This workshop was based on ideas of the political community and the common good, one of the project’s key research themes (find out more here).
It sought to explore how a sense of the community and/or outsiders is generated in performance, with special consideration for the role of an audience in the process. It also introduced participants to Marlowe’s confrontational use of political ideas.
The first half of the workshop used theatrical exercises to explore ideas of exclusion and inclusion. In the second, groups selected and performed extracts from a scene of Marlowe’s Jew of Malta, exploring it from both a pro-community and anti-community angle.
The scene, below, is a version of The Jew of Malta, 1.2.53-124, revised and edited for the workshop.
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SCENARIO. Malta is an island ruled by Christians. It has over-borrowed from Islamic Turkey, which now threatens to invade to secure its debts. The governor and his knights therefore summon the Jews, who are immigrants allowed to do business in Malta as ‘strangers’ – they have no rights as citizens. The Jews are told they have to pay Malta’s debt to Turkey on the state’s behalf.
CHARACTERS. 6-7 actors are needed. There is Barabas, the ‘Jew of Malta’; the ‘Governor’; his two ‘knights’; and then up to 3 other Jews.
KNIGHT 1 Thou art a merchant, and a moneyed man.
And ‘tis thy money, Barabas, we seek.
BARABAS How, my lord, my money?
GOVERNOR Thine and the rest.
JEW 1 Alas, my Lord, the most of us are poor. 5
GOVERNOR Then let the rich increase your portions.
BARABAS Are strangers with your tribute to be taxed?
KNIGHT 2 Have strangers leave with us to get their wealth?
Then let them with us contribute.
BARABAS How, equally? 10
GOVERNOR No, Jew, like infidels.
Read there the articles of our decrees.
READER First, the tribute money of the Turks shall all be levied among
the Jews, and / each of them to pay one half of his estate. Secondly, he that
denies to pay, / shall straight become a Christian. Lastly, he that denies this,
shall absolutely lose all he has. 15
ALL JEWS O, my Lord, we will give half.
BARABAS O, earth-mettled villains, and no Hebrews born!
And will you basely thus submit yourselves
To leave your goods to their arbitrament?
GOVERNOR Why, Barabas, wilt thou be christened? 20
BARABAS No, Governor, I will be no convertite.
GOVERNOR Sir, half is the penalty of our decree,
Either pay that, or we will sieze on all.
BARABAS Corpo di dio. Stay, you shall have half,
Let me be used but as my brethren are. 25
GOVERNOR No, Jew, thou hast denied the articles,
And now it cannot be recalled.
BARABAS Will you then steal my goods?
Is theft the ground of your religion?
GOVERNOR No, Jew. We take particularly thine 30
To save the ruin of a multitude
And better one want for a common good
Than many perish for a private man.
Yet, Barabas, we will not banish thee,
But here in Malta, where thou got’st thy wealth, 35
Live still, and if thou can’st, get more.
BARABAS Christians: what, or how can I multiply?
Of nought is nothing made.
KNIGHT 1 If your first curse fall heavy on thy head,
And make thee poor and scorned of all the world 40
Tis not our fault, but thy inherent sin.
BARABAS What? Bring you Scripture to confirm your wrongs?
GOVERNOR Excess of wealth is cause of covetousness,
And covetousness, O tis a monstrous sin.