Renaissance and Reformation Christopher Marlowe
by
David Bevington
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 April 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 May 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0046

Introduction

Christopher Marlowe remains a fascinating subject for critical study. His short life of twenty-nine years (b. 1564–d. 1593) ended in a murder in a tavern brawl. Puritan preachers in London rejoiced in what was for them a clear sign of divine wrath at an unregenerate sinner. Marlowe had a reputation, whether deserved or not, as an atheist, a homosexual (though the term was not then known), and a disciple of the political heterodoxies of Machiavelli. His plays, beginning in 1587–1588 with the two parts of Tamburlaine, were an instant sensation for their challenging presentations of overreaching in the realms of religion, sexuality, and politics. Whether he was in fact as transgressive as this may sound remains highly controversial today.

Bibliographies

These are useful lists of studies of Marlowe for anyone interested in further work on him, with particular time spans. Tannenbaum 1937 is by now out of date but helpful on earlier materials. Friedenreich 1979 picks up the story from 1950 to the late 1970s, and Brandt 1992 then carries forward to the early 1990s. More recent studies can be searched online.

Editions and Textual Studies

Other editions and textual studies of Marlowe’s works are of course available in libraries. Keefer 1991, Rasmussen 1993, and Ribner 1974 are supplementary to the works listed under Bibliographies.

Surveys of Marlowe’s Plays and Other Writings

Ellis-Fermor 1927 and Leech 1986 represent traditional readings of Marlowe; the version of Leech’s book published in 1986 is really a new edition, prepared by Ann Lancashire, of a study originally published much earlier. More recent reading, attuned to the powerful ambiguity of Marlowe’s work, includes Cutts 1973, Harraway 2000, and Hopkins 2008. Levin 1952 offers a highly readable schematization of Marlowe’s plays as centered on human aspirations for power, knowledge, and sensual pleasure. Kelsall 1981 takes the more specialized approach of studying Marlowe’s experimentalism. Weil 1977 focuses on dramatic style and a kind of baffling playfulness.

Collections of Essays

Much of the best recent work on Marlowe has appeared in articles. Many are published in the following essay collections. These collections are generally new and inclusive in their coverage of topics and approaches; Deats and Logan 2002, Deats and Logan 2008, and Downie and Parnell 2000 are recent and useful instances. Leech 1964 provides a useful selection of the best work on Marlowe down to the 1960s by T. S. Eliot, Una Ellis-Fermor, and others. Friedenreich, et al. 1988 deserves credit for being the first assemblage of entirely new essays on Marlowe. Other recent collections offer practical points of focus: Oz 2003 on issues of contemporary critical method, White 1998 on sexuality and a revisionist view of history, and Grantley and Roberts 1996 on Marlowe in the context of Renaissance culture.

  • Deats, Sara Munson, and Robert A. Logan, eds. Marlowe’s Empery: Expanding His Critical Contexts. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2002.

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    New critical perspectives on various aspects of Marlowe’s artistry, especially the cultural sphere of his works, by the editors and by Roslyn L. Knutson, David Bevington, David Fuller, Maurice Charney, Rick Bowers, Karen Cunningham, Randall Nakayama, and Georgia E. Brown.

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  • Deats, Sara Munson, and Robert A. Logan, eds. Placing the Plays of Christopher Marlowe: Fresh Cultural Contexts. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008.

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    A collection of essays asking what kind of man Marlowe was and investigating his “place” in the development of English drama, by the editors and by Ruth Lunney, Rick Bowers, William Hamlin, Constance Brown Kuriyama, and David Bevington, among others.

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  • Downie, J. A., and J. T. Parnell, eds. Constructing Christopher Marlowe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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    Essays engaging with the ways in which Marlowe has been constructed in our modern world by the critical discourse developing around his work, while also attempting in a positive sense to increase our understanding of Marlowe as poet and playwright, by the editors and by Richard Proudfoot, Janet Clare, Lois Potter, Simon Shepherd, Richard Wilson, Claude Summers, and others.

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  • Friedenreich, Kenneth, Roma Gill, and Constance B. Kuriyama, eds. “A Poet and a Filthy Play-maker”: New Essays on Christopher Marlowe. New York: AMS, 1988.

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    A first collection ever to be published of new essays on Marlowe’s achievement as a dramatist and poet. By the editors and by Thomas Cartelli, Sara Munson Deats, W. L. Godshalk, Jill L. Levenson, Robert A. Logan, Kenneth Muir, Lois Potter, Matthew N. Proser, Norman Rabkin, James Shapiro, John T. Shawcross, and others.

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  • Grantley, Darryll, and Peter Roberts, eds. Christopher Marlowe and English Renaissance Culture. Aldershot, UK: Scolar, 1996.

