Christopher "Kit" Marlowe (23 February 1564 – 30 May 1593) was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. The foremost Elizabethan tragedian next to William Shakespeare, he is known for his magnificent blank verse and his overreaching protagonists. The seven plays generally attributed to him are: Dido Queen of Carthage, Tamburlaine the Great: part 1, Tamburlaine the Great: part 2, The Jew of Malta, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, Edward II, and The Massacre at Paris. Some scholars have proposed widening the list of Marlowe's credits to include hitherto anonymous plays of the period.
Marlowe's death has been an ongoing source of speculation. Officially, Marlowe was killed in Deptford by a man named Ingram Frizer during a dispute about a bill at Eleanor Bull's inn. Frizer's knife entered directly above Marlowe's right eye and pierced his brain. Since Frizer, and the two witnesses who supported him - Robert Poley and Nick Skeres - were known to have connections to England's spy-network, some believe that Marlowe was also a spy, and was assassinated for some reason connected to that occupation.
List of quotes[edit | edit source]
Christopher Marlowe in "We Haven't Got There Yet"[edit | edit source]
In 1606, William Shakespeare was reminded of his late friend Christopher Marlowe as he watched a production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Shakespeare realized that the eponymous leads didn't even have the definitive ending of Marlowe's Faustus, who at least ended his play knowing he was in Hell.
Christopher Marlowe in Ruled Britannia[edit | edit source]
Christopher Marlowe (1564-1598) was an English playwright who had once been employed in Queen Elizabeth's secret service. Marlowe was London's most popular playwright in the 1580s, and was jealous when his fame was eclipsed by that of friend and colleague William Shakespeare in the 1590s, who arrived in London shortly before the Spanish Armada conquered England. He was particularly jealous of Shakespeare's Prince of Denmark, writing Yseult and Tristan in response. While it was not considered as good as Princes of Denmark, Yseult and Tristan was nevertheless regarded as Marlowe's greatest play.
Marlowe had extensive connections to two separate worlds in London, the world of the theater and the underworld of crime. Many members of the one were acquainted with members of the other through him. This occasionally placed writers and actors in embarrassing legal situations. For instance, at a 1597 auto da fe, convicted alchemist Edward Kelley publicly called upon Shakespeare for assistance; Kelley and Shakespeare had a passing acquaintance through Marlowe. Shakespeare did not, of course, attempt to interfere with Kelley's execution, but the authorities investigated him as a result of the episode nonetheless.
Though not a believer in religion of any stripe, Marlowe was secretly loyal to Elizabeth and her counselor William Cecil's plot to restore Elizabeth to the throne, and was jealous of Shakespeare when Cecil asked him to write Boudicca rather than Marlowe himself. Marlowe, who had often run afoul of both Tudor and Hapsburg authorities, was much more comfortable in the cloak-and-dagger world of political intrigue than Shakespeare, and provided Shakespeare with some support and guidance as he learned the trade.
Marlowe was a man of many vices, including being a smoker of tobacco and a homosexual. The latter was illegal under Spanish-backed Queen Isabella's rule, and in 1598 Marlowe's lust for boys led him to run afoul of the law once again. He fled London, but knew that Cecil's plot would soon come to fruition. He could not resist the temptation to be present when this happened, so he soon returned to London disguised as a Puritan named Charles Munday. He was recognised by the Spanish soldier-playwright Lope de Vega and was killed, by a stab wound to the head, entering just above the right eye, in the resulting scuffle, on the day that news of King Philip II's death reached England.
A big rough-looking blond man thanked de Vega for saving him a bit of work immediately after he had killed Marlowe.
Known plays by Marlowe[edit | edit source]
- Caligula - Richard Burbage, who played the Emperor Caligula, stated "This was the frightfullest Roman of them all." Burbage acknowledged that Caligula's more unspeakable deeds had not made it into the play, and William Shakespeare marveled that the Master of the Revels had allowed even as much as the play offered.
- Cambyses, King of Persia - William Shakespeare played the Ghost of Darius in this play about a king of Persia from the 6th century BCE.
- The Cid - A biography of the 11th-century Spanish general who won great victories against the Moors. Shakespeare had a small part as a Moor whom the Cid first befriends and then betrays.
- Dido, Queen of Carthage - based on a subplot of Vergil's Aeneid.
- Tamberlane - the play credited with making blank verse the standard format for London plays.
- The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus - When Marlowe was fleeing London, he recited lines from this play in the hearing of George the boatman. Lope de Vega, when interviewing George, was satisfied as to Marlowe's identity because of this.
- Yseult and Tristan - Based on a medieval French tale of two doomed lovers.
- A play about Alexander the Great and Darius III.
Literary comment[edit | edit source]
Lines from the OTL Marlowe play Tamburlaine the Great are incorporated into the novel's fictional Shakespeare play Boudicca. Presumably the Tamberlane mentioned in the novel is an analog of this play with slightly different content.
References[edit | edit source]