Here you will find a Love Frankie summary (Howard M. Schilit's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.
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Sophie Amundsen experiences a peculiar incident one day in May, as she discovers a letter in her mailbox after school. The letter, addressed to her without a stamp, intriguingly asks "Who are you?". The question triggers deep thinking in Sophie; she questions the significance of her name and appearance in defining her identity. The thought of life naturally leads her to contemplate death, and vice versa. To her surprise, she discovers another letter in the mailbox which poses another question "Where does the world come from?". Sophie considers it a valid question and retires to her secret outdoor spot, the den, for some deep thinking. As she ponders over the origin of the world, she finds it hard to accept that the universe emerged out of nothing. She finds the idea of the universe being eternal equally implausible. If God is the creator of the universe, she wonders, where did He come from? In another strange turn of events, Sophie receives a peculiar postcard from Lebanon. The postcard bears a Norwegian stamp, and the sender is the father of a girl named Hilde Møller Knag. The card, addressed to Hilde via Sophie, wishes Hilde a happy 15th birthday. This confuses Sophie, who fails to find Hilde's name in the phone book.
Sophie keeps the peculiar letters secret, showing less interest in her playmate Joanna. After school, she races home to a letter addressed to her, sketching out the fundamentals of philosophy. The letter implies that the essence of life is in the pursuit of understanding ourselves and our place in the universe. It states that philosophical questions are few, but the answers are plenty. It portrays life as a magic trick, demanding constant marvel from philosophers. Upon reading, Sophie discovers another letter in her mailbox, emphasizing that the only prerequisite to philosophy is a sense of wonder, a trait common in infants but lost in most adults. Philosophers, however, retain this childlike wonder. The letter writer, a philosopher himself, encourages Sophie to maintain her sense of wonder and offers her a course in philosophy through these letters. That night, Sophie attempts a philosophical conversation with her mother, leading her mother to question if Sophie has started using drugs.
Following school one day, Sophie discovers a letter from her distant father, and another discussing philosophy. This note outlines the circumstances leading to the genesis of western philosophy. Prior to the Greek philosophers, individuals interpreted life through myths, or tales about deities. However, these early Greek thinkers challenged the myths, exploring alternative explanations for the world's state. Reflecting upon this, Sophie recognizes that inventing narratives to justify nature's mechanisms isn't so peculiar, as she would resort to the same method if she lacked other explanations.
While pondering philosophical ideas, Sophie’s mother stumbles upon one of the mysterious letters, mistaking it for a love letter due to the absence of a stamp. Sophie doesn't correct her, relishing her privacy. The letter presents Sophie with three more philosophical problems that keep her preoccupied for a day until she receives a following package. This message informs Sophie that her philosophical journey will span from ancient Greece to the present day. It emphasizes the importance of comprehending the individual objectives of each philosopher and the specific questions they were trying to resolve. Sophie discovers that the ancient Greeks perceived the world as everlasting, sparking their curiosity about change rather than origin. They, the natural philosophers, proposed that a single substance comprised everything. The substance varied from water to air depending on the philosopher, but the question of how changes took place remained. Parmenides, the first rationalist, asserted that change was an illusion, choosing reasoning over sensory experience. Alternatively, Heraclitus trusted his senses, advocating that nothing remains constant. However, Empedocles offered a solution suggesting the existence of four fundamental substances, with all transformations resulting from their combinations. He differentiated between "substance" and "force", which is a distinction still recognized in modern science. Anaxagoras, hailing from Athens, held the belief that minuscule particles composed nature, but each particle encapsulated a fragment of everything. After considering these ideas, Sophie concludes that philosophy cannot be learnt as such but one can learn to think like a philosopher.
Upon finishing her latest packet, Sophie discovers a new white envelope. It presents a single question: why is Lego "the most ingenious toy in the world?" She ponders this, and the following day, she gets a packet concerning Democritus. This Greek philosopher claimed everything is composed of minuscule, unseen, and everlasting atoms. Sophie learns that even modern physicists uphold the idea of a smallest entity in the physical universe. She's astounded that Democritus could devise a fresh theory using prior philosophers’ ideas.
Sophie comes across another envelope containing three fresh queries, prompting her to pen a response. She composes an invitation for a coffee date to her mystery philosophy tutor and leaves it to be found. Before surrendering to sleep that night, she spots a beret-clad man interacting with the mailbox, seemingly depositing and collecting letters. Intrigued, Sophie retrieves an envelope, learning about the ancient Greeks' fatalistic philosophies—everything in life was predetermined. Contrarily, historical figures such as Herodotus, Thucydides, and Hippocrates started seeking naturalistic reasons for life's occurrences. Awakening on Saturday, Sophie discovers a scarf labeled with the name "Hilde".
Sophie discovers another missive in her secret spot, a reply to her own from Alberto Knox, the philosopher corresponding with her. He informs her that all future correspondence will be delivered by a messenger and she might find a silk scarf that she needs to look after. Sophie is baffled by the letter's direct delivery and its link to Hilde Møller Knag. A Labrador delivers her next package - the dog is named Hermes, Alberto's courier. The package contains teachings on skepticism, a philosophy by the Stoics in Athens that denies the possibility of certain knowledge. She also learns about Socrates, an Athenian known for engaging in philosophical dialogues across the city. His wisdom is recorded by his student, Plato. Socrates was known for his questioning technique aimed at leading people to their own philosophical conclusions. Despite being deemed a rebel and sentenced to death, Socrates chose to drink poison rather than escaping or begging. Socrates was a man of principles. He admitted his ignorance, which he believed made him wiser than most. He trusted human logic and believed happiness lies in acting according to reason. In his view, knowing the right action in any circumstance leads to happiness, as he did not believe people would intentionally make themselves unhappy. After reading the letter, Sophie attempts another philosophical talk with her mother, who is dismissive towards these concepts.
Sophie is taken aback when she receives a video featuring Alberto in Athens. He educates her about the city's historical aspect, highlighting Socrates' approach to engaging passers-by. Mysteriously, he even transports her back to the era of ancient Athens. Alberto initiates a conversation with Socrates and Plato, following which Plato leaves Sophie with a set of thought-provoking queries. The video utterly perplexes Sophie, leaving her clueless about the unfolding scenario.
Sophie spent the following day pondering over Plato's queries and after reading a letter explaining his beliefs, she understood their importance to his philosophy. Plato established a school named the Academy, and his theories survive till today. His belief was that nature is ever-changing, but there lies an eternal world of ideas beyond it. According to him, every observable thing is merely an imitation of a perfect idea existing somewhere else. Since changeable things can't offer true knowledge, the real world can't be genuinely known. However, reason allows us access to absolute knowledge. This is why Plato admired mathematics, as it is strictly based on reason. He theorized that human beings consist of a mortal body and an immortal soul, the latter connected to the world of ideas. Birth results in the soul losing its knowledge of this world, but experiences help us remember these perfect ideas. Plato offered several ideas for structuring human society, emphasizing rule through reason, and held that women were equally capable of reasoning as men.
