one of their soldiers, Barabas gained the reputation of being a rabble rouser, a terrorist and freedom fighter depending on which side of the line was being towed. No other record of his crimes exist, or just how popular he was among the people, except that Pontius Pilate, persuaded by the elders and priests, thought it expedient not to martyr him along with Jesus, and to release Barabas from imprisonment on the Feast of Passover – as a gesture of conciliation, saving him from crucifixion which was delayed until after the holiday. Marlowe’s Barabas experiences no such reprieve. Nor does he wish to be reprieved.
Now to the straw that breaks the camel Barabas’ heart. Abigail, his daughter, upon whom he dotes, is portrayed in the Jewish Bible as the heroine who brings food against her husband’s wishes to the future King David, later to become his second wife, in Marlowe’s corruption, falls in love with the governor’s Christian son Lodowick, abandons her faith, betrays her father and flees in desperation to a nunnery, where she awaits her lover to be bound in marriage.
Barabas, having lost his daughter, the one treasure he valued most in life over all, has now become the spiritual leader of the Jewish insurrection! The emotional well-spring and motivation of his contempt and hatred for his enemy, who was once his friend and ally, is brilliant and masterfully painted by Marlowe in his usual swift brush strokes – almost abstract expressionist in its literary esthetic value. It precedes ala Marlowe, almost to a state of poetic, premature ejaculation! Then comes the ‘piece de resistance’ in this war of attrition, when Barbabas orders one of his slaves to poison the entire nunnery including his own daughter Abigail, for whom he has symbolically said Kaddish, to become a sanctuary of death for all those who would injure his offspring and rob him of his birthright. A difficult if not impossible act to follow, Barabas has closed the door on both his generation and progeny.
The combination of symbolism and stark realism is quite remarkable. Barabas is perhaps the first genuine literary anti-hero of the coming Jewish reformation. His path is clear and unswerving. He now turns his allegiance to SelimCalymath, the Ottoman, against the Christian Ferneze, killing as many Christians now, as earlier conspired with Christians to defeat the Ottomans – who were incessantly harassing his argosies, demanding baksheesh and other bills of transport. Playing both sides of the coin, burning the candle at both ends, Barabas succeeds for a time by turning one against the other, in killing as many Christians and Ottomans as possible, until his final denouement, when he is denounced and accused of treason, stripped of all his earthly goods, executed, and cast into an unmarked grave.
Among those most prophetic of the advent of modern Zionism, Marlowe’s name must be added, as a righteous gentile, not a gentle writing a typical 16th century reality of the human self play, but a great visionary poet of immense stature. The Jew of Malta stands as a monument to the cause of freedom from political oppression and religious persecution. It also stands as a monument to the fallen soldiers of the wars against the Jews, and of the right to bear arms against our enemy. And to take the offensive! No war was ever won as a defense, only. Barabas goes down because he was ahead of his time, and exiled to the Island of Malta. But if he must go down, he will take as many of the enemy as possible, so that Jews of future generations will not have to suffer the indignity of losing their daughters, and to see the temple they have re-built go down the drain, and all they have fought for go up in flames.
Some people think that by accumulation more and more wealth, they can overcome their troubles. So they try to become billionaires, working hard, but after becoming wealthy persons, they have to face many more unexpected problems – insecurity, unrest, enemies and challenge in maintaining their wealth. This clearly shows that the buildup of wealth alone is not the solution for human problems. Wealth no doubt can help to overcome certain issues but not all the world’s happiness can be gained through money. Money cannot eliminate natural problems. Philosophers, great thinkers and rationalists have mentioned the nature of human weaknesses and how to overcome them. However, many people consider them as mere theories and not as solutions to their problems. Sometimes the intelligent actually creates more problems because it increases our egoistic opinions about ourselves.