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Produktart: Buch
Verlag: Bachelor + Master Publishing
Erscheinungsdatum: 12.2010
AuflagenNr.: 1
Seiten: 52
Sprache: Englisch
Einband: Paperback


This study depicts the significance of Christian and non-Christian relations in the formation of early modern identities in John Fletcher’s The Island Princess and Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta. Christian and non-Christian relations are explicitly demonstrated in the Elizabethan and Jacobean plays due to their incorporated issue of religion. The plays are set in the early modern period, during which many changes occur. The significance of Christian and non-Christian relations increase as the age of colonisation advances, and more territorial expansion and long-distance trade are undertaken. The encounter with different cultures and faiths awakes European consciousness to the existence of great non-Christian societies. This knowledge in turn evokes apprehension of the existing attitudes and beliefs in Christian Europe. Notions of race and religion begin to shift. Non-European peoples commence to be perceived as rivals to Christianity. Marlowe’s and Fletcher’s plays depict the anxieties towards the Other, where religion becomes the central issue of distinction. Marlowe’s tragedy The Jew of Malta deals with Judaism and Catholicism and their mutual hostility. Fletcher’s tragi-comedy The Island Princess deals with the pagan princess’s conversion to Christianity. This study explores various aspects influenced and sustained by Christianity. Christian beliefs form a foundation for early modern European society. The emerging identities are indispensably intertwined with Christianity and Christian attitudes of that time. Notions of race and gender cannot be easily defined without religion. This study explores the changes in the development of racial thinking and its religious underpinning. Christianity inevitably influences different spheres of social life and conduct because of its popularity during this time period. Religion empowers European nations to endorse their values in foreign territories and advocates the spread of Christianity in the world. The Island Princess, for example, explores underlying Christian values, which set the heroine’s conversion in the centre of the play. The Jew of Malta, on the other hand, explores the notion that Christians are not flawless. Not only does it reveal the condemned character traits of the Jews, but it also ridicules the Christians. The study investigates the emergence of Christians’ repulsive attitudes towards the Jews, the relationship to the Turks, and it explores Marlowe’s criticism of the Christians. The study inquires into the causes for the tense relationship to non-Christians and looks for clues in the unconverted natives’ perception of Christian Europeans.