Sophie, having read about Plato, decides to journey into the woods, retracing the route of Alberto's dog, Hermes. She stumbles upon a secluded lake with a red cabin nestled across it. Feeling inexplicably compelled, she rows across to the cabin. Inside, she finds paintings with the labels "Berkeley" and "Bjerkely," which lead her to deduce that the cabin is Alberto and Hermes's dwelling. Catching her reflection in a mirror, she imagines it blinking back at her. She discovers a wallet belonging to Hilde Møller Knag and an envelope with her name on it, which she swiftly pockets. Hearing Hermes's bark, she makes a hasty exit, unable to row back as the boat has drifted into the lake. Sophie glances at the questions in the letter but doesn't ponder on them, instead focusing on how to recount the day's events to her mother without causing undue worry. She manages to explain everything, omitting any mention of Alberto, and successfully reassures her mother that she doesn't have a boyfriend. Her mother informs her that the cabin she visited is known as the major's cabin. Feeling guilty, Sophie pens an apology letter to the philosopher for her intrusion and then contemplates the questions he had posed. She engages in a heartfelt conversation with her mother who expresses her shock at how quickly Sophie is maturing and her lack of excitement for her impending fifteenth birthday.
In the course of the day, Sophie gets a parcel with details on the philosopher Aristotle and a note from Alberto saying he isn't angry, but he needs to relocate. Aristotle, as Sophie discovers, was Plato's student. His work focused on understanding alterations in nature and he held great value in sensory perception. Unlike Plato, he didn't believe in a world of ideas, but saw eternal ideas as concepts, derived from our experiences with the natural world. Aristotle emphasized that our reality is based on what we perceive. He believed in inherent reasoning, not inborn ideas. Things, according to Aristotle, have substance and form, which respectively describe their physical traits and their limitations or potential. He proposed different kinds of causality, including the "final" cause, his interpretation of purpose in nature. For instance, he said it rains "because plants and animals need rainwater in order to grow." He tried to classify nature and is credited as the founder of logic. Aristotle viewed humans as superior to animals and plants, and he considered God as the power that initiated the motion of stars. His political beliefs included monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, while cautioning about their potential risks. He perceived women as "unfinished men", a stark contrast to Plato's views. Sophie is deeply influenced by Aristotle's philosophies and tidies her room post her study. Her mother finds Sophie's behavior increasingly bizarre after their subsequent conversation.
Sophie discovers another birthday card for Hilde from her father, postmarked June 15, a month in the future and also Sophie's birthday. Confused and concerned, Sophie rushes to meet Joanna for school. Despite not completing her homework, Sophie excels in a Religious Knowledge test by applying her philosophical knowledge. However, her teacher insists she must fulfill her homework duties in the future. Later, Sophie receives a package from Alberto discussing Hellenism—an era marked by the widespread influence of Greek culture post-Aristotle, and a merging of diverse religious beliefs. The era was marked by a collective feeling of decline and a shift in philosophy towards seeking a meaningful life, often intertwined with religious notions. Alberto introduces the Cynics, who dismissed material wealth as a source of happiness, and the Stoics, who believed in a universal natural law that "governed all mankind" and expressed a sense of unity with nature. The Epicureans advocated for seeking pleasure but weighed the actions against their outcomes. The Neoplatonists, most notably Plotinus, proposed a world defined by opposite polarities—light, representing God or the One, and darkness, defined by the absence of light. He also suggested the presence of divine light within human souls, connecting us to the One. The letter ends by explaining mysticism, the belief in personal experiences of uniting with a supreme power. This resonates deeply with Sophie, making her feel part of a bigger universe.
Prior to Norway's national celebration on May 17th, Joanna persuades Sophie to embark on a camping trip. Sophie suggests they explore the major's cabin where they come across a number of postcards. These cards, sent from Lebanon and marked for Hilde via Alberto, are from her father. The final card warns Hilde about an impending meeting with Sophie, who is close to unraveling some truths, and includes a mention of Joanna. It bears a May 16th postmark. This discovery leaves both girls terrified, leading Sophie to reclaim the mirror. The following morning, she uncovers another package.
Sophie delves into a fresh letter from Alberto one Thursday morning. He hints at a surprise on the horizon on June 15th and talks about a future meeting. The focus of his letter is Jesus of Nazareth. Alberto distinguishes between the Indo-European culture of the Greeks and Romans and the Semitic culture of the Jews. He notes the pantheistic nature of Indo-European culture with its multiple gods and highlights the importance of sight in this culture. Conversely, Semitic culture is marked by monotheism, giving rise to religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The spanner in the works is Christianity, which, despite its Semitic origins, absorbed attributes of Indo-European cultures as it spread. Alberto provides Sophie with a historical backdrop to the arrival of Jesus, explaining that Jews had prophesied a Messiah's arrival for almost a thousand years prior to his birth. Jesus is presented as the Messiah for every human being, underscoring God's mercy and the concept of divine forgiveness. Sophie also learns about Paul, a significant figure in the spread of Christianity, including in Athens. Alberto urges Sophie to understand her historical lineage, an insight that Sophie reckons will enrich her greatly.
A week after her last contact with Alberto, Sophie receives a postcard on May 25th from Hilde's dad. The postcard is dated June 15th, and Hilde's father wishes her happy birthday, indicating that "a week or two for Sophie does not have to mean just as long for us." Hilde's father also mentions Sophie, whom he believes doesn't grasp everything as Hilde might. Alberto calls Sophie soon after, warning her that Hilde's dad is getting too close and they need to meet. Sophie stays at Joanna's place before going to meet Alberto, who cryptically mentions Berkeley and the need to have Hilde on their team before her dad's return. The next day, Sophie encounters Alberto at a church where he educates her about the Middle Ages. Despite the Renaissance era labeling this period as the Dark Ages, Alberto mentions the creation of universities and schools during this time. He also notes the rise of nation-states and their main cities. The era witnessed a cultural and population dip as feudalism took root, with barter becoming dominant again. However, the Pope was installed as the Church's leader and kings gained substantial power. After the division of Greco-Roman culture, it was reunited during the Renaissance. St. Augustine, a Christian Platonist, integrated Plato's theories into Christianity, striving to merge Greek and Jewish ideologies. His significant work, the City of God, presented the Church as the only pathway to salvation. St. Thomas Aquinas, on the other hand, incorporated Aristotle's theories into Christianity, aiming to prove that reason and faith need not conflict. Sophie also learns about a female philosopher named Hildegard, who visualized Sophia, God's female aspect. This, along with the fact that Albert the Great tutored Aquinas, frightens Sophie.