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    Essays on biographical issues and interpretations of the plays by the editors and by Charles Nicholl, Richard Wilson, David Potter, Thomas Cartelli, Roger Sales, Michael Hattaway, and others.

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  • Leech, Clifford, ed. Marlowe: A Collection of Critical Essays. Twentieth Century Views. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1964.

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    With essays on all the plays, by the editor and by T. S. Eliot, Harry Levin, Ethel Seaton, Eugene M. Waith, W. W. Greg, Una Ellis-Fermor, J. P. Brockbank, M. C. Bradbrook, F. P. Wilson, Wolfgang Clemen, Paul H. Kocher, and others. A useful selection from the first half of the 20th century.

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  • Oz, Avraham, ed. Marlowe. Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

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    Essays chosen to reveal and illustrate some of the ways in which contemporary postmodern criticism has changed how we read and understand texts of the early modern period. By the editor and by Emily Bartels, Michael Hattaway, Stephen Greenblatt, Sara Munson Deats, Lisa S. Starks, David Thurn, Jonathan Dollimore, Catherine Belsey, Alan Sinfield, Dympna Callaghan, and Thomas Cartelli.

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  • White, Paul Whitfield, ed. Marlowe, History, and Sexuality: New Critical Essays on Christopher Marlowe. New York: AMS, 1998.

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    A new collection of essays by the editor and by Charles Nicholl, Patrick Cheney, Judith Weil, Sara Munson Deats, Alan Shepard, Thomas Cartelli, and others.

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Intellectual Life and Literary Relations

Marlowe’s dazzling intellectual daring raises fascinating questions as to whether he espouses the heterodoxies he puts so compellingly on display. Kocher 1946 argues that Marlowe was indeed a radical, especially in matters of religion. Altman 1978 sees Marlowe as one who learned much from Renaissance rhetorical training in seeing a subject from conflicting points of view. Cheney 1997 sees Marlowe as fascinated by Ovid and Spenser, urging him toward a mean of expressing a developing sense of nationhood in his writings. For Maus 1995, Marlowe is an especially vivid example of the emerging concept of inwardness in English Renaissance drama.

  • Altman, Joel B. The Tudor Play of Mind: Rhetorical Inquiry and the Development of Elizabethan Drama. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.

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    A pursuit of the Aristotelian theory of wonder as it expresses itself in Renaissance formal rhetoric, and especially in the method of arguing known as in utramque partem, examining both sides of a given question. With fascinating implications for the study, here, of the play of alternating views in Marlowe’s major works (pp. 321–388).

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  • Cheney, Patrick. Marlowe’s Counterfeit Profession: Ovid, Spenser, Counter-Nationhood. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997.

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    A study of literary relations, arguing a threefold interrelated focus in Marlowe’s career: absorption with the idea of a literary career, fascination with professional rivalry, and commitment to the writing of nationhood.

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  • Kocher, Paul H. Christopher Marlowe: A Study of His Thought, Learning, and Character. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1946.

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    A reevaluation of all existing biographical evidence as to Marlowe’s thought, revealing him as one of the most highly subjective and ironic playwrights of his age—one for whom a criticism of Christianity was a passionately reiterated theme.

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  • Maus, Katharine Eisaman. Inwardness and Theater in the English Renaissance Drama. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

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    With a lively chapter on Marlowe and Jonson.

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Marlowe and Tragedy

Marlowe was, along with Thomas Kyd, the first writer of great tragedy in the English Renaissance. These studies explore various ways in which that tragic greatness arose out of personal and cultural engagement with theological and political conflict. Cole 1962 and Cole 1995 see Marlowe as fascinated by suffering and evil. In Grande 1999, Marlowe emerges as a transgressive writer for whom tragedy arises out of conflict with prevailing orthodoxies. Johar 1988 looks at Marlowe’s heroic struggle from the perspective of South Asia.

Marlowe on Politics and Theology

Marlowe’s controversial ideas on politics and theology suit themselves admirably to postmodern analysis, as in the following three studies. Summers 1974 deserves credit for seeing as early as the 1970s what is so transgressive in Marlowe. Shepherd 1986, writing over a decade later, sees Marlowe from the perspective of a British cultural materialist indebted to Marxist ideas of progressive reform. McAdam 1999 is more focused on tortured responses to theology in Marlowe.

  • McAdam, Ian. The Irony of Identity: Self and Imagination in the Drama of Christopher Marlowe. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1999.

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    A study of Marlowe as a paradigmatic Renaissance figure, caught between an Augustinian sense of inherited sin in need of divine grace and emerging ideas of enlightenment and the infinite possibilities of individual achievement.

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  • Shepherd, Simon. Marlowe and the Politics of the Elizabethan Theatre. New York: St. Martin’s, 1986.

