The name means "joy of the father", which may well be meant sardonically in The Jew of Malta. She is mentioned twice in the Old Testament (2 Sam 17:25; 1 Chr 2:16-17) and is regarded as David’s sister or half-sister.

While all the characters in Malta have ambiguous motives, Abigail always remains merciful, kind and devoted, first to her father, then to her lover and ultimately to God. She embodies the sacred traits of early modern femininity.1 This devotion is not synonymous with unconditional obedience. In the final analysis, she knows how to defend herself, much like Isabella, even against her own father. Initially, it looks as if Marlowe has portrayed an intact family relationship with Barabas and Abigail for the first time. The deception, in which one’s own child is supposed to pretend to become a nun, does not yet raise any doubts about this. They are only stirred when Barabas promises his daughter to two men at the same time, in the justified hope that both will kill each other for her. Abigail’s emotional life plays no role for her father. Her actual entry into the convent, is for him not an understandable reaction to the role he had intended for her in his plan and to the loss of her lover, but a shameful betrayal. Like Calyphas, Abigail becomes the victim of her own father. It manifests the extent to which Marlowe’s Malta reflects the excesses of capitalism.2 Abigail becomes a commodity that Barabas negotiates with Lodowick3 and replaces with Ithimore once she has lost her usefulness.4

  1. Beskins (2007)↩︎
  2. Carpenter (1951); Cartelli (1988)↩︎
  3. Brooks (1957)↩︎
  4. Hunter (1964); Allen (2008)↩︎

Aktualisiert am 18.01.2023

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