Sophie returns from Joanna's place and sees an image of Hilde in the major's cabin mirror just before she dozes off. Her dream features Hilde with her father who bears a striking resemblance to Alberto. A gold crucifix appears in her dream and she finds the same under her pillow upon waking. The following day, Hermes escorts Sophie to Alberto. A postcard found on the premises from Hilde's father to Hilde, dated June 15, discloses Sophie's location and Hilde's missing crucifix. Alberto, upset by the postcard, dismisses the crucifix matter as a "cheap trick" and acknowledges Hilde's father's remarkable influence. He then enlightens Sophie about the Renaissance, an era of humanism and individualism where cultural life thrived and Rome was rejuvenated. The period was marked by pantheism and the genesis of an empirical method that accentuated exploration and experimentation. The utility of scientific knowledge became significant, sparking advancements that persist today. These developments, both beneficial and harmful, are irreversible. Figures like Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo laid the groundwork for Newton's comprehensive explanation of the physical world. The universe was demystified and Earth lost its exclusive status. The human-God connection evolved into a more personal one, triggering the Protestant Reformation, highlighting the unsatisfactory status quo of the Church. Alberto, in his discourse, calls Sophie Hilde twice, hinting that they are being manipulated by Hilde's father. He skillfully dodges Sophie's inquiry about her being Hilde. Sophie discovers she's penniless but stumbles upon ten crowns, enough for a bus ride, leaving her puzzled about its origin and purpose.
Sophie becomes distressed when a Norwegian UN officer dies in Lebanon, wondering if it's Hilde's father. After a heated argument with her mother, they reconcile and plan a birthday celebration for Sophie on Midsummer's Eve. Sophie opens up about her interactions with Alberto and the philosophy lessons, excluding any mention of Hilde. Encouraged by her mother, Sophie decides to invite Alberto to her party. At school, Sophie receives a well-graded exam and discovers a postcard from Hilde's father hidden within, acknowledging a recent fatal incident in Lebanon. He also mentions Hilde's minor loss of ten crowns, and promises to help her find it. In the afternoon, Sophie is taken to Alberto's house by Hermes. She uncovers another postcard at the location where she found ten crowns. Hilde's father intimates to Hilde that the money she lost probably reappeared at that place and was likely found by a girl who needed it more. Alberto, frustrated by the postcard, educates Sophie about the Baroque era, characterized by numerous wars and an awareness of life's transience. He explains the philosophical conflict of the time, a clash between idealism, the belief in spiritual existence, and materialism, the assertion that only material entities actually exist.
Alberto proceeds with imparting knowledge to Sophie, focusing on Descartes' life and philosophy. Similar to Socrates, Descartes harbored doubts about his understanding of the world. He questioned the philosophical knowledge that had been passed down for centuries and sought to establish his own philosophical doctrine. Descartes was a pioneer in trying to integrate all knowledge into a unified philosophy. He was particularly interested in absolute knowledge, or what we can be completely certain of, and the correlation between mind and body. The challenge was to decipher how mind's ideas were converted into body's actions, given the mechanical perspective of nature embraced by philosophers. Descartes questioned everything that wasn't absolutely certain, but then realized that his act of doubting itself proved his ability to think. This led him to accept the existence of God as a certainty. He then went on to distinguish the world through thought and matter, the latter he referred to as extension. The interaction of mind and body was important, but the objective was to have the mind function purely on reason. Alberto introduces Sophie to an artificial intelligence program, with whom she converses. Unbeknownst to them, Major Albert Knag, Hilde's father, covertly accesses their computer and briefly communicates with them through it.
Alberto proceeds to enlighten Sophie about Spinoza, a man deeply influenced by Descartes. Spinoza was the pioneer in advocating the critical reading of the Bible and faced persecution, even abandonment by his family for this stance. Spinoza saw the world as an extension of God. Unlike Descartes' dualism, he suggested that thought and extension were merely two attributes of God that we perceive. Spinoza's world view was deterministic, where he saw God as the sole controller through natural laws. He believed that while only God was truly free, humans could reach happiness by seeing things "from the perspective of eternity." In a surprising turn, Sophie finds a message from Hilde's father on a banana peel she was about to eat. They infer that this man is cunning and powerful, leading Sophie to speculate that he could be the puppet master of their discourse. Alberto cautions her against jumping to conclusions and unexpectedly calls her Hilde as she departs.
Sophie confides in her mother about Alberto and the situation involving Hilde's dad, but this only intensifies her mother's concerns. Two weeks lapse without any word from Alberto, and Sophie gets two birthday cards meant for Hilde. On the 14th of June, Hermes fetches Sophie and oddly wishes Hilde a happy birthday before leading Sophie to Alberto's place. It appears that Hilde's father has remarkable abilities that leave Sophie astonished. Alberto educates Sophie about empiricists, philosophers who believed all our thoughts are derived from sensory experiences. They were opponents of rationalists. The most notable empiricists were Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Alberto begins with Locke, who sought to comprehend the origin of our ideas and the reliability of our senses. According to Locke, we can grasp simple sensations, which we build upon to form complex ideas. However, he also categorized the world into primary and secondary characteristics, asserting that only the former, like size or number, are represented accurately while the latter, such as taste, differ from one individual to another. Despite being an empiricist, Locke's philosophy contained rationalistic elements. He believed that all people were entitled to the same natural rights and that God's existence could be established through logic. Additionally, he proposed a power sharing system within the government.
Alberto chooses to educate Sophie about Hume before Berkeley. Hume, a leading empiricist, had a significant impact on Kant, a subsequent philosopher. Hume aimed to refine our thought processes. He proposed that our perception comprises of "impressions" and "ideas". Impressions represent our worldly experiences while ideas are recollections of these impressions. Both can be simple or complex, with complex ideas being a product of our imagination—for instance, an angel. Hume's goal was to scrutinize our complex ideas to discard anything that didn't originate directly from impressions. He argued that we lack a constant ego, as what we perceive as our individual identity is actually a multitude of rapidly changing perceptions. This belief was shared by the Buddha, and both dismissed the concept of an eternal soul. Hume was an agnostic, arguing that the existence of God surpassed human logic. He held that we can't be certain that what we term as natural laws are absolute. Just because a stone always falls when dropped doesn't mean it must. We merely anticipate it to fall. We apply our own understanding of cause and effect onto the world. We witness a pool ball hitting another and attribute the movement of the second to the first. In essence, we've merely seen the second ball move after the first and assigned a cause to the observed chain of events. Hume also noted that our actions are guided by our emotions and not reason. He discouraged inferring that what exists is what should be.
A plane flies by with a birthday message for Hilde, and dark clouds gather. Alberto delves into the theories of Berkeley, a philosopher who questioned reality more than previous empiricists. Berkeley proposed that our thoughts and feelings could be products of our souls, similar to dreams. He considered that our entire external reality might be born from another spirit. He held the belief that our existence only resides in God's mind. Drawing a parallel, Alberto considers that their existence is only a figment of Albert Knag's mind. He believes this notion provides an answer to all the strange occurrences. He speculates that they are characters in a story created by Hilde's father for her entertainment. As Alberto repeatedly refers to Sophie as Hilde, a flash of lightning sends Sophie fleeing from the house.
