The Jew of Malta/Act 1

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Scene 1[edit]

Enter Barabasin his counting-house, with heaps of gold before him.


So that of thus much that return was made:

And of the third part of the Persian ships,

There was the venture summed and satisfied.

As for those Sabans, and the men of Uz,

That bought my Spanish oils and wines of Greece,

Here have I purst their paltry silverlings.

Fie; what a trouble 'tis to count this trash.

Well fare the Arabians, who so richly pay

The things they traffic for with wedge of gold,

Whereof a man may easily in a day

Tell that which may maintain him all his life.

The needy groom that never fingered groat,

Would make a miracle of thus much coin:

But he whose steel-barred coffers are crammed full,

And all his lifetime hath been tirèd,

Wearying his fingers' ends with telling it,

Would in his age be loth to labour so,

And for a pound to sweat himself to death.

Give me the merchants of the Indian mines,

That trade in metal of the purest mould;

The wealthy Moor, that in the eastern rocks

Without control can pick his riches up,

And in his house heap pearls like pebble-stones,

Receive them free, and sell them by the weight;

Bags of fiery opals, sapphires, amethysts,

Jacinths, hard topaz, grass-green emeralds,

Beauteous rubies, sparkling diamonds,

And seld-seen costly stones of so great price,

As one of them indifferently rated,

And of a carat of this quantity,

May serve in peril of calamity

To ransom great kings from captivity.

This is the ware wherein consists my wealth;

And thus methinks should men of judgment frame

Their means of traffic from the vulgar trade,

And as their wealth increaseth, so inclose

Infinite riches in a little room.

But now how stands the wind?

Into what corner peers my halcyon's bill?

Ha! to the east? yes: see, how stands the vanes?

East and by south: why then I hope my ships

I sent for Egypt and the bordering isles

Are gotten up by Nilus' winding banks:

Mine argosy from Alexandria,

Loaden with spice and silks, now under sail,

Are smoothly gliding down by Candy shore

To Malta, through our Mediterranean sea.

But who comes here? How now!

Enter a Merchant.


Barabas, thy ships are safe,

Riding in Malta Road: and all the merchants

With other merchandise are safe arrived,

And have sent me to know whether yourself

Will come and custom them.


The ships are safe thou say'st, and richly fraught.


They are.


Why then go bid them come ashore,

And bring with them their bills of entry:

I hope our credit in the custom-house

Will serve as well as I were present there.

Go send 'em threescore camels, thirty mules,

And twenty waggons to bring up the ware.

But art thou master in a ship of mine,

And is thy credit not enough for that?


The very custom barely comes to more

Than many merchants of the town are worth,

And therefore far exceeds my credit, sir.


Go tell 'em the Jew of Malta sent thee, man:

Tush! who amongst 'em knows not Barabas?


I go.


So then, there's somewhat come.

Sirrah, which of my ships art thou master of?


Of the Speranza, sir.


And saw'st thou not

Mine argosy at Alexandria?

Thou could'st not come from Egypt, or by Caire,

But at the entry there into the sea,

Where Nilus pays his tribute to the main,

Thou needs must sail by Alexandria.


I neither saw them, nor inquired of them:

But this we heard some of our seamen say,

They wondered how you durst with so much wealth

Trust such a crazèd vessel, and so far.


Tush, they are wise! I know her and her strength.

But go, go thou thy ways, discharge thy ship,

And bid my factor bring his loading in.

Exit Merch.

And yet I wonder at this argosy.

Enter a second Merchant.

2 Merch.

Thine argosy from Alexandria,

Know, Barabas, doth ride in Malta Road,

Laden with riches, and exceeding store

Of Persian silks, of gold, and orient pearl.


How chance you came not with those other ships That sailed by Egypt?

2 Merch.

Sir, we saw 'em not.


Belike they coasted round by Candy shore

About their oils, or other businesses.

But 'twas ill done of you to come so far

Without the aid or conduct of their ships.

2 Merch.

Sir, we were wafted by a Spanish fleet,

That never left us till within a league,

That had the galleys of the Turk in chase.


