The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe
Act I
The Jew of Malta opens with Barabas in his counting house, busily counting his most recent earnings and hoping that his vessels will do well on their current journey. Soon, several merchants enter to tell Barabas that his ships are in the port, each laden with wealth. Barabas is pleased that his ships have arrived safely, in spite of the many risks that his wealth-laden ships face on the sea. When he is alone, he credits God with making him rich, saying that Abraham and his descendents were promised much happiness. He would rather be an envied and hated Jew than a poor Christian, with only his faith to sustain him. Barabas soliloquizes that he is content not to be a ruler but would rather profit from rulers. At that moment, three Jews enter to tell Barabas of the arrival of a delegation from Turkey. Barabas is unconcerned, since he does not care for his adopted country and cares only for the well-being of his daughter and his wealth. But the Jews also bring word of a meeting in the Senate House, at which all Jews must be present. The Turks have arrived to demand that a tribute, long overdue these past ten years, be paid. The governor of Malta requests a month so that he can try and collect the money. After the Turks leave, Governor Ferneze calls the Jews in to tell them of the demand. He relates the information that Malta lacks the money for the tribute because of the expensive wars just passed. But more importantly, he intends to assess the Jews for the cost of the tribute. Each Jew is to pay one half of his estate or become a Christian. If any Jew refuses, he will lose all that he has. The three Jews who accompany Barabas willingly agree to give half their money, but Barabas complains, and the governor claims all of his estate. When Barabas tries to retract and submit only half, he is denied. After all has been seized, and he is left alone, Barabas’ daughter Abigail enters, sincerely mourning her father’s pain. She tells her father that their home has been turned into a convent, and he may never enter there again. But Barabas has hidden wealth in the house, and he needs to retrieve it, and so he hatches a plot to force Abigail to pretend to be a nun, so that she might enter into the house and retrieve his money
Act II
The act opens with Abigail throwing jewels and gold out of a window to her father, waiting below. In the next scene, Martin Del Bosco, a vice-admiral from Spain, arrives in Malta to conduct a sale of slaves that were rescued after the sinking of some Turkish ships. Ferneze, though, is frightened of the Turks, who will oppose the sale. However, Del Bosco convinces the governor not to pay the tribute previously assessed by the Turks, claiming instead that Spain will become Malta’s protector. At the slave sale, Barabas buys Ithamore, whose price is cheaper than the first slave that Barabas encounters. As these two exchange their personal histories, it becomes apparent that Barabas and Ithamore have very similar personalities. At the same time, Barabas manages to entice both Lodowick and Mathias with promises about his daughter. When Lodowick arrives at his home, Barabas instructs a reluctant Abigail to entice Lodowick into making love to her. When Mathias arrives, Barabas suggests to him that Lodowick is a persistent and unwanted suitor. But when Mathias leaves, Barabas has Lodowick betrothed to Abigail, even though she protests that she loves Mathias. Barabas next gives Abigail to Mathias, who is further incited to kill Lodowick. The act ends with Ithamore carrying a false challenge from Lodowick to Mathias.
The act opens with a brief scene, in which Ithamore sees a courtesan, Bellamira, and desires her. The action then shifts to Lodowick and Mathias who meet near Barabas’ house, duel, and each man kills the other. Ferneze and Katherine arrive, and each one mourns the death of a beloved son. The scene next shifts to Ithamore who is laughing at the cleverness of Barabas’ revenge. Abigail soon enters, and Ithamore explains the simple plot that resulted in the deaths of Lodowick and Mathias. Abigail is shaken by her father’s treachery and by the deliberate pain that he has caused her, and in response, she once again enters the convent, intending to become a nun. This time she is sincere in her desires and even writes to her father that he should repent his sins. When Barabas learns of Abigail’s decision, he is enraged and promises to disinherit her. In her place, Barabas makes Ithamore his heir, adopting him as a son and giving him access to his wealth. To assuage his anger, Barabas next sends a pot of poisoned rice porridge to the convent, which all the nuns eat and are poisoned. Abigail also eats it, but before she dies she implicates her father in the deaths of Lodowick and Mathias and begs the priest to convert her father and save him. Her implication is given as a confession, and the priest is obligated to hold the account sacred. Meanwhile, the Turks have arrived to demand their tribute, but Ferneze, supported by Del Bosco, refuses to pay. When the Turks leave, Ferneze prepares for war.
Act IV
Barabas and Ithamore gloat over their success in poisoning the nuns. The Jew expresses particular satisfaction over his daughter's death. Friar Jacomo and Barnardine enter and, after a series of interrupted exchanges, intimate that they know of Barabas's hand in the deaths of Mathias and Lodowick. Barabas realizes that his daughter has confessed. He immediately puts on a show for the two friars: dissembling great sufferance under the burden of his many sins, he expresses a desire to convert to Christianity himself. He ostentatiously adds that he still possesses a large fortune, pointing out that this fortune would be donated to the monastery into which he enters.
At this point, the two friars start bickering over which monastery Barabas should choose. Once Barabas tells friar Jacomo to visit him at one o'clock that night, the two friars break into a fight. Barabas pulls them apart and asks Barnardine to leave with Ithamore. In his usual duplicitous manner, he has promised his favors to the friars while plotting to murder both of them. One, after all, converted his daughter to Christianity, and the other knows enough to have him condemned to death.
Ithamore returns after leading Barnardine into the house, noting that the friar has fallen asleep with his clothes on. The master and slave tie a noose around the friar's neck and strangle him on the spot. They then prop up his body against his staff and wait for Jacomo. When the friar arrives at the promised hour, he finds Barnardine standing silently in his path. Friar Jacomo decides to force his way past his former friend and strikes him with his staff, whereupon Barabas and Ithamore jump out of hiding. The two accuse Jacomo of murder and lead him off to be tried by the law.