Hilde Møller Knag is thrilled about her upcoming birthday and the imminent return of her dad. She recalls a particular incident when she fell out of a rowboat and it was left adrift in the bay. Remembering her father's claim about a magic mirror, she once tried winking at her own reflection using both eyes. Spotting a big package next to her bed, she becomes anxious, suspecting it to be the peculiar birthday gift from her dad. She finds a binder full of typewritten pages titled "Sophie's World" inside the package and starts reading it. The book narrates the life of Sophie, which Hilde reads with rapt attention. She grasps that Sophie must have been perplexed by the birthday cards sent by her father. When Sophie discovers her silk scarf, Hilde questions its actual existence outside the book. Hilde gets so engrossed in the book that her mom struggles to get her attention to wish her a happy birthday. While Hilde is captivated by the tale, she also feels upset about her father causing confusion for Sophie, Alberto, and Joanna. Upon reading about Sophie finding her gold crucifix, Hilde is baffled because she didn't know her father was aware it was missing. She becomes convinced Sophie is real.
Hilde ditches classes to immerse herself in Sophie's narrative, particularly engrossed in the chapter about Berkeley. She resonates with Alberto's criticism of her father's excessive meddling, only to realize that her father also scripted Alberto's thoughts. Hilde gets the uncanny feeling of her reflection blinking simultaneously. Her mother had found her missing golden crucifix, which she mentioned to Hilde's father. Yet, when Hilde asks for it, it's nowhere to be found. Continuing her read, Hilde delves back into Sophie's World. On her birthday morning, Sophie assures her mother of her well-being and receives a call from Alberto, who has a scheme brewing. His idea revolves around influencing their fate, given that Hilde's father might not be entirely sure of what he pens until he does. Alberto's ultimate goal is to find an escape route, but that's impossible until Sophie completes her philosophy education. Hilde concurs with Alberto's theory, aware that her father writes at a rapid pace and could inadvertently pen something significant. Post-school, while heading to Alberto's cabin, Sophie discovers a birthday greeting postcard from Hilde's father. She also finds a postcard for Hilde detailing Alberto's next lecture topic and advising Hilde against late-night reading. Alberto elucidates on the Enlightenment era, helping Sophie and Hilde understand its significance in French history. This period was marked by a "rebellion against authority," both politically and philosophically. French intellectuals held reason in high esteem, strongly advocating for mass education or enlightenment, which they believed would bring about a revolutionary change in mankind. They were proponents of a simpler, more natural lifestyle, and a universal religion. They also strongly defended people's inherent natural rights. Suddenly, a sea serpent materializes in the lake, prompting them to retreat to the cabin. Inside, Sophie finds a note highlighting that the UN's founding principles were rooted in the Enlightenment. Finishing her reading, Hilde joins her mother for a meal.
Late in the evening, Hilde's dad phones to wish her a happy birthday. She expresses her delight with his present and shares her belief that Sophie and Alberto are real before resuming her reading. Alberto discusses Kant, a philosopher who built on the principles of empiricism and rationalism. He argued that our minds shape our experiences. We understand everything in terms of time and space, which are inherent to our mental perception. Kant separates the world into how things are in reality and how we perceive them. While we cannot comprehend things as they truly are, we can understand our own perception of them. He argued that the principle of causality is ingrained in our minds. Kant proposed that certain questions are beyond human comprehension and can only be answered through faith. Alberto's conversation is interrupted by Little Red Riding Hood who brings another message from Hilde's father. Kant also argued that everyone has an inbuilt sense of morality and moral acts are those we do out of duty. When we act in this way, we are exercising our freedom, as reasoning is a part of reality itself. Alberto insists that their only weapon against Albert Knag is that he cannot defy reason. Post their discussion, Sophie encounters Winnie-the-Pooh in the woods who hands her a letter for Hilde, explaining the significance of Kant's ideas for the United Nations.
Hilde shares a meal with her mother while plotting a prank on her dad and finds out his arrival time in Copenhagen. She exits the conversation smoothly, claiming she needs to resume her reading. Meanwhile, Alberto is prepared to introduce Sophie to a new philosopher when an unexpected visitor, ##Alice in Wonderland#, arrives at their doorstep. She offers Sophie two magic potions. The first potion gives her a sense of unity with the surrounding world, which Alberto interprets as the essence of Idealism or ##Romantics# world spirit. She feels every object is a separate world under the influence of the second potion, representative of individualism - and both perspectives are valid, according to Alberto. Kierkegaard was disgruntled with the deviation ##Hegel# and the Romantics made from personal accountability. He was particularly bothered by individuals' indecisiveness towards faith. Kierkegaard asserted that one could either choose to believe in Christianity or not - there was no in-between. His contribution to philosophy was the concept of existentialism, which emphasizes the individual's existence. He dismissed the significance of objective truths, insisting each person must determine their own truth. Reason was not seen as the ultimate tool in decision making as it falls short in addressing existential crises. Kierkegaard was a fierce critic of societal conformity and proposed that life consists of three stages: aesthetic, ethical, and religious. He argued that individuals must choose to transition between these stages. His philosophy of existentialism gained traction after his time.
Hilde seeks assistance from family friends for her plan, and continues reading after an outing with her mother. Sophie comes home and informs her mom about another meeting with the philosopher. A letter for Sophie from the UN Battalion distracts her mother's concern. The letter includes a cryptic poem of two lines. On June 21, Alberto contacts Sophie, assuring her he's close to finding a way out. However, he emphasizes that their plan must stay hidden since Albert Knag can see every written word. Sophie bumps into imaginary characters, Ebenezer Scrooge and the little match girl, on her way to Alberto. In their discussion, Alberto paints Marx as a historical materialist who desired a practical application for philosophy. Marx attributed societal changes to economic forces and defined society in terms of material bases and cultural superstructure. These two elements interact and influence each other, making Marx a dialectical materialist. According to him, the natural resources of a society shape its production and societal structure. The control of production means, usually held by the ruling class, determine societal norms. Marx saw a constant struggle between two societal classes, in his time, capitalists and workers. He believed societal changes necessitate a revolution, as workers were exploited by capitalists. Soon, Alberto signals it's time for a new chapter.
Hilde starts her Sunday engrossed in her book. Noah briefly distracts Sophie by giving her a sketch of the wildlife he saved. The narrative then proceeds with Alberto discussing the rising trend of naturalism personified in figures such as ##Darwin#, ##Freud#, and ##Marx#. Particularly, Darwin, who gained recognition during his college years as a naturalist, revolutionized science during his voyage aboard the HMS Beagle. He proposed that all life forms evolved from prior species through natural selection, an idea that sparked controversy as it contradicted Biblical Creationism. Darwin compared the human-influenced selection in domestic species to nature’s selection in the wild. He argued that survival is conditional on the suitability of species to their environment, not superiority as such. Changes in the environment could shift the balance in favor of different traits and different species. This implied that humans descended from animals, a concept that necessitated a major shift in people’s perception. Alberto likens life to a lottery where only winners, or surviving species, are visible while extinct species are unseen. He highlights that the origins of life remain a mystery - Darwin speculated life could have evolved from a primordial soup, a theory still echoed by contemporary scientists. Alberto concludes that evolution has resulted in increasingly complex life forms, hinting that it may not be a random process. He emphasizes our collective participation in the ongoing process of evolution.
