The first recorded performance was in 1592; the play was acted by Lord Strange's Men seventeen times between 26 February 1592 and 1 February 1593. It was performed by Sussex's Men on 4 February 1594, and by a combination of Sussex's and Queen Elizabeth's Men on 3 and 8 April 1594. More than a dozen performances by the Admiral's Men occurred between May 1594 and June 1596. (The play apparently belonged to impresario Philip Henslowe, since the cited performances occurred when the companies mentioned were acting for Henslowe.) In 1601 Henslowe's Diary notes payments to the Admiral's company for props for a revival of the play.
The play was entered in the Stationers' Register on 17 May 1594, but the earliest surviving edition was printed in 1633 by the bookseller Nicholas Vavasour. This edition contains prologues and epilogues written by Thomas Heywood for a revival in that year. Heywood is also sometimes thought to have revised the play. Corruption and inconsistencies in the 1633 quarto, particularly in the second half, may be evidence of revision or alteration of the text.
The Jew of Malta was a success in its first recorded performance at the Rose theatre in early 1592, when Edward Alleyn played the lead role. The play remained popular for the next fifty years, until England's theatres were closed in 1642 (see English Renaissance theatre). In the Caroline era, actor Richard Perkins was noted for his performances as Barabas when the play was revived in 1633 by Queen Henrietta's Men. The title page of the 1633 quarto refers to this revival, performed at the Cockpit Theatre.
The play was revived by Edmund Kean at Drury Lane on 24 April 1818. The script of this performance included additions by S. Penley.