Suffering and Evil in the Plays of Christopher Marlowe

Suffering and Evil in the Plays of Christopher Marlowe

Suffering and Evil in the Plays of Christopher Marlowe

Suffering and Evil in the Plays of Christopher Marlowe

Excerpt

Art a Painter? Canst paint me a teare, or a wound, A groane, or a sigh?. . . --THE SPANISH TRAGEDIE (1602)

Drama is made from actions and ideas; when those actions and ideas focus on problems of suffering and evil, drama enters the realm of the tragic. In the development of tragedy on the English stage, Christopher Marlowe holds a position of crucial importance; his name is a hallmark of the creative genius of the English Renaissance. By examining the representation of suffering and evil in Marlowe's plays, and by relating this aspect of his dramaturgy to the theatrical and ideological backgrounds of his time, this book seeks to clarify both the measure of Marlowe's artistic originality and the nature of his tragic vision. This has necessarily involved the study of the broader context of Marlowe's plays, the context provided by such varying elements as the dramatic traditions influential in sixteenthcentury England, the theatrical practice of Marlowe's immediate contemporaries in serious drama, the character of Marlowe's source materials, the prevailing ideological currents in Elizabethan England, and more particularly the heritage of theological thought which Marlowe himself must have encountered during his six years as a scholar ostensibly preparing for holy orders at Cambridge University. My primary method has been to introduce relevant areas of this background material into the close examination of the treatment of suffering and evil in each of Marlowe's plays. So complex and important, however, is the background of dramatic traditions in Marlowe's time that I have thought it best to introduce the study with a review of the major methods used by Marlowe's predecessors to stage the human experience of suffering and evil.

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