Hilde enjoys the book, but struggles to accept that Sophie and Alberto exist only in her father's imagination. She hopes her strategy will make him experience his own trickery. She returns to reading. Alberto explains Freud's theories to Sophie. Freud emphasized the existence of subconscious desires influencing our behaviors unknowingly. His psychoanalysis centered on exploring the human mind to assist individuals with various psychological issues. He discovered that individuals usually suppressed particular life events which later cause their discomfort. Freud proposed that our minds comprise of three sections. The id represents our pursuit of pleasure. The ego takes the reality into consideration and controls the id. The superego is the societal ethics that supervises all our actions. Freud argued that our superego constantly collides with our desires, causing tension. Freudian slips, accidental verbal mistakes, show how our subconscious can meddle in our actions, often revealing what we truly wish to say. He proposed dreams as a means to fulfill our desires. The concept of the subconscious became significant in art and literature after Freud. Alberto proposes they can leverage Albert Knag's unconscious ignorance to escape, and instructs Sophie to distract the author while he executes their plan.
Hilde awakens from a dream where she heard Sophie's voice while waiting for her dad. She resumes reading about Sophie who attempts to divert Albert Knag's attention from Alberto. In the story, Sophie finds herself stuck in a tree and a magical goose shrinks her to ferry her down. Before sleeping, she assists her mother with party preparations. The subsequent day she meets Alberto in the city. He deliberately arrives late and continues discussing existentialism. Alberto delves into the philosophy of ##Sartre#, an existentialist and atheist, who deemed that individuals can rely solely on their humanity. Sartre believed in the uniqueness of human "being", contrasting it with inanimate objects. He proposed the absence of a common human nature, suggesting that individuals have to carve their own. He considered our liberty as a daunting responsibility, as we are born free and accountable for our actions. He believed in finding personal significance in life via our consciousness. His partner, Simone de Beauvoir, further contested the existence of specific male or female natures. Alberto highlights that contemporary science still grapples with questions posed by ancient Greek philosophers. These philosophical questions, he explains, are perennial and lack definitive answers. Alberto cautions Sophie about 'New Age science', debunking its claims as mere superstition. He criticizes publishers for prioritizing popular demand over quality literature. He dismisses supernatural theories, praising nature's inherent glory. Before parting, Alberto gifts Sophie a copy of Sophie's world from a bookstore.
Hilde reflects on the numerous messages her father has included for her in the book and then continues reading. Sophie encounters her mother on their bus ride home. Sophie's mother peruses Sophie's World but remains unfazed. They pass through a public protest on their street before spending the rest of the day getting ready, with Joanna's help, for the next day. The guests start to show up, as they all anticipate Alberto's arrival. Once Alberto arrives, albeit late, he lights a few firecrackers and takes a seat following a brief speech by Sophie's mother. Unexpectedly, Joanna starts making out with Jeremy, a boy in attendance, and they start rolling around in the grass, observed by everyone except Sophie and Alberto. Alberto proceeds to reveal to everybody a shocking truth about their lives — that they are nothing more than figments of Albert Knag's creative mind. Chaos ensues and, in the midst of it all, Alberto and Sophie vanish as the book concludes.
Hilde struggles to comprehend what transpired with Sophie and Alberto, believing multiple readings of the book might provide insight. Sophie and Alberto evade Albert Knag and end up in Oslo. Alberto convinces Sophie they are beyond Hilde's father's control but suggests he may have deliberately facilitated their escape. They realize they are invisible to others, and while they're no longer part of the major's book, they aren't like everyone else either. Using an imaginary car, they plan to coincide with Albert Knag's reunion with his daughter in Lillesand. Upon landing in Copenhagen's airport, Albert Knag is quickly alerted. He receives a letter from his daughter containing directives and finds another envelope instructing him on what to purchase at a deli. Feeling watched, Albert Knag complies with the instructions from the letters and spends the remainder of his airport stay and the entire homebound flight in a state of paranoia. Sophie and Alberto's drive raises Sophie's concerns about their reality since they can pass through everything. Alberto reassures her that they are more substantial than the rest since they are spirits capable of moving through anything. They encounter an elderly woman who identifies them as part of the unseen people, and they meet others they had previously thought were figments of the imagination. Albert Knag acknowledges that his daughter is turning the tables on him and it persists throughout his journey home. Hilde's messages are ubiquitous. Upon his arrival, Sophie and Alberto also appear and Sophie rushes to meet Hilde. She attempts communication, though aware of its futility, and is startled when Hilde seems to sense something. Hilde and her father engage in a lively conversation and Hilde believes she hears something, which turns out to be Alberto honking the car horn. Sophie laments her inability to lead a normal life, but Alberto reassures her of their eternal existence and the multitude of things they can do.
As Hilde's father discusses the Big Bang and the cosmos, Sophie shares with Alberto her belief that they can influence Hilde's reality. Sophie strikes Hilde's face with a tool, causing Hilde to yelp as if stung by an insect, leading her to sense Sophie's existence. Alberto finds this fascinating. Albert conveys to Hilde that since everything initiated from the Big Bang, we're all interconnected, implying that comprehending the universe is akin to understanding ourselves. Sophie and Alberto succeed in freeing a rowboat, leading to Albert teasing his daughter with the possibility that Sophie might have orchestrated it.
The storyteller, Machevill, kicks off the tale. This famous political strategist points out that despite people's belief that he is no more, his spirit has journeyed over the Alps to stir up trouble with his acquaintances in England. He casually refers to the Duke of Guise's demise implying that political dynamics have also touched England, challenging the idea that it remains unaffected by political issues. He brushes off religion as a trivial amusement and shows no respect for common beliefs. He assures that following his footprints will lead to political victory; according to Machevill, visible power in a leader outweighs literary knowledge. As he crafts his image of wicked power-obsession, Machevill abruptly reveals his actual purpose: to present the tragic tale of a Jew. The storyteller declares that this man's wealth was amassed by strictly adhering to Machevill's advocated strategies. He signs off by expressing his hope that his protagonist isn’t treated harshly, given that the Jew holds him in high regard.