Text Sample: Chapter 3.2, Religion and Race: Loomba purports that Jews, for example, ‘were called ‘a perjurious, vagabond nation’, a group defined in part by their lack of affiliation to any one place – ‘in their own country [they] do live as aliens a people scattered throughout the world’.’ One contemporary writer puts in that Jews ‘have not for their mansion, any peculiar country, but are dispersed abroad among foreign nations.’ As Barbas notes himself: ‘They say we are a scattered nation’ (I.i.120). Due to these beliefs, Barbas is perceived as an alien on his island of residence. ‘Such alienation was regarded as a result of Jewish attachment to their faith’ in contemporary writings. One author describes Jews as ‘a race from all others so averse both in nature and in institutions, as glorying to single itself out of the rest of mankind.’ Since all converted Jews were accused of secretly nurturing Judaism, it was attributed to their `inherent sin´ which was claimed to be inseparable from their Jewish roots. Thus, mistrust towards Jews was inevitable. Moreover, Jews ‘were held responsible for the death of Christ, something which is recalled in the fact that Marlowe ironically gives his Jew the name Barbas.’ According to the biblical story, Barbas was ‘the convicted criminal whom the Jews select in preference to Christ.’ Therefore, beginning with the betrayal of Christians’ sacred notion of religion, Jews were accused of other crimes and were ascribed negative characteristics. Many of the ascribed Jewish characteristics appear in The Jew of Malta and Marlowe’s play mirrors many Elizabethan prejudices against Jews. The play shows explicitly anti-Semitic allusions on the central character Barbas. Barbas’ Turkish slave Ithamore exclaims some common ‘traits that were attributed to Jews during the medieval and early modern periods in Europe:’, like ’I worship your nose for this!’ (III.ii.175), or ‘He never put on a clean shirt since he was circumcised.’ (IV.iv.65). Marlowe’s play reveals many negative traits of the Jews of that time: large hooked noses, poisoning and circumcising of Christians, greed for money, and the claim that Jews stink. They were accused of ritually murdering children, which Barbas is also suspected of: ‘What has he crucified a child?’ ( Jews were accused of indulging in cannibalism and exploiting Christians economically through usury. Also Jewish diet comes in for fun: ‘This a strange thing of that Jew, he lives upon pickled grasshoppers and sauced mushrooms.’ (IV.iv.62-63) In act II Barbas boasts ironically about his deeds, which hint at the negative traits ascribed to the Jews: ‘As for myself, I walk abroad o’nights, And kill sick people groaning under walls Sometimes I go about and poison wells’ (II.iii.176-178) ‘But mark how I am blest for plaguing them: I have as much coin as will buy the town!’ (II.iii.201-202) The playwright, however, had a difficult time maintaining antipathy in his work due to the historical inaccuracy of the play. Important historical evidence is crucial for maintaining that ‘antipathy to the Jew is a cultural construct’ for the reason that in Marlowe’s lifetime England had officially no Jews. Therefore, the claim that Elizabethan England was ‘a country bare of racial Jews’ implies that prejudices against Jews stemmed from multiple sources. H. Michelson claims ‘this psychology was never based on observation, but simply taken over from the New Testament.’ G.K. Hunter believes that since there were not enough Jews to gather knowledge of ‘genuine Jewish life’ in Elizabethan England, ‘it is always the historical picture of the Jews in the Old Testament which moves the eloquence of the [Patristic] writers, never the misdoings of their living Jewish neighbours.’ Thus, ostensibly, Jewish antipathy stemmed largely from the Holy Book. Despite many scholars’ insistence on the opinion ‘that anti-Jewish sentiment in the medieval and early modern periods should be defined as theologically driven rather than racial in nature,’ recent studies show race as a crucial factor. Loomba argues that ‘a recent work on Jews in Europe […] suggests that religion and race are so tightly woven together.’ This discrepancy gives a different direction to the notion of race and religion. The latter assumption stemmed from Jews’ problems with conversion and the fact that they were scattered around the world. Jewish unwillingness towards assimilation with Christian society alienated them in the Christian-governed world. These aliens posed a permanent threat and competed with Christians for the emerging positions on the trade market. In the Jewish case ‘race’ won the upper hand since their religious adherence could be performed and feigned. Since Jews turned out to be aliens, inapt for a real conversion, they became a target for mockery, as in the case with Barbas. Therefore, any differences between them and the Christians were relentlessly ascribed to their Jewishness. Jews could be Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish, or English and called ‘an English Jew, or ‘a Turkish Jew’. The confusion whether ‘Jewishness was a nationality, a religion, or a race’ became beneficial in their ‘ability to assume a disguise.’ Their bi- or multi-lingual abilities further supported the disguise. A contemporary remark suggests the average Jew at that time ‘was a Jew in faith and race, and knew a large number of languages.’ Thus the assumption that race rather than faith was responsible for their disguise on the national as well as on the religious level facilitated the whole subject. Ensuing the new thinking, Jews needn’t now be converted since ‘conversions eroded the idea of a distinct Christian identity.’ Moreover, it was believed that Jews were not capable of giving themselves over to Christianity. Converted Jews only confused the local population and raised anxieties and mistrust. Katz argues that when a Catholic, for example, abandoned his faith and converted to Protestantism, he was completely purified. However, this was not the case with the Jews, who were universally believed to have ‘a peculiar smell, an odour which was not dissipated by baptism, but instead a racial characteristic.’ The fact that Jews were hard to tell apart from the local population increased contemporary anxieties. Loomba underlines ‘the lack of clear-cut distinctions between Jews and Christians were worrying to many English people.’ For that reason ‘ethic and religious boundaries were enforced through dress. In 1215, the Lateran Council had decreed that Jews in all Christian countries needed to wear a badge of identification.’ The decree reveals that Christian anxieties towards Jews had a long tradition. A controversial issue on the prevalence of Jews in Elizabethan England arises from the ban on Jews at that period on the one hand, and their unofficial existence on the other hand. Jews’ continuous expulsions and readmittances in many European countries and places including England, Spain, Portugal and Italy led to the formation of a small but significant Jewish community in England. As Loomba argues, this community was ‘comprised of physicians, teachers, and merchants, most of whom had begun to arrive there after expulsions of Jews in Portugal and Spain.’ She delineates that ‘although these Jews could not practise their faith openly […], their presence complicated the anti-Semitic ideologies which had percolated down from earlier times.’ Since Jews had no own country and were a dispersed nation, they were completely dependent on the whim of their sovereign. Accordingly Santa Cruz’ notes: ‘The Jews of England pretended to be Protestants rather than Catholics, […] a disguise which must have greatly facilitated their movement among the élite of Elizabethan England.’ Evidences of Jewish existence in Elizabethan England are existent. For example, two Jews were ‘among London’s leading physicians during the 1570s and 1580s.’ One of them, Dr. Hector Nunez, was even appointed the queen’s physician and was well known in the capital. English Jews occupied important positions and were tolerated by the queen for their beneficial contribution to the commonwealth. Their assistance at the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 had even strengthened their position. Katz points out that since their network was demonstrated to be an effective tool of intelligence, these English Jews remained important figures in official diplomacy even after the Armada’s defeat. The fact that Jews were trusted and worked on behalf of English interests shows that anti-Semitic prejudices did not always apply. Given evidences of the privileged position of the English Jews, Katz points out that ‘it is not often realized how much of a black comedy The Jew of Malta really is, making sport of popular stereotypes of the Jew.’ Thus, ‘the Jew becomes the mere plaything of the popular imagination.’ This statement suggests that Marlowe’s anti-Semitic allusions must have had a deep-rooted origin and were not based on contemporary prejudices based on personal contact.

Über den Autor

Die Autorin Milena Bubenechik: Anregung zum Thema dieses Buches fand ich nach meinem Auslandsstudium an der Nottingham Trent University in England. Die Inspiration mich mit diesem tiefgreifendem Thema so ausführlich zu beschäftigen kam durch die hervorragende fachliche Vermittlung des Stoffes durch die Dozenten der Nottingham Trent University. Die Einblicke in die Entstehung unserer heutigen Denkweisen eröffnen ein weites Feld an Wissen, ohne welchen wir viele kausale Zusammenhänge nicht verstehen würden. Die Bedeutung dieses Themas ist fächerübergreifend und ist auch für nicht wissenschaftliche Interessenten sinnbringend und verständlich. Unser heutiges Verständnis von Rasse und Religion hat seine Wurzeln in der modernen Neuzeit. Dieses ausführlich zu erforschen, war eine sehr interessante und horizonterweiternde wissenschaftliche Expedition.

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