Christopher Marlowe  

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"In Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine (c. 1587), the merciless, power-hungry tyrant of the play's title — who arrogates to himself the appellation "the Scourge of God" — demonstrates vicious, bloodthirsty traits that we would well identify with a psychopathic personality."--Sholem Stein

Next Marlow, bathed in the Thespian springs,
Had in him those brave sublunary things
That the first poets had; his raptures were
All air and fire which made his verses clear;
For that fine madness still he did retain,
Which rightly should possess a poet's brain.

--Michael Drayton on Christopher Marlowe

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Christopher "Kit" Marlowe (baptised 26 February 156430 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.


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.


Fictional works about Marlowe

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