The scene opens with Barabas, a wealthy Jewish trader in his counting house stacked with gold. His ships have just returned from the East. One trader approaches him to pay customs duty, a sum surpassing the wealth of many merchants. Barabas chides him, asking about his own "argosy" - the ship carrying eastern luxuries. A second trader enters, confirming the safe arrival of the argosy after it had encountered the Spanish fleet and Turkish ships. Barabas orders him to unload his goods. Subsequently, Barabas contemplates his vast wealth and rejoices in his fortune. He prefers being wealthy and despised as a Jew, than being poor and pitied as a Christian. He criticizes Christians, belittling their faith as nothing more than "malice, falsehood, and excessive pride." He takes pride in Jewish achievements and expresses a desire for peace to amass wealth for his lone daughter. Three Jewish men appear seeking Barabas's counsel. Their sea route has been blocked by a Turkish fleet. They report that Turkish diplomats have landed to converse with Maltese authorities. Barabas reassures them, expressing hope that if war ensues, they will defeat the Turks. But if the Turks come in peace, they will let them go. He privately confides that his only concern is the safety of "me, my daughter, and my wealth." He pacifies the men, suggesting that the Turks and Maltese are allies discussing another issue like attacking Venice. The men inform Barabas about a meeting at the "senate-house" for all Jews. Barabas consents, but privately resolves to safeguard his own interests. After they depart, Barabas speculates that the Turks are here to demand more tribute from Malta. He ends the scene with a declaration that he would rather let the invaders take over than part with his wealth.
Malta's governor, Ferneze, meets with the "Bashaws" and Turkish leader Calymath, who demands a decade's worth of unpaid tribute. He gives Ferneze a month to arrange this before departing with his forces. The Jews, with Barabas among them, soon enter. Despite Barabas's efforts to evade the governor's plea for financial aid, Ferneze demands half of the Jews' wealth or their conversion to Christianity. The governor justifies this with the claim that Jews are "damned in the sight of heaven" and thus should pay heavily. Barabas protests, stating that his wealth, equivalent to a city's worth, wasn't earned easily. However, Ferneze threatens to take all Barabas's assets unless he complies. Barabas argues that this is unjust and accuses Christianity of being a faith based on force and "theft." A quarrel follows between Barabas, Ferneze, and a knight over the "inherent sin" of Jews and the merchant's chances of regaining his wealth. Barabas insists that theft is a graver sin than "covetousness." The knight persuades Ferneze to convert Barabas's house into a nunnery. Officers arrive and inform that Barabas's wealth has been seized. Barabas laments that he'd rather have his life taken, but Ferneze dismisses this as un-Christian, claiming it would "stain our hands with blood." All men then depart, leaving Barabas with three Jews. Barabas criticizes the cunning "policy" under the guise of Christian moral superiority. Despite his companions urging him to be patient, he scolds them for not supporting him against Ferneze. He dismisses the suggestion to be like Job, arguing that Job had fewer possessions than him. He asks his companions to leave him alone in his distress. His daughter Abigail enters and is disheartened by her father's loss. Barabas discloses the existence of a hidden treasure in his house that can be retrieved by Abigail if she can get herself admitted into the newly proposed nunnery. When two friars, Jacomo and Bernardine, along with an Abbess and a nun arrive, Abigail pretends to repent and is accepted into the convent. Barabas and Abigail plan to retrieve the treasure the next morning. After the group leaves, Mathias, who is in love with Abigail, tells his friend Lodowick about Abigail's beauty being wasted in a convent. Sparking Lodowick's interest, they agree to visit Abigail as soon as they can.
Act 2 begins with Barabas lamenting his financial loss as he nears his former mansion at nightfall. He likens himself to a dying man or a soldier traumatized by the memory of his "former riches." His distress is somewhat eased by his daughter, Abigail, who has secured his concealed treasure. She tosses the treasure to him, and in his joy, Barabas exclaims, "Oh girl, oh gold, oh beauty, oh my bliss!" while embracing the moneybags. Abigail advises her father to depart as the nuns will be waking for their initial daily prayer. As Barabas leaves, he continues to praise his daughter and the emerging day. He promises to rejoice over his reclaimed gold in the same way the "morning lark" tends to her offspring.
We switch back to Governor Ferneze in discussions with Spain's vice-admiral, Martin del Bosco. Bosco reveals his possession of numerous Turkish captives, obtained from a clash between his vessels and those from the Ottoman navy. Despite his interest, Ferneze laments that these captives cannot be traded in Malta due to existing friendly relations with the Turks. Bosco manages to convince Ferneze to sever this bond, promising that the Spanish monarch will provide military assistance if any adversaries threaten Malta. Accepting this proposal, Ferneze assigns Bosco as Malta's general, influenced by the Spanish account of the brave Rhodes garrison who fought until their last breath against the Turkish soldiers. The two leaders mutually agree to sacrifice their lives in protecting the island from Calymath. Upon parting, Ferneze recites, "we are resolved, / Honour is bought with blood and not with gold."
Law enforcement officials arrive at the market with their Turkish slaves. Barabas makes an appearance and talks about the grand house his reclaimed riches have afforded him. Even so, he harbors resentment over his financial misfortune and plans retribution against Ferneze. Lodowick, the governor's son, seeks Barabas as he wants to meet Abigail. Barabas, understanding his intentions, decides to mislead him. Despite promising to aid him in courting his daughter, Barabas secretly plans to use this relationship to get back at Ferneze. He unsettles Lodowick by criticizing Ferneze and hinting at the impurity of clergy members. He invites Lodowick to his home after he purchases a slave. He opts for a leaner, older slave named Ithamore over a younger one, as he would be cheaper to maintain. As Barabas heads out with Ithamore and asks Lodowick to feel at home in his house, Mathias and his mother Katherine come into the scene. Mathias is curious about Barabas and Lodowick's conversation. Barabas tells the audience that although Abigail is in love with Mathias, he would thwart their relationship to spite the governor. He distracts Mathias and his mother, assuring them that he was not discussing Abigail with Lodowick. He then urges Mathias to pay him a visit at his home. Barabas reconnects with Ithamore and instructs him to take pleasure in the suffering of Christians. Ithamore expresses his admiration for Barabas who recounts his past ruthlessness, including his medical training and how he used it to take lives in the war against France. Ithamore shares his brutal past, professing his hatred for Christians, to which Barabas agrees and promises him wealth in exchange for loyalty. When Lodowick arrives, Barabas tells Abigail to make him feel welcome and agree to marry him. Although she protests, preferring Mathias, Barabas ignores her concerns and steps outside under the guise of reading a letter. Mathias arrives and Barabas spins a tale about Lodowick's attempts to win Abigail's heart with letters and gifts. Mathias is angered and plans to confront Lodowick, but Barabas dissuades him. When Abigail and Lodowick emerge, Barabas informs Lodowick about Mathias's death threat. He reiterates his promise of Abigail's hand to Lodowick but instructs Abigail to save her love for Mathias. Barabas justifies his deceit by arguing that betraying a Christian isn't sinful. The plot thickens as Mathias returns and Barabas has to convince Lodowick to hold off on revenge. After the young men leave, Barabas tasks Ithamore with delivering a forged challenge letter from Lodowick to Mathias. Concluding this busy day, Barabas departs to deliver a similar untruth to Lodowick.