O!—they were going up to Sicily:—

Well, go,

And bid the merchants and my men despatch

And come ashore, and see the fraught discharged.

2 Merch.

I go.



Thus trowls our fortune in by land and sea,

And thus are we on every side enriched:

These are the blessings promised to the Jews,

And herein was old Abram's happiness:

What more may heaven do for earthly man

Than thus to pour out plenty in their laps,

Ripping the bowels of the earth for them,

Making the sea[s] their servants, and the winds

To drive their substance with successful blasts?

Who hateth me but for my happiness?

Or who is honoured now but for his wealth?

Rather had I a Jew be hated thus,

Than pitied in a Christian poverty:

For I can see no fruits in all their faith,

But malice, falsehood, and excessive pride,

Which methinks fits not their profession.

Haply some hapless man hath conscience,

And for his conscience lives in beggary.

They say we are a scattered nation:

I cannot tell, but we have scambled1 up

More wealth by far than those that brag of faith.

There's Kirriah Jairim, the great Jew of Greece,

Obed in Bairseth, Nones in Portugal,

Myself in Malta, some in Italy,

Many in France, and wealthy every one;

Ay, wealthier far than any Christian.

I must confess we come not to be kings;

That's not our fault: alas, our number's few,

And crowns come either by succession,

Or urged by force; and nothing violent,

Oft have I heard tell, can be permanent.

Give us a peaceful rule, make Christians kings,

That thirst so much for principality.

I have no charge, nor many children,

But one sole daughter, whom I hold as dear

As Agamemnon did his Iphigen:

And all I have is hers. But who comes here?

Enter three Jews.

1 Jew.

Tush, tell not me; 'twas done of policy.

2 Jew.

Come, therefore, let us go to Barabas,

For he can counsel best in these affairs;

And here he comes.


Why, how now, countrymen!

Why flock you thus to me in multitudes?

What accident's betided to the Jews?

1 Jew.

A fleet of warlike galleys, Barabas,

Are come from Turkey, and lie in our road:

And they this day sit in the council-house

To entertain them and their embassy.


Why, let 'em come, so they come not to war;

Or let 'em war, so we be conquerors—

Nay, let 'em combat, conquer, and kill all!

So they spare me, my daughter, and my wealth.


1 Jew.

Were it for confirmation of a league,

They would not come in warlike manner thus.

2 Jew.

I fear their coming will afflict us all.


Fond men! what dream you of their multitudes.

What need they treat of peace that are in league?

The Turks and those of Malta are in league.

Tut, tut, there is some other matter in't.

1 Jew.

Why, Barabas, they come for peace or war.


Haply for neither, but to pass along

Towards Venice by the Adriatic Sea;

With whom they have attempted many times,

But never could effect their stratagem.

3 Jew.

And very wisely said. It may be so.

2 Jew.

But there's a meeting in the senate-house,

And all the Jews in Malta must be there.


Hum; all the Jews in Malta must be there?

Ay, like enough, why then let every man

Provide him, and be there for fashion-sake.

If anything shall there concern our state,

Assure yourselves I'll look—unto myself.


1 Jew.

I know you will; well, brethren, let us go.

2 Jew.

Let's take our leaves; farewell, good Barabas.


Farewell, Zaareth; farewell, Temainte.

Exeunt Jews.

And, Barabas, now search this secret out;

Summon thy senses, call thy wits together:

These silly men mistake the matter clean.

Long to the Turk did Malta contribute;

Which tribute, all in policy I fear,

The Turks have let increase to such a sum

As all the wealth of Malta cannot pay;

And now by that advantage thinks belike

To seize upon the town: ay, that he seeks.

However the world go, I'll make sure for one,

And seek in time to intercept the worst,

Warily guarding that which I ha' got.

Ego mihimet sum semper proximus.

Why, let 'em enter, let 'em take the town.


Scene 2[edit]

Enter Governor of Malta, Knights, and Officers; met by Bassoes of the Turk, Calymath.


Now, Bassoes, what demand you at our hands?

