Christopher Marlowe

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Marlowe, Christopher,

1564–93, English dramatist and poet, b. Canterbury. Probably the greatest English dramatist before Shakespeare, Marlowe, a shoemaker's son, was educated at Cambridge and he went to London in 1587, where he became an actor and dramatist for the Lord Admiral's Company. His most important plays are the two parts of Tamburlaine the Great (c.1587), Dr. Faustus (c.1588), The Jew of Malta (c.1589), and Edward II (c.1592). Marlowe's dramas have heroic themes, usually centering on a great personality who is destroyed by his own passion and ambition. Although filled with violence, brutality, passion, and bloodshed, Marlowe's plays are never merely sensational. The poetic beauty and dignity of his language raise them to the level of high art. Most authorities detect influences of his work in the Shakespeare canon, notably in Titus Andronicus and King Henry VI. Of his nondramatic pieces, the best-known are the long poem Hero and Leander (1598), which was finished by George ChapmanChapman, George,
1559?–1634, English dramatist, translator, and poet. He is as famous for his plays as for his poetic translations of Homer's Iliad (1612) and Odyssey (1614–15).
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, and the beautiful lyric that begins "Come live with me and be my love." In 1593, Marlowe was stabbed in a barroom brawl by a drinking companion. Although a coroner's jury certified that the assailant acted in self-defense, the murder may have resulted from a definite plot, due, as some scholars believe, to Marlowe's activities as a government agent.

Bibliography

See his Works and Life (6 vol., 1949–55); biographies by F. S. Boas (1940), C. Norman (rev. ed. 1971), C. Kuriyama (2002), and P. Honan (2006); studies by J. E. Bakeless (1942), P. H. Kocher (1946), H. Levin (1952, repr. 1964), W. Sanders (1969), J. B. Steane (1964, repr. 1970), R. Erikson (1987), C. Nicholl (1992), and D. Riggs (2004).

Marlowe, Christopher

 

Born February 1564, in Canterbury; died June 1, 1593, in Deptford. English poet and playwright.

Marlowe was the son of a cobbler. He graduated from the University of Cambridge and received a bachelor’s degree, and later a master’s degree. Rejecting an ecclesiastical career, Marlowe left for London in 1587. There he became an actor and a playwright in the circle called the University Wits. In his works, Marlowe combined humanistic views and learning with the traditions of the English popular theater. During the last years of his life, Marlowe was under surveillance by the secret police, which had received reports about his atheistic and republican views. He was killed in a tavern brawl under suspicious circumstances.

Marlowe’s first tragedy, Tamburlaine the Great (1587-88, published 1590), is a dramatized biography of Timur, in whose mouth Marlowe placed bold tirades against god. The central figure of his second play, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (according to recent data, written 1592, published 1604), is a sorcerer, a learned doctor for whom knowledge is more important than all else and who rebels against religion for the sake of knowledge.

Titanism characterizes the hero of the tragedy The Jew of Malta (written about 1588, published 1633). In his depiction of the usurer Barabas, Marlowe overcame the static quality of his earlier heroes. He became more critical of the unrestrained individualism and amoralism of “strong” people. In this play, Marlowe abandoned the free composition of his earlier tragedies and introduced a plot line determined by the hero’s development.

In the historical chronicle play Edward II (1593, published 1594), Marlowe’s heroes are denied exceptional qualities and are more lifelike than characters of his previous plays; there is no rhetoric in their speech. In Marlowe’s historical dramas, as later in Shakespeare’s, current political problems were discussed.

Marlowe’s plays mark a new stage in the development of tragedy. Tragedy ceases to be a conglomeration of horrors and bloody crimes and begins to focus on important social issues. Paving the way for Shakespeare, Marlowe rejected rhyme, dropped the traditional caesura, and made the entire utterance instead of the phrase, serve as the unit of expression of poetic thought. Marlowe enriched the language of tragedy with the intonations, imagery, and phraseology of lyric poetry.

WORKS

The Works, vols. 1-6. London, 1930-33.
Plays and Poems. London, 1955.
In Russian translation:
Sochineniia. Introductory article by A. Parfenov. Moscow, 1961.

REFERENCES

Storozhenko, N. I. “Predshestvenniki Shekspira” .” In Ocherk istorii zapadnoevropeiskoi literatury. Moscow, 1916.
Morozov, M. M. “Kristofer Mario.” In Izbr. start iperevody. Moscow, 1954.
Parfenov, A. Kristofer Mario. Moscow, 1964.
Bakeless, J.Christopher Marlowe: The Man in His Time. New York, 1937.
Boas, F. Marlowe and His Circle. London, 1931.
Boas, F. Christopher Marlowe: A Biographical and Critical Study. Oxford, 1940.
Knoll, R. E. Christopher Marlowe. New York, 1969.
Marlowe. Doctor Faustus: A Casebook. London, 1969. (With bibliography.)

M. A. NERSESOVA