Bellamira, a courtesan, and her manager, Pilia-Borza, are displayed in this section. Bellamira laments the slow business due to the Turkish blockade of Malta curtailing Italian merchants' arrival. Pilia-Borza enters, tossing her a bag of silver, narrating how he managed to steal it from Barabas's treasury during a nocturnal raid, though he could have taken more gold. Their discussion is interrupted by Ithamore's entrance, who Pilia-Borza cautions Bellamira not to gaze upon. It's already too late, as Ithamore has spotted and fallen for Bellamira. He identifies her profession based on her attire and confesses he'd pay "a hundred of the Jew's crowns" for her company. He also reveals he has conveyed the challenge to Mathias, eagerly awaiting the duel between him and Lodowick.
Mathias and Lodowick face off in a duel. Lodowick is seen reading an offensive letter, likely another of Barabas' forgeries. They begin their battle under the watchful eye of Barabas, perched on a balcony above. He mocks the combatants. Once both men are fatally wounded, their respective parents, Ferneze and Katherine, discover the tragic scene. Both are hellbent on seeking vengeance, but realizing their sons are responsible for each other's demise, they agree to hold accountable the person who instigated the conflict. Mourning Ferneze proposes they are laid to rest together in a monument, where he will express his grief daily through "My daily sacrifice of sighs and tears", hoping this act will force the heavens to expose the mastermind behind these tragedies. He further suggests to Katherine that they both bear the burden equally.
Ithamore crosses paths with Abigail, bragging about the triumph of his and Barabas's crafty scheme. Despite his joy and praise for his master's "bravest policy", Abigail remains unresponsive. She requests Ithamore to bring any cleric from the "St Jacques" fraternity (a Dominican priest). Abigail is left alone after the servant departs, and she vents her anger towards her "hard-hearted" father and mourns over the fate of Mathias, Lodowick, and herself. Ithamore returns with Jacomo, a priest, and Abigail inquires about joining his convent. Jacomo mentions her previous admission and her lack of liking for the "holy life," but Abigail puts the blame on her father. She claims that the sorrow she experienced has enlightened her about her previous mistakes. When questioned about why she accuses Barabas, Abigail remains silent, expressing her fidelity to her father until her last breath. She departs, claiming her new "duty" lies with the priest.
Barabas engrosses himself in a letter that detail's Abigail's new faith and her plea for him to change his ways. His fury is palpable as he feels betrayed by his daughter's divergent morality. When his servant Ithamore arrives, Barabas receives him warmly, expressing "I now have no hope but even in thee." Ithamore then reveals Abigail's interaction with the priest, which leads Barabas to denounce her as "false", likening her to the biblical character, Cain. Barabas is flattered by Ithamore's loyalty, who expresses his willingness to do anything for his master's "sweet sake." Barabas declares him as his heir, pledging to give him half of his fortune, albeit not handing over the keys to his treasure. He gives Ithamore a new task - to fetch a pot of rice from the kitchen. The plot thickens as Barabas discloses his plan to poison his daughter using an Ancona powder, which will take effect after forty hours. The task for Ithamore is to take the poisoned pot to the convent as alms while remaining unnoticed. Before Ithamore departs, Barabas curses the pot, comparing it to the lethal beverages that killed Alexander the Great and the Pope, respectively. Menacingly, Barabas promises to reward Ithamore "with a vengeance" for his loyalty.
The Governor, Ferneze, has a meeting with the Turkish envoy, the Bashaw. The purpose of the Bashaw's visit is to gather the previously agreed upon tribute. However, Ferneze refuses to provide the promised amount. In response, the Bashaw warns that Malta will face an attack from Calymath. Knowing what's to come, Ferneze directs his men to ready the stronghold for an imminent battle, stating "nought is to be looked for now than wars, / And nought to us more welcome is than wars."
Friars Jacomo and Bernardine are both distraught over the convent's poisoning. Their conversation about visiting the nuns on their deathbeds hints at intentions beyond merely hearing last confessions. After Jacomo exits, Abigail, Barabas's daughter, enters, seeking Jacomo but agrees to confess to Bernardine as she is near death. She spills the beans about her father's involvement in the murder of Mathias and Lodowick, supplementing her confession with a detailed paper. Although appalled, Bernardine understands he can't publicly disclose his knowledge from a confession. Abigail passes away pleading with Bernardine to guide her father towards Christianity, insisting, "witness that I die a Christian." Bernardine laments her passing as a virgin. Jacomo returns, sharing that every nun has died. Bernardine convinces Jacomo they must reveal Barabas's horrific deeds. Jacomo asks if Barabas has "crucified a child," but Bernardine discloses it's a heinous act, refusing to share further details.
Act IV commences with Barabas feeling proud of his successful plan to poison the convent of nuns. Ithamore, his slave, is worried about being caught, but Barabas assures him no one else knows of their crimes. He threatens to kill Ithamore if he reveals anything. Despite the loss of his daughter Abigail, Barabas is not grieved, although he is saddened by her conversion to Christianity. Friars Jacomo and Bernardine come into the scene, attempting to compel Barabas to admit his involvement in the deaths of Mathias and Lodowick. The conversation between them is amusing, with Barabas constantly interrupting the priests and admitting to unrelated offences. When Barabas discovers the friars know of his plot, he changes his strategy and starts to feign remorse. He cunningly convinces the friars of his desire to embrace Christianity and offers to donate his riches to the church he will join. This leads to the friars trying to lure Barabas to their respective monasteries, criticizing the stringent rules of each other's orders. Barabas promises Bernardine that he will join his monastery. However, after Bernardine and Ithamore leave, Barabas assures Jacomo that he will join the Dominicans. Jacomo exits, vowing to keep Barabas's decision a secret from his monastery. Barabas plans to kill Jacomo for Abigail's conversion and Bernardine for knowing too much. When Ithamore informs him that Bernardine is asleep and cannot escape, Barabas gets Ithamore to strangle the priest. They leave Bernardine's body propped up on his staff outdoors. Jacomo finds the body and mistakenly thinks Bernardine was there to confront him. Jacomo strikes the already dead Bernardine, unaware of his death. Barabas and Ithamore reappear and blame Jacomo for Bernardine's death. Barabas announces that he has lost his interest in joining Jacomo's monastery due to the friar's misdeeds. He declares that Jacomo cannot be spared as the "law must have his course" and they depart to turn the priest over to the authorities.