Pilia-Borza enters, telling Bellamira that he took her letter to Ithamore. Ithamore enters and delivers a monologue recounting Jacomo's calm behavior at the gallows. As he wonders aloud why Bellamira has summoned him, he arrives in front of her house. Bellamira welcomes him with sweet words and a kiss, and he decides that he should steal some money from Barabas to make himself presentable. He discusses the possibility with her and Pilia-Borza, then agrees to write a blackmail letter to Barabas for three hundred crowns. While Pilia-Borza delivers it, Bellamira pretends to think little of the gold and continues to play the seductress. Ithamore would be glad to marry her; he bursts into uncharacteristic high poetry. Pilia returns with the money, which inspires Ithamore immediately to write a second letter for five hundred crowns more, plus one hundred for Pilia.

Barabas enters reading over Ithamore's first letter. As he expresses his outrage, Pilia-Borza enters carrying the second letter demanding five hundred crowns. Barabas invites Pilia-Borza to dinner in hopes of poisoning him, but the latter will hear nothing till he sees the money. The Jew finally gives in, wincing at the sight of so much gold leaving his pocket-but puts on a show for Pilia-Borza, lamenting his betrayal by Ithamore more than its financial consequences. Alone again, Barabas genuinely feels the hurt of the betrayal but focuses on the money and the possible consequences of being found out. He resolves to visit Ithamore in disguise, hoping to rid himself of the blackmailers.

Bellamira and Ithamore drink wine while exchanging amorous words. Ithamore boasts of the evil deeds that he has committed with Barabas, upon which Bellamira and Pilia-Borza decide to betray him to the governor, after blackmailing him further. The Jew himself enters the scene, dressed as a French musician. Barabas presents the three blackmailers with poisoned flowers to smell, and Pilia-Borza pays him two crowns to play the lute. Ithamore asks him if he knows the Jew named Barabas, and Ithamore proceeds to rail against his master with false claims about his eating and dressing habits. Barabas then leaves the scene under the excuse that he feels ill--perhaps disgusted by the filthy lies that Ithamore has been telling about him.
As the scene ends, the three agree to send a third letter demanding one thousand crowns. Ithamore defends their "blackmail with an anti-Judaic justification, speaking the last line of the act: "To undo a Jew is charity, and not sin."
Act V
The act opens with Bellamira and Pilia-Borza confronting Ferneze with their information. The governor orders that Ithamore and Barabas be arrested, and the two are quickly brought in. Ithamore immediately confesses, and Ferneze orders Barabas taken away to prison. Within a few moments, Bellamira, Ithamore, and Pilia-Borza succumb to the poison that Barabas had earlier given them, and word arrives that Barabas is also dead; however, he is feigning death. Ferneze orders that Barabas’ body be thrown over the wall, outside the city. The rest of the dead are to be buried. Barabas quickly awakes from the potion that he had consumed earlier and decides that he will help the Turks enter the city and seize it. Calymath promises to make Barabas governor if the siege is successful. The Turks are successful and Ferneze and his men are captured. Barabas is given charge of the prisoners, but he is still not satisfied with his revenge. Barabas next tells Ferneze that for the proper price, he will help him destroy the Turks and have his city returned. Accordingly, Barabas devises a plot to get Calymath and his men to a monastery outside the city walls, where he will then have them killed. Soon, Barabas is busying himself with building a trap that will destroy all the Turks. The men will be blown up, and Calymath and his officers will be cast into a pit of boiling liquid. But at the last minute, Ferneze betrays his coconspirator, and cuts the cord, throwing Barabas into the boiling pit. Before he dies, Barabas confesses to all his crimes. At the play’s conclusion, Calymath is Ferneze’s prisoner, and all his men are dead.