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    Marlowe’s theatrical politics as seen from the perspective of a prominent cultural materialist, committed to the crucial importance of progressive ideology in the politics of the present day.

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  • Summers, Claude J. Christopher Marlowe and the Politics of Power. Salzburg, Germany: Insititut für Englishe Sprache und Literatur, 1974.

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    A pioneering study that in many ways anticipates the critical methodology of the New Historicism.

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Marlowe on Sexuality and Race

No aspect of Marlowe’s controversial writing seems more timely today than his daring approach to issues of gender and race. Most of the following essays are sympathetically inclined to suppose that he was a leading counterculture figure of his generation. The analysis of Kuriyama 1980 is deeply informed by the methods of Freudian and post-Freudian analysis. Deats 1997 is feminist in its exploration of gender issues. Shepard 2002 and Sales 1991 are also interested in gender, in terms of male bonding and heterodoxy. Tromly 1998 finds ambiguities and heretical ideas in Marlowe’s approach to gender. Bartels 1993 comes at Marlowe from the perspective of one who is interested in imperialist controversies about race.

  • Bartels, Emily C. Spectacles of Strangeness: Imperialism, Alienation, and Marlowe. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.

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    A study of the Other, the alien figure represented in foreign lands by Tamburlaine, Barabas, and Dido, and, closer to home, by Doctor Faustus and Edward II, all put to use by Marlowe as forms of subversion of Elizabethan stereotypes.

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  • Deats, Sara Munson. Sex, Gender, and Desire in the Plays of Christopher Marlowe. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1997.

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    A study of the construction of gender in Tamburlaine, the performance of gender in Edward II, rejection of the feminine in Doctor Faustus, and still more.

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  • Kuriyama, Constance Brown. Hammer or Anvil: Psychological Patterns in Christopher Marlowe’s Plays. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1980.

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    An attempt to trace the dominant psychological themes in Marlowe’s plays, paying serious attention to the issue of homosexuality.

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  • Sales, Roger. Christopher Marlowe. New York: St. Martin’s, 1991.

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    A reading of the major plays, informed by Michel Foucault and Raymond Williams, in the light of Marlowe’s extraordinary biography as spy and purported homosexual, and his practice of continually interrogating the assumptions of his spectators on matters of religion, royal authority, providentialism, and much else.

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  • Shepard, Alan. Marlowe’s Soldiers: Rhetorics of Masculinity in the Age of the Armada. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2002.

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    A study of the theatrics of masculinity in Marlowe’s plays, preoccupied as they are with the dangers of militarism at home and abroad in the late 1580s; hence, the deep ambiguity and subtle acts of resistance on Marlowe’s part to the prevailing chauvinism of Elizabethan culture.

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  • Tromly, Fred B. Playing with Desire: Christopher Marlowe and the Art of Tantalization. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998.

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    As its title suggests, this study sees Marlowe as an innovator in drama’s potential for tantalizing his audience with ambiguities and heretical ideas.

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Reputation and Afterlife

These studies offer information on Marlowe’s infamous reputation, from his day till the present (MacLure 1979) and particularly in the 19th century (Dabbs 1991). Tydeman and Thomas 1989 provides a useful overview of ways in which Marlowe criticism has changed and evolved over the centuries.

Individual Works

The following lists take up Marlowe’s plays in the probable chronological order of their composition. That chronology is speculative, as will be indicated in the individual items below.

Dido, Queen of Carthage

Dido, the collaborative work of Marlowe and Thomas Nashe, may have been written in 1587 or as late as 1591. It is based primarily on Virgil’s Aeneid, Book IV, telling of Aeneas’s visit to Carthage, his passionate affair with Queen Dido, and his desertion of her as he proceeded on to the founding of Rome. Shepard 2002 observes Marlowe’s approach to gender.

  • Shepard, Alan. Marlowe’s Soldiers: Rhetorics of Masculinity in the Age of the Armada. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2002.

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    With a chapter on epic masculinity in Troy, Carthage, and London, all directed at Marlowe’s approach to gender in his own day and the ways in which this perspective informs a reading of Dido.

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Tamburlaine the Great, Parts I and II

Marlowe astounded the world of London in 1587–1588 with his two plays on a Scythian shepherd who rose to be the most feared and powerful ruler in the world of the Mideast and then of eastern Europe, as he toppled one empire after another. Birringer 1984 adroitly captures what is so controversial about these plays. Battenhouse 1941 sees them as upholding conventional Christian ideals; other critics (Waith 1962, Sanders 1968, and Fieler 1961) are inclined to disagree. Geckle 1988 focuses on the play in the theater. Parr 1953 and Howe 1976 are fascinated by Marlowe’s interest in the occult in the Tamburlaine plays.

  • Battenhouse, Roy W. Marlowe