A Comparison Of The Merchant Of Venice And Barabas

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‘The Merchant of Venice’ written by William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and ‘The Jew of Malta’ written by Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) were both written during a period when anti-semitism was prevalent in England. Anti Semitism is the intense dislike for and prejudice against Jewish people. The Jews were considered a despised race and were deeply resented by the Christians. They bore the plaque of disgrace and hostility. As a Jew, Shylock too faced such discrimination. Although the genre of both these plays is so different, characters that are strikingly similar dominate both plays. Shylock from ‘The Merchant of Venice’ and Barabas from ‘The Jew of Malta’ are both wealthy, money minded, materialistic Jews.

In The Bible, Barabas was a Jewish murderer and revolutionary who was set free at the time Jesus was crucified. Barabas, from ‘The Jew of Malta’ is named after him. Barabas was a wealthy Jewish tradesman. Highly materialistic in nature, Barabas believed he was truly the chosen one. His arrogance stemmed from his superiority that he felt amidst his own race. He was deceitful and had very selfish means and to obtain what he desired and could even use his own daughter, who he loved dearly, to do so. His villainous ways surfaced in various forms like when he went on a killing
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At first, Barabas considers the wrongs done to him by various people as very personal issues. However, as the play progresses he begins to abhor the Christians specifically because of certain experiences. Barabas teaches his slave, Ithamore, the trade of revenge: “First, be thou void of these affections/ Compassion, love, vain hope, and heartless fear;/ Be mov'd at nothing, see thou pity none/ But to thyself smile when the Christians moan”. Soon, even people who have been loyal to him and have aided him fall prey to his vengeful nature. Ithamore, was one such
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