Academic journal article Marlowe Studies

The 1663 Doctor Faustus and the Royalist Marlowe

Academic journal article Marlowe Studies

The 1663 Doctor Faustus and the Royalist Marlowe

Article excerpt

Over the past fifty years, the 1663 Doctor Faustus has been the most critically neglected of the pre-1700 editions of Christopher Marlowe's work.1 An examination of its publisher's career and the changes made to its text strongly suggest, against what a contem- porary critical audience might expect, that this Faustus was a surpris- ingly conservative work, read as an allegory of Oliver Cromwell's fall. Though this edition is not authentically Marlovian, it neverthe- less demonstrates how his tragedy was received and repurposed by his later audiences, which contributes to our critical understanding of seventeenth-century reading formations and communities.2

The 1663 quarto of Faustus rests in an odd position in Marlowe's canon. None of his plays had been published for thirty years-the previous quarto had been The Jew of Malta m 1633-and the 1663 Faustus itself marked the last time any of his works would see print for almost a century, until Robert Dodsley included Edward II in the second volume of his Select Collection of Old Plays (1744).3 But William Gilbertson's decision to publish this Restoration edition was surprising not simply because of its author's obscurity. Theatrical fashions had also drastically shifted since the 1590s. As Nancy Klein Maguire has argued, "Tragedy as formerly understood was impossible after 1660," making most of Marlowe's plays generically unsuited to a stage that had come to prize tragicomedy.4 What might have enticed Gilbertson to print such a text? Leah Marcus theorizes that the 1663 Faustus critiques Charles II, contemporizing its radical politics to renew what she has termed the "Marlowe Effect."5 Although some readers might have experienced such a sensation as they read, the material circumstances of the quarto's publication imply that Gilbertson intended to elicit the opposite reaction. A close look at his publishing career suggests that this Faustus was actually a Royalist publication.

Late seventeenth-century theater audiences saw an adaptation of the pseudo-Marlovian Lust's Dominion (1657), in the form of Aphra ? ehn's Abdela^er, or The Moor's Revenge (1677), and a farcical takeoff on Faustus, William Mountfort's The Life and Death of Doctor Faustus (1697). But on the whole, Marlowe's plays-in marked contrast to those of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, William Shake- speare, and Ben Jonson-remained surprisingly unadapted in the second half of the seventeenth century. They were not, however, forgotten. Allusions to Marlowe in English Civil War and Inter- regnum publications (mostly Cavalier) suggest that his drama was still circulating in the public consciousness during the middle part of the century.6 The pamphlet Wonders foretold (1643) predicts, "There shall also crete inflammations of Lightning happen tis yeare about the fortune in Colding Lane, if the players can get leave to act the tragedies of Doctour Faustus," and a character in Abraham Cowley's The Guardian (1650) mocks another by comparing the latter's roaring to that of Tamburlaine's at the Bull.7 On April 8, 1654, The Maiden's Holiday was entered in the Stationers' Register as coauthored by Marlowe and John Day, suggesting his name still held some capital. Also in 1654, Edmund Gayton reported that popular festivals featured performances of Tamburlaine the Great and The Jew of Malta, while Robert Baron's Mir^a (1655) alludes to Bajazeth's captivity at the hands of Tamburlaine. Lust's Dominion was attributed to Marlowe in both 1657 and 1661. William Davenant's Playhouse to Be Let (1663) mentions Tamburlaine and Faustus, and Gilbertson's Faustus was published in the same year.8 Marlowe's plays appeared on the play lists of Richard Rogers and William Ley (1656), Edward Archer (1656), and Francis Kirkman (1661, 1671). In 1670, Thomas Shadwell's character Drybob also mentioned Tamburlaine's humiliation of Bajazeth in The Humorists, while in 1681 Charles Saunders was accused of plagiarizing Marlowe in his Tamerlane the Great, suggesting that some theatergoers remained familiar with Marlowe's Tamburlaine. …

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