From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Christopher "Kit" Marlowe (baptised 26 February 1564―30 May 1593) was an English dramatist, poet, and translator of the Elizabethan era. The foremost Elizabethan tragedian before William Shakespeare, he is known for his magnificent blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his own untimely death.
Marlowe's reputation among contemporary writers
Whatever the particular focus of modern critics, biographers and novelists, for his contemporaries in the literary world, Marlowe was above all an admired and influential artist. Within weeks of his death, George Peele remembered him as "Marley, the Muses' darling"; Michael Drayton noted that he "Had in him those brave translunary things/That the first poets had", and Ben Jonson wrote of "Marlowe's mighty line". Thomas Nashe wrote warmly of his friend, "poor deceased Kit Marlowe". So too did the publisher Edward Blount, in the dedication of Hero and Leander to Sir Thomas Walsingham.
Among the few contemporary dramatists to say anything negative about Marlowe was the anonymous author of the Cambridge University play The Return From Parnassus (1598) who wrote, "Pity it is that wit so ill should dwell, Wit lent from heaven, but vices sent from hell."
The most famous tribute to Marlowe was paid by Shakespeare in As You Like It, where he not only quotes a line from Hero and Leander (Dead Shepherd, now I find thy saw of might, "Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?") but also gives to the clown Touchstone the words "When a man's verses cannot be understood, nor a man's good wit seconded with the forward child, understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room." This appears to be a reference to Marlowe's murder (which involved a fight over the "reckoning" – the bill).
Shakespeare was indeed very influenced by Marlowe in his early work as can be seen in the re-using of Marlowe themes in Anthony and Cleopatra, The Merchant of Venice, Richard II, and Macbeth (Dido, Jew of Malta, Edward II and Dr Faustus respectively). Indeed in Hamlet, after meeting with the travelling actors, Hamlet starts discussing Dido, Queen of Carthage and quoting from it. As this was Marlowe's only play not to have been played in the public theatre we can see that Shakespeare was quite the Marlovian scholar. Indeed in Love's Labour's Lost, echoing Marlowe's The Massacre at Paris, Shakespeare brings on a character called Marcade (French for Mercury – the messenger of the Gods – a nickname Marlowe bestowed upon himself) who arrives to "interrupt'st" the "merriment" with news of the King's death. A fitting tribute for one who delighted in destruction in his plays.
The dates of composition are approximate.
- Dido, Queen of Carthage (c.1586) (possibly co-written with Thomas Nashe)
- Tamburlaine, part 1 (c.1587)
- Tamburlaine, part 2 (c.1587–1588)
- The Jew of Malta (c.1589)
- Doctor Faustus (c.1589, or, c.1593)
- Edward II (c.1592)
- The Massacre at Paris (c.1593)
The play Lust's Dominion was attributed to Marlowe upon its initial publication in 1657, though scholars and critics have almost unanimously rejected the attribution.
- Translation of Book One of Lucan's Pharsalia (date unknown)
- Translation of Ovid's Elegies (c. 1580s?)
- "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" (pre-1593; because it is constantly referred to in his own plays we can presume an early date of mid-1580s)
- Hero and Leander (c. 1593, unfinished; completed by George Chapman, 1598)
Fictional works about Marlowe
- Philip Lindsay's One Dagger for Two, fictionalised account of Marlowe's life . 1932 (Novel)
- Leo Rost's Marlowe, stage musical based on Rost's book. 1981
- Louise Welsh's Tamburlaine Must Die, about the last two weeks of Marlowe's life. 2004 (Novel)
- Anthony Burgess' A Dead Man in Deptford, fictionalised account of Marlow's death. 1993 (Novel)
- Peter Whelan's The School of Night, about Marlowe's playwriting career after his faked death at Deptford. (Play)