Seminar paper from the year 2002 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Literature, grade: 1,0, University of Dusseldorf "Heinrich Heine" (Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik), course: Elizabethan Stage Villains - Shakespeare and Marlowe, language: English, abstract: "Marlowe's Jew of Malta is a most puzzling play" in different respects. Firstly, there is the question of its genre: It is the one play of Marlowe's that strains most obviously against its apparent classification as a tragedy. Secondly, there are many different readings of the play. Is The Jew of Malta analogically a "serious farce", a "comedy of evil", a "tragic farce"or plainly an "ambiguous sort of drama"?3 Furthermore, a question which has often been raised, is, whether the text we have today is corrupt, and if it was written by someone else from the second act onwards. The reason behind all those questions and the play's ambiguity seems to be the protagonist Barabas. His character, one could argue, is not easy to analyze, nor is his motivation or disposition, as this is what was the focus of analysis in the past. The difficulty in explaining this character might result from different common suggestions what "kind of protagonist" he is or what his dramatic function might be respectively. Thus Barabas is a conglomerate of stereotypes - as Jew, devil, Machiavel, and a dramatic persona fulfilling different narrative and conventional functions - as villain, Vice and protagonist, etc. The three most frequent characterizations are to be considered: the Vice figure, the stereotyped Jew and the stage Machiavel. While the Vice and the stereotyped Jewishness are often mentioned merely as aspects of Barabas's character, the Machiavellian is the most common and distinctive interpretation. For the sake of completeness the aspect of Machiavellianism is discussed very briefly in chapter 2, but a more detailed discussion of the topic follows in part 3 and 4 of this paper. It will be analyzed in the following respects: the stage Machiavel, Marlowe's use of Machiavelli as a dramatis persona in the prologue, and the influence of Machiavelli's writings on The Jew of Malta respectively. A closer examination of the cultural background of Elizabethan thought and the life and works of the person Niccoló Machiavelli has to precede these considerations. A literary work is always part of its cultural background, and it is at least debatable whether it is valid to apply today's standards to a drama written in Elizabethan times.A textual analysis of the prologue which I regard as being essential for my argument will follow this necessary consideration of the background.
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