Partial evidence for the play's date of composition comes from its reference to the death of the Duke of Guise, which occurred on 23 December 1588. The name Barabas comes from the Biblical figure of Barabbas, a notorious bandit and murderer. Barabbas, rather than Jesus Christ, was released by Pontius Pilate at the behest of a mob (Matt. 27: 16–26). It is possible that the plot of the play was in some part inspired by the role of Joseph Nasi in the transfer of Cyprus from Venetian to Ottoman control.
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