Following his delivery of a message to Ithamore from Bellamira, Pilia-Borza reports that he encountered Ithamore at the gallows, observing Jacomo's execution. It soon becomes apparent that Pilia-Borza and Bellamira are scheming to extract money from Barabas, using Ithamore as their pawn. Ithamore, instructed by the letter to visit Bellamira, is surprised by the apparent respect both the prostitute and her pimp show towards him. After Bellamira confesses her love for him, Ithamore contemplates leaving to get money from Barabas to spruce up his appearance. Bellamira, however, persuades Ithamore to stay and tricks him into blackmailing Barabas. Ithamore writes a letter to his master, threatening to expose their crimes unless he receives 300 crowns. Meanwhile, Bellamira and Pilia-Borza mock Ithamore behind his back. Pilia-Borza is dispatched to deliver the threat to Barabas. Bellamira falsely promises to marry Ithamore, leading him to envisage their future in poetic expressions. When Pilia-Borza returns, he reports Barabas scoffing at Ithamore's fidelity and giving only ten crowns. Ithamore then writes another letter demanding 500 crowns for himself and 100 for Pilia-Borza. Upon Pilia-Borza's departure, Bellamira discards the ten crowns offered by Ithamore to assert her fabricated affection. She seals her deceit with a kiss and an invitation for Ithamore to stay the night.
Barabas scrutinizes the note he received from Ithamore intended to blackmail him. He swears to take Ithamore's life and disparagingly refers to Pilia-Borza as a "shaggy tottered staring slave." Just then, Pilia-Borza shows up with a second request from Ithamore for 500 crowns. Barabas attempts to get Pilia-Borza to fetch his slave, Ithamore, but his plan fails. Instead, he invites Pilia-Borza for dinner intending to poison him. The offer is turned down and Pilia-Borza demands the money. Stalling for time, Barabas feigns losing his keys and laments about Ithamore's treachery. Finally, Barabas hands the money over. Once alone, he realizes Ithamore might still reveal his misdeeds. To prevent this, Barabas devises a scheme to murder Ithamore, Pilia-Borza, and Bellamira while in disguise.
Bellamira and Ithamore are indulging in wine. Ithamore attempts to express his affection for Bellamira through heavy drinking. He reveals to Pilia-Borza his and Barabas's deeds, such as the poisoning of the nuns, and the role they played in the fatalities of Mathias and Lodowick. Pilia-Borza whispers to Bellamira his intention to inform the governor, but she insists they extract more money from Barabas first. Suddenly, Barabas joins them, in the guise of a French lute-player. His hat, containing a "posy", is seized by Pilia-Borza and given to Bellamira. The flowers are, unbeknownst to them, poisoned. Barabas, through a series of private comments, expresses his fury over his stolen gold. He labels Pilia-Borza a "villain" and fumes over Ithamore's lies about him. Ithamore, for instance, claims that Barabas survives "upon pickled grasshoppers" and neglects to change his shirt. Pilia-Borza and Bellamira persuade Ithamore to extract more gold from Barabas. Consequently, Ithamore decides to deliver a "word of mouth" message to his former master, now demanding a ransom of 1000 crowns.
Ferneze rallies his troops to fend off a looming Turkish strike as Bellamira and Pilia-Borza unveil Barabas's wrongdoings. The governor summons Barabas and his accomplice, Ithamore, to confirm these misdeeds. Barabas attempts to refute the allegations but Ithamore confesses. He implores Ferneze for justice saying, "let me have law," to which Ferneze replies, "you shall have law." Barabas exits, muttering about his hopes for his poison plot. Katherine appears and learns about the circumstances of Mathias's death from Ferneze. She reacts angrily towards Barabas while Ferneze assures her of his arrest and impending justice. The revelation that all the prisoners, including the pimp and prostitute, have died, prompts the governor to order Barabas's body to be discarded over the city walls to "be a prey for vultures and wild beasts." Having faked his death with a sleeping potion, Barabas rises and pledges to assist Calymath, seeking vengeance against the Christians. He reveals a hidden route into the city to Calymath, who assures him of the governor's position in return for his honesty. Barabas guarantees his truthfulness stating, "let me die" should he be found deceitful.
Victorious Calymath captures the Maltese, promising Ferneze that they will suffer under Turkish rule, and appoints Barabas as governor. Ferneze is devastated by this betrayal, questioning if there could be any greater misfortune. Calymath departs, leaving Barabas under the protection of his "Janizaries." Recognizing the hatred others have for him, Barabas decides to use cunning to keep his governorship secure. Barabas and Ferneze have a discussion about the future of Malta. Ferneze sees only destruction, but Barabas offers to assist in freeing Malta and its captured soldiers. Ferneze, surprised, promises Barabas a hefty reward if he is truly sincere. Barabas plans to invite Calymath to a feast where Ferneze will have to execute "one strategem" to free Malta from the Turks. Ferneze and Barabas seal the deal with a handshake, and Barabas looks forward to gaining from his cunning plan. He then leaves to finalize the deadly feast preparations.
After completing his tour of the island's defenses, Calymath expresses his belief that it's impossible to overtake. He receives an invitation from Barabas for a feast at his "homely citadel." Calymath is hesitant to bring his whole army to the feast due to recent pillaging in the city. However, the messenger assures him that Barabas possesses a "pearl so big", enough to feed the soldiers for a month. Calymath questions how Barabas will accommodate all the soldiers within the city limits, to which the messenger responds that the troops will dine in an outlying monastery, while only "Selim" and his "Bashaws" will be hosted at Barabas's home. Convinced, Calymath agrees to attend the banquet that same night.
Ferneze instructs his knights to assist him only upon hearing a cannon blast in this brief episode. A knight asserts their readiness to face any danger rather than endure life "as Turkish thralls."
Barabas, assisted by carpenters, has constructed a device intended to eliminate Calymath. After completing their task, he sends them off for a poisoned wine toast. A messenger arrives to inform Barabas of Calymath's dinner plans with him. Ferneze comes in, offering Barabas a hefty reward of 100,000 pounds. Barabas reveals his plot of a gunpowder explosion in the monastery where Turkish forces are dining and his plan to bring down the floor of his home gallery, sending Calymath into an "deep pit past recovery." He instructs Ferneze to sever a crucial cord at the sound of a trumpet. Barabas declines to accept Ferneze's payment until his plan is accomplished and gleefully anticipates the upcoming treachery, saying, "tell me, worldlings, underneath the sun, / If greater falsehood ever has been done." Barabas cordially welcomes the Turkish head and his men, guiding them towards the gallery staircase. Ferneze, however, intervenes and cautions Calymath. A knight trumpets, the cord is severed, and Barabas plummets through the trapdoor he designed into a cauldron below. Calymath is puzzled, but Ferneze clarifies that the fate that met Barabas was meant for him. Accusing them of treason, Calymath plans to depart but Ferneze convinces him to witness Barabas's end. They let Barabas perish alone as he confesses to his crimes and spews curses, calling them "Damned Christians, dogs, and Turkish infidels." Calymath again attempts to leave but is stopped by Ferneze. He reveals to Calymath that Barabas has eradicated all Turkish forces dining at the monastery. He informs Calymath that his freedom is contingent upon his father's compensation for the damage inflicted upon Malta. Despite protest, Ferneze insists on captivity for the Turk. The play ends with Ferneze's declaration, "let due praise be given / Neither to fate nor fortune, but to heaven."