Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Adam Rzepka

Committee Member

Lee Behlman

Committee Member

Jeffrey Miller


This thesis focuses on Anti-Semitism in Renaissance drama through the lens of attempting to weave an older literary idea into a newer one. By the Renaissance, the Vice figure, a literary tool to draw one-dimensional evil characters, began to raise questions about the rationale behind their villainy. Machiavellianism served to reclassify characters that were originally meant to be perceived by audiences as inherently evil, allowing them potentially to sympathize with them in the plight that led them to such deplorable acts.

Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare created Jewish characters who seek to remain in control of their families and wealth, often equating the two, usually to their own detriment. Marlowe’s Barabas, already clouded by his hatred for the Christian population for their own Anti-Semitic tendencies, aims to retaliate against his Christian antagonists. While his words and actions embody the Vice figure trope, his desire to control elements of his life for his own benefit exhibit a layer of justification for the choices that he makes. Shakespeare’s Shylock is adamant about receiving his pound of flesh from Antonio, a character who represents Christian characters who seek to dehumanize Shylock for being a Jew. Like Barabas, Shylock’s plans to undermine the Christian characters in the play ultimately lead to his downfall, again raising questions about how justified his actions are throughout the drama.

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