Marlowe and Shakespeare Cross Borders: Malta and Venice in the Early Modern World
This essay deals with the worlds of early modern Malta and Venice, two distinctly non-English locations, as depicted by Marlowe and Shakespeare. In particular, it considers the roles Jews played in The Jew of Malta and The Merchant of Venice. I argue that while Shakespeare is completely accurate in his depiction of the spirit of financial and mercantile adventurism and huge risk-taking that characterized early modern Venice, he does not fully reflect the tolerance that marked this early modern trading capital. Shakespeare bases his play on binaries and antagonistic opposition between the Jews and the Christians in Venice while Marlowe consciously resists painting his world in black and white. Marlowe’s Malta is a melting pot, a location where boundaries and distinctions between Jew, Christian, and Muslim, and between master and slave, blur, and easy definitions and categorizations become impossible. In spite of borrowing many historical details of the Great Siege of Malta (1565), Marlowe refuses to end his play with the siege and its attendant grand narrative of heroic Christian troops defeating barbaric Turks and bringing about a decisive victory for the Christian world.
Contributors to Early Theatre retain full copyright to their content. All published authors are required to grant a limited exclusive license to the journal. According to the terms of this license, authors agree that for one year following publication in Early Theatre, they will not publish their submission elsewhere in the same form, in any language, without the consent of the journal, and without acknowledgment of its initial publication in the journal thereafter.