Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe, 1564–93, English dramatist and poet, b. Canterbury. Probably the greatest English dramatist before Shakespeare, Marlowe, a shoemaker's son, was educated at Cambridge and he went to London in 1587, where he became an actor and dramatist for the Lord Admiral's Company. His most important plays are the two parts of Tamburlaine the Great (c.1587), Dr. Faustus (c.1588), The Jew of Malta (c.1589), and Edward II (c.1592). Marlowe's dramas have heroic themes, usually centering on a great personality who is destroyed by his own passion and ambition. Although filled with violence, brutality, passion, and bloodshed, Marlowe's plays are never merely sensational. The poetic beauty and dignity of his language raise them to the level of high art. Most authorities detect influences of his work in the Shakespeare canon, notably in Titus Andronicus and King Henry VI. Of his nondramatic pieces, the best-known are the long poem Hero and Leander (1598), which was finished by George Chapman, and the beautiful lyric that begins "Come live with me and be my love." In 1593, Marlowe was stabbed in a barroom brawl by a drinking companion. Although a coroner's jury certified that the assailant acted in self-defense, the murder may have resulted from a definite plot, due, as some scholars believe, to Marlowe's activities as a government agent.

See his Works and Life (6 vol., 1949–55); biographies by F. S. Boas (1940), C. Norman (rev. ed. 1971), C. Kuriyama (2002), and P. Honan (2006); studies by J. E. Bakeless (1942), P. H. Kocher (1946), H. Levin (1952, repr. 1964), W. Sanders (1969), J. B. Steane (1964, repr. 1970), R. Erikson (1987), C. Nicholl (1992), and D. Riggs (2004).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Christopher Marlowe: Selected full-text books and articles

Christopher Marlowe, Renaissance Dramatist By Lisa Hopkins Edinburgh University Press, 2008
Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus By Harold Bloom Chelsea House, 1988
Librarian’s tip: This is a book of literary criticism
Doctor Faustus; Edward the Second; The Jew of Malta By Christopher Marlowe Bernhard Tauchnitz, 1917
Tamburlaine the Great, Parts 1 and 2; The Massacre at Paris with the Death of the Duke of Guise By Christopher Marlowe; David Fuller; Edward J. Esche Clarendon Press, 1998
Suffering and Evil in the Plays of Christopher Marlowe By Douglas Cole Princeton University Press, 1962
Christopher Marlowe: Poet and Spy By Park Honan Oxford University Press, 2005
Spectacles of Strangeness: Imperialism, Alienation, and Marlowe By Emily C. Bartels University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993
Renaissance Magic and the Return of the Golden Age: The Occult Tradition and Marlowe, Jonson, and Shakespeare By John S. Mebane University of Nebraska Press, 1989
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Vision and Illusion in Marlowe's Dr. Faustus"
Shakespeare, Marlowe, and the Politics of France By Richard Hillman Palgrave, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Marlovian Monarchs and Various Guises"
Marlowe and the Early Shakespeare By F. P. Wilson Clarendon Press, 1953
Marlowe, Shakespeare, and the Economy of Theatrical Experience By Thomas Cartelli University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991
Marlovian Tragedy: The Play of Dilation By Troni Y. Grande Bucknell University Press, 1999
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