Christopher Marlowe, Renaissance Dramatist

Christopher Marlowe, Renaissance Dramatist

Christopher Marlowe, Renaissance Dramatist

Christopher Marlowe, Renaissance Dramatist

Synopsis

This book offers a comprehensive and accessible introduction to all of the plays of Christopher Marlowe. Marlowe is a playwright whose work taps into the central concerns of his age, many of which are still important to us - religious uncertainty, the clash between Islam and Christianity, the discovery of America, ideas of sexuality and gender identity, and the rôle of the marginalised inidividual in society. The book contains six chapters, each on a specific aspect of Marlowe's work and its cultural contexts: Marlowe's life and death; the Marlowe canon; the theatrical contexts and stage history of the plays; Marlowe's distinctive interest in old and new branches of knowledge; the ways in which he transgresses against established norms and values; and the major issues which have been raised in critical discussions of his plays. Each chapter allows students to see the significance, scope and distinctive contribution made by Marlowe in all his plays, and his place in the development of Renaissance drama. Key Features
• Covers all of Marlowe's plays, including Tamburlaine the Great, Doctor Faustus, Edward II and The Jew of Malta
• Emphasises how daring Marlowe's ideas were at the time as well as their relevance to readers today
• Covers the theatrical contexts of Marlowe's plays and their performance history
• Reassesses Marlowe's achievement as well as his relationship to Shakespeare

Excerpt

Marlowe has suffered more than most authors from the attempt to read his works in simple biographical terms, as when, in the middle of his discussion of Doctor Faustus, one of his recent biographers suddenly asks ‘Was Marlowe impotent?’ on the grounds that a number of his works are interested in unfulfilled sexuality (Honan 2005:214–214). The attempt to read Marlowe narrowly in terms of his own biography has generated two principal problems. In the first place, it has led to some very crude readings of his plays as little more than personal wish-fulfilment–as Lawrence Danson observes, we mistake the situation if, when reading Tamburlaine, ‘we assume that the Scythian shepherd is really only the Cantabrigian Marlowe in fancy-dress’ (Danson 1982: 11), and so regard the play as entirely uncritical of its hero, or if we see Faustus as simply a self-portrait of Marlowe. The view that this gave rise to, of Marlowe as an entirely solipsistic writer obsessed with success at all costs, undoubtedly contributed to the long-held view of him as decidedly inferior to Shakespeare and prevented attention being paid to the breadth and depth of Marlowe’s wideranging interests in the world around him, something which I will explore further in Chapter 4. Secondly, the focus on Marlowe’s life has spawned an entirely spurious industry which attempts to prove that Marlowe did not in fact die at Deptford and actually went on to write the works of Shakespeare. As it happens, however, Shakespeare and Marlowe are entirely distinct in style, and we . . .

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