Set Up

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.