1 Bas.

Know, Knights of Malta, that we came from Rhodes,

From Cyprus, Candy, and those other Isles

That lie betwixt the Mediterranean seas.


What's Cyprus, Candy, and those other Isles

To us, or Malta? What at our hands demand ye?


The ten years' tribute that remains unpaid.


Alas! my lord, the sum is over-great,

I hope your highness will consider us.


I wish, grave governor, 'twere in my power

To favour you, but 'tis my father's cause,

Wherein I may not, nay, I dare not dally.


Then give us leave, great Selim Calymath.

Consults apart with the Knights.


Stand all aside, and let the Knights determine,

And send to keep our galleys under sail,

For happily we shall not tarry here;

Now, governor, [say,] how are you resolved?


Thus: since your hard conditions are such

That you will needs have ten years' tribute past,

We may have time to make collection

Amongst the inhabitants of Malta for't.

1 Bas.

That's more than is in our commission.


What, Callipine! a little courtesy.

Let's know their time, perhaps it is not long;

And 'tis more kingly to obtain by peace

Than to enforce conditions by constraint.

What respite ask you, governor?


But a month.


We grant a month, but see you keep your promise.

Now launch our galleys back again to sea,

Where we'll attend the respite you have ta'en,

And for the money send our messenger.

Farewell, great governor1 and brave Knights of Malta.


And all good fortune wait on Calymath!

Exeunt Calymath and Bassoes.

Go one and call those Jews of Malta hither:

Were they not summoned to appear to-day?


They were, my lord, and here they come.

Enter Barabas and three Jews.

1 Knight.

Have you determined what to say to them?


Yes, give me leave:—and, Hebrews, now come near.

From the Emperor of Turkey is arrived

Great Selim Calymath, his highness' son,

To levy of us ten years' tribute past,

Now then, here know that it concerneth us—


Then, good my lord, to keep your quiet still,

Your lordship shall do well to let them have it.


Soft, Barabas, there's more 'longs to 't than so.

To what this ten years' tribute will amount,

That we have cast, but cannot compass it

By reason of the wars that robbed our store;

And therefore are we to request your aid.


Alas, my lord, we are no soldiers:

And what's our aid against so great a prince?

1 Knight.

Tut, Jew, we know thou art no soldier;

Thou art a merchant and a moneyed man,

And 'tis thy money, Barabas, we seek.


How, my lord! my money?


Thine and the rest.

For, to be short, amongst you't must be had.

1 Jew.

Alas, my lord, the most of us are poor.


Then let the rich increase your portions.


Are strangers with your tribute to be taxed?

2 Knight.

Have strangers leave with us to get their wealth?

Then let them with us contribute.


How! equally?


No, Jew, like infidels.

For through our sufferance of your hateful lives,

Who stand accursèd in the sight of Heaven,

These taxes and afflictions are befallen,

And therefore thus we are determinèd.

Read there the articles of our decrees.


First, the tribute-money of the Turks shall all be levied amongst the Jews, and each of them to pay one half of his estate.


How, half his estate? I hope you mean not mine.



Read on.


Secondly, he that denies to pay shall straight become a Christian.


How! a Christian? Hum, what's here to do?



Lastly, he that denies this shall absolutely lose all he has.

All 3 Jews.

O my lord, we will give half.


O earth-mettled villains, and no Hebrews born!

And will you basely thus submit yourselves

To leave your goods to their arbitrament?


Why, Barabas, wilt thou be christenèd?


No, governor, I will be no convertite.


Then pay thy half.


Why, know you what you did by this device?

Half of my substance is a city's wealth.

Governor, it was not got so easily;

Nor will I part so slightly therewithal.


Sir, half is the penalty of our decree,

Either pay that, or we will seize on all.


Corpo di Dio! stay! you shall have the half;

Let me be used but as my brethren are.


No, Jew, thou hast denied the articles,

And now it cannot be recalled.

Exeunt Officers, on a sign from the Governor.


Will you then steal my goods?

Is theft the ground of your religion?


