Good Christopher Marlowe: The Other Elizabethan Playwright Essay Example
Christopher Marlowe was both a playwright and a poet at the height of the dramatic renaissance of the 16th century (Biography.com). Even though he only had a six-year career and lived for 29 years only, his achievements, especially the play The Tragicall History of Doctor Faustus, have made his name last through the ages (Biography.com). His works were of major influence to William Shakespeare and to later generations of writers.
Marlowe was born in 1564 in Canterbury (Biography.com). He attended King’s school before he got a scholarship that made him able to pursue his education at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge between 1580 and 1587 (Biography.com). In 1584, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. In 1587, the university was hesitant to confer a master’s degree to him due his repeated absenteeism and rumors that he had become a Roman Catholic hence would soon go to another college elsewhere (Biography.com). The Privy Council through a letter however informed the university that he was working on important national issues, enabling him to gain his master’s degree on time (Biography.com). This letter to the university led to speculation that he was working under Sir Francis Walsinghams intelligence unit as a secret agent (Biography.com). However direct evidence supporting this is absent. After Marlowe got his master’s degree, he relocated to London and focused on writing full-time. Dido, Queen of Carthage is considered to be his first play and was published in 1594 (Theatrehistory.com). It is believed that he wrote this play while still in Cambridge as a student. Based on records, a company comprised of boy actors called Children of the Chapel performed this play between 1587 and 1593 (Biography.com).
The second play by Marlowe was Tamburlaine the Great, which had two parts. This was published in 1590 and was the first play of his to be performed on London’s regular stage (Theatrehistory.com). It is also one of the earliest blank verse English dramas. This play is also considered to be the start of Elizabethan theatre’s mature phase. This was his last play to be published prior to his early death. After Tamburlaine, Marlowe wrote four other plays only, between 1589 and 1592, which reinforced his legacy. The plays are: Doctor Faustus, The Massacre at Paris, Edward the Second, and The Jew of Malta.
The Jew of Malta gives the story of the Jew Barabas, the wealthiest man in the island of Malta. However, his possessions are seized. He tries to regain them by fighting the government but is killed by Maltese soldiers (Biography.com). The play revolves around religious conflict, revenge as well as intrigue. Barabas is considered to be the inspiration for Shylock in Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. This drama is also thought to be the first successful tragicomedy (Biography.com). The character of Barabas is complex and he evokes mixed responses from audiences. Oversexed nuns and Christian monks are also ridiculed in this play (Biography.com). This play generally has controversial themes.
Edward the Second narrates about the dethronement of Edward II, England’s King, by his barons in conjunction with the queen since they all dislike the fact that his policies are greatly influenced by his king’s men (Biography.com). This play helped Shakespeare develop histories like Richard II, which was more mature (Biography.com).
The massacre at Paris consists of bloody action mostly with little character development of quality verse. These attributes make it the most neglected of his works. This play showcases what happened during the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in the year 1572, in which Catholic nobles and French royalty incited the execution of many protestant Huguenots (Biography.com). The response of some section of the audience to this play can be shown by the agitators in London who used its theme to call for the killing of refugees. Interestingly, the last scene of the play warns the queen in an eerily manner of such an occurrence (Biography.com).
Doctor Faustus is about a man who exchanges his soul for power and knowledge with the devil (Biography.com). Faustus continually rejects the Good Angel’s advice that he should repent. Faustus in the end repents but it is too late; Mephistopheles takes his soul and goes to hell with him (Biography.com). This play is considered to have frightened and caused shock to the audience of the time by having a Latin mumble, pentagrams drawn on the stage, and having a devil suddenly appear on the stage after invitation by the main character (Biography.com). The audiences are considered to have been frightened by the appearance of a devil (made through costume design) since they were still new to theatre and may have interpreted the devil character as real (Biography.com). Their fear may also have been heightened by the opposition of the puritans of the time to the play, calling it its performance a devil’s cauldron (Biography.com).
Marlowe was arrested in 1593 after rumors had spread that he was an atheist (Biography.com). Atheism was a major offense at the time carrying a penalty of being burnt to death. In spite of the weight of the charges against him, Marlowe was not imprisoned or tortured and was released (Biography.com). He was however to report to a court officer every day (Biography.com). Marlowe was however killed by Ingram Frizer on May 30 (“The Marlowe”). Frizer was in the company of two other men, Robert Poley and Nicholas Skeres who were all affiliated with the aforementioned Walsinghams (Biography.com). It is said that the four men had spent the day together in a tavern when a fight over the bill rose between Marlowe and Frizer (“The Marlowe”). Marlowe was stabbed in the head and died (“The Marlowe”). However, the real reason behind his killing is still debated.
What is not subject to debate is Marlowe’s importance to literature. His work influenced great writers like Shakespeare, who tops the playwrights of Elizabethan tragic plays. Marlowe seconds Shakespeare hence the legacy he left will continue to prevail even for ages to come.
Link to video: http://www.biography.com/people/christopher-marlowe-9399572
Biography.com,. 'Christopher Marlowe Biography'. Biography.com. N.p., 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2015. < http://www.biography.com/people/christopher-marlowe-9399572>
The Marlowe Theatre,. 'Christopher Marlowe | Marlowe Theatre'. Marlowetheatre.com. N.p., 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2015. < http://www.marlowetheatre.com/page/3170/Christopher-Marlowe>
Theatrehistory.com,. 'Christopher Marlowe'. Theatrehistory.com. N.p., 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2015. < http://www.theatrehistory.com/british/marlowe001.html>