance period- Shakespeare would later find himself consumed by the same subject complexities in a series of different plays (both in the serious and comic domain). Daughters especially, were viewed as property that could be used to ‘seal a deal’ and loyalty was demanded. The challenge for women in the early literature would be to 1) find a ‘forest’ 2) explore trans-sexuality ( or ‘hidden truths’) or 3) marry a rich man. The concept of the forest in this context would involve the need for zones of open definitions that would be separate from political regulation and/or zoning. It was for this reason that Abigail went to the nunnery (i.e. the need for ‘a separate space’ from the norm), even though the convent was not a restructural conduit ( although, I guess it depends on how one chooses to look at the institution of nunnery) . The phenomenon of trans-sexuality would involve the fantasy of cross dressing ( for both men and women) as well as the use of women taking on anonymous names (as writers for instance).