No, Jew, we take particularly thine

To save the ruin of a multitude:

And better one want for the common good

Than many perish for a private man:

Yet, Barabas, we will not banish thee,

But here in Malta, where thou gott'st thy wealth,

Live still; and, if thou canst, get more.


Christians, what or how can I multiply?

Of naught is nothing made.

1 Knight.

From naught at first thou cam'st to little wealth,

From little unto more, from more to most:

If your first curse fall heavy on thy head,

And make thee poor and scorned of all the world,

'Tis not our fault, but thy inherent sin.


What, bring you scripture to confirm your wrongs?

Preach me not out of my possessions.

Some Jews are wicked, as all Christians are:

But say the tribe that I descended of

Were all in general cast away for sin,

Shall I be tried by their transgression?

The man that dealeth righteously shall live:

And which of you can charge me otherwise?


Out, wretched Barabas!

Sham'st thou not thus to justify thyself,

As if we knew not thy profession?

If thou rely upon thy righteousness,

Be patient and thy riches will increase.

Excess of wealth is cause of covetousness:

And covetousness, O, 'tis a monstrous sin.


Ay, but theft is worse: tush! take not from methen,

For that is theft! and if you rob me thus,

I must be forced to steal and compass more.

1 Knight.

Grave governor, listen not to his exclaims.

Convert his mansion to a nunnery;

His house will harbour many holy nuns.


It shall be so.

Enter Officers.

Now, officers, have you done?


Ay, my lord, we have seized upon the goods

And wares of Barabas, which being valued,

Amount to more than all the wealth in Malta,

And of the other we have seizèd half.


Then we'll take order for the residue.


Well then, my lord, say, are you satisfied?

You have my goods, my money, and my wealth,

My ships, my store, and all that I enjoyed;

And, having all, you can request no more;

Unless your unrelenting flinty hearts

Suppress all pity in your stony breasts,

And now shall move you to bereave my life.


No, Barabas, to stain our hands with blood

Is far from us and our profession.


Why, I esteem the injury far less

To take the lives of miserable men

Than be the causers of their misery.

You have my wealth, the labour of my life,

The comfort of mine age, my children's hope,

And therefore ne'er distinguish of the wrong.


Content thee, Barabas, thou hast naught but right.


Your extreme right does me exceeding wrong:

But take it to you, i' the devil's name.


Come, let us in, and gather of these goods

The money for this tribute of the Turk.

1 Knight.

'Tis necessary that be looked unto:

For if we break our day, we break the league,

And that will prove but simple policy.

Exeunt, all exceptBarabasand the Jews.


Ay, policy! that's their profession,

And not simplicity, as they suggest.

The plagues of Egypt, and the curse of Heaven,

Earth's barrenness, and all men's hatred

Inflict upon them, thou great Primus Motor!

And here upon my knees, striking the earth,

I ban their souls to everlasting pains

And extreme tortures of the fiery deep,

That thus have dealt with me in my distress.

1 Jew.

O yet be patient, gentle Barabas.


O silly brethren, born to see this day;

Why stand you thus unmoved with my laments?

Why weep you not to think upon my wrongs?

Why pine not I, and die in this distress?

1 Jew.

Why, Barabas, as hardly can we brook

The cruel handling of ourselves in this;

Thou seest they have taken half our goods.


Why did you yield to their extortion?

You were a multitude, and I but one:

And of me only have they taken all.

1 Jew.

Yet, brother Barabas, remember Job.


What tell you me of Job? I wot his wealth

Was written thus: he had seven thousand sheep,

Three thousand camels, and two hundred yoke

Of labouring oxen, and five hundred

She-asses: but for every one of those,

Had they been valued at indifferent rate,

I had at home, and in mine argosy,

And other ships that came from Egypt last,

As much as would have bought his beasts and him,

And yet have kept enough to live upon:

So that not he, but I may curse the day,

Thy fatal birth-day, forlorn Barabas;

And henceforth wish for an eternal night,

That clouds of darkness may inclose my flesh,

And hide these extreme sorrows from mine eyes:

For only I have toiled to inherit here

The months of vanity and loss of time,

And painful nights, have been appointed me.

