The Jew available to be known in England in the 1590s is a Marrano - a covert figure whose identity is self-created, hard to discover, foreign, associated with novel or controversial enterprises like foreign trade or money-lending, and anxiety-producing. By and large, non-theatrical representations of Jewishness reveal less ambivalence than does Marlowe's Barabas. In the plays of Marlowe and then of Shakespeare, the Jew becomes a figure which enables the playwright to express and at the same time to condemn the impulse in both culture and theatre to treat selfhood and social role as a matter of choice. By becoming theatrical, the anxiety about identity and innovation implicit in the Marrano state gains explicitness and becomes available to the culture at large. Marlowe and Shakespeare play a central role in creating - not imitating - the frightening yet comic Jewish figure which haunts Western culture. But the immediate impact of their achievement is felt in the theatre, and is barely visible in non-theatrical discourse about Jews in the decades after their plays.