2 Jew.

Good Barabas, be patient.


Ay, I pray, leave me in my patience.

You that were ne'er possessed of wealth, are pleased with want;

But give him liberty at least to mourn,

That in a field amidst his enemies

Doth see his soldiers slain, himself disarmed,

And knows no means of his recovery:

Ay, let me sorrow for this sudden chance;

'Tis in the trouble of my spirit I speak;

Great injuries are not so soon forgot.

1 Jew.

Come, let us leave him; in his ireful mood

Our words will but increase his ecstasy.

1 Jew.

On, then; but trust me 'tis a misery

To see a man in such affliction.—

Farewell, Barabas!



Ay, fare you well.

See the simplicity of these base slaves,

Who, for the villains have no wit themselves,

Think me to be a senseless lump of clay

That will with every water wash to dirt:

No, Barabas is born to better chance,

And framed of finer mould than common men,

That measure naught but by the present time.

A reaching thought will search his deepest wits,

And cast with cunning for the time to come:

For evils are apt to happen every day.—

But whither wends my beauteous Abigail?

Enter Abigail, the Jew's daughter.

O! what has made my lovely daughter sad?

What, woman! moan not for a little loss:

Thy father hath enough in store for thee.


Nor [not?] for myself, but agèd Barabas:

Father, for thee lamenteth Abigail:

But I will learn to leave these fruitless tears,

And, urged thereto with my afflictions,

With fierce exclaims run to the senate-house,

And in the senate reprehend them all,

And rend their hearts with tearing of my hair,

Till they reduce the wrongs done to my father.


No, Abigail, things past recovery

Are hardly cured with exclamations.

Be silent, daughter, sufferance breeds ease,

And time may yield us an occasion

Which on the sudden cannot serve the turn.

Besides, my girl, think me not all so fond

As negligently to forego so much

Without provision for thyself and me.

Ten thousand portagues, besides great pearls,

Rich costly jewels, and stones infinite,

Fearing the worst of this before it fell,

I closely hid.


Where, father?


In my house, my girl.


Then shall they ne'er be seen of Barabas:

For they have seized upon thy house and wares.


But they will give me leave once more, I trow,

To go into my house.


That may they not:

For there I left the governor placing nuns,

Displacing me; and of thy house they mean

To make a nunnery, where none but their own sect

Must enter in; men generally barred.


My gold! my gold! and all my wealth is gone!

You partial heavens, have I deserved this plague?

What, will you thus oppose me, luckless stars,

To make me desperate in my poverty?

And knowing me impatient in distress,

Think me so mad as I will hang myself,

That I may vanish o'er the earth in air,

And leave no memory that e'er I was?

No, I will live; nor loathe I this my life:

And, since you leave me in the ocean thus

To sink or swim, and put me to my shifts,

I'll rouse my senses and awake myself.

Daughter! I have it: thou perceiv'st the plight

Wherein these Christians have oppressèd me:

Be ruled by me, for in extremity

We ought to make bar of no policy.


Father, whate'er it be to injure them

That have so manifestly wrongèd us,

What will not Abigail attempt?


Why, so;

Then thus, thou told'st me they have turned my house

Into a nunnery, and some nuns are there?


I did.


Then, Abigail, there must my girl

Entreat the abbess to be entertained.


How, as a nun?


Ay, daughter, for religion

Hides many mischiefs from suspicion.


Ay, but, father, they will suspect me there.


Let'em suspect; but be thou so precise

As they may think it done of holiness.

Entreat 'em fair, and give them friendly speech,

And seem to them as if thy sins were great,

Till thou hast gotten to be entertained.


Thus, father, shall I much dissemble.



As good dissemble that thou never mean'st,

As first mean truth and then dissemble it,—

A counterfeit profession is better

Than unseen hypocrisy.


Well, father, say [that] I be entertained,

What then shall follow?


This shall follow then;

There have I hid, close underneath the plank

That runs along the upper-chamber floor,

The gold and jewels which I kept for thee.

But here they come; be cunning, Abigail.


Then, father, go with me.


No, Abigail, in this

It is not necessary I be seen:

For I will seem offended with thee for't:

Be close, my girl, for this must fetch my gold.

They draw back.

Enter Friar Jacomo, Friar Barnardine, Abbess, and a Nun.

F. Jac.

Sisters, we now are almost at the new-made nunnery.


The better; for we love not to be seen:

'Tis thirty winters long since some of us

Did stray so far amongst the multitude.

F. Jac.

But, madam, this house

And waters of this new-made nunnery

Will much delight you.


It may be so; but who comes here?

Abigail comes forward.


Grave abbess, and you, happy virgins' guide,

Pity the state of a distressèd maid.


What art thou, daughter?


The hopeless daughter of a hapless Jew,

The Jew of Malta, wretched Barabas;

Sometimes the owner of a goodly house,

Which they have now turned to a nunnery.


Well, daughter, say, what is thy suit with us?


Fearing the afflictions which my father feels

Proceed from sin, or want of faith in us,

I'd pass away my life in penitence,

And be a novice in your nunnery,

To make atonement for my labouring soul.

F. Jac.

No doubt, brother, but this proceedeth of the spirit.

F. Barn.

Ay, and of a moving spirit too, brother; but come,

Let us entreat she may be entertained.


Well, daughter, we admit you for a nun.


First let me as a novice learn to frame

My solitary life to your strait laws,

And let me lodge where I was wont to lie,

I do not doubt, by your divine precepts

And mine own industry, but to profit much.


As much, I hope, as all I hid is worth.



Come, daughter, follow us.


Why, how now, Abigail,

What makest thou amongst these hateful Christians?

F. Jac.

Hinder her not, thou man of little faith,

For she has mortified herself.


How! mortified?

F. Jac.

And is admitted to the sisterhood.


Child of perdition, and thy father's shame!

What wilt thou do among these hateful fiends?

I charge thee on my blessing that thou leave

These devils, and their damnèd heresy.


Father, give me—

She goes to him.


Nay, back, Abigail,

And think upon the jewels and the gold; Whispers to her.

The board is markèd thus that covers it.

Away, accursèd, from thy father's sight.

F. Jac.

Barabas, although thou art in misbelief,

And wilt not see thine own afflictions,

Yet let thy daughter be no longer blind.


Blind friar, I reck not thy persuasions,

The board is markèd thus2 that covers it.

For I had rather die than see her thus.

Wilt thou forsake me too in my distress,

Seducèd daughter? (Go, forget not, go. )

Becomes it Jews to be so credulous?

(To-morrow early I'll be at the door.)

No, come not at me; if thou wilt be damned,

Forget me, see me not, and so be gone.

(Farewell, remember to-morrow morning.)

Out, out, thou wretch!

Exeunt, on one side Barabas, on the other side Friars, Abbess, Nun and Abigail; as they are going out, Enter Mathias.


Who's this? fair Abigail, the rich Jew's daughter,

Become a nun! her father's sudden fall

Has humbled her and brought her down to this:

Tut, she were fitter for a tale of love,

Than to be tirèd out with orisons:

And better would she far become a bed,

Embracèd in a friendly lover's arms,

Than rise at midnight to a solemn mass.

Enter Lodowick.


Why, how now, Don Mathias! in a dump?


Believe me, noble Lodowick, I have seen

The strangest sight, in my opinion,

That ever I beheld.


What was't, I prithee?


A fair young maid, scarce fourteen years of age,

The sweetest flower in Cytherea's field,

Cropt from the pleasures of the fruitful earth,

And strangely metamorphos'd [to a] nun.


But say, what was she?


Why, the rich Jew's daughter.


What, Barabas, whose goods were lately seized?

Is she so fair?


And matchless beautiful;

As had you seen her 'twould have moved your heart,

Though countermined with walls of brass, to love,

Or at the least to pity.


And if she be so fair as you report,

'Twere time well spent to go and visit her:

How say you, shall we?


I must and will, sir; there's no remedy.


And so will I too, or it shall go hard.

Farewell, Mathias.


Farewell, Lodowick.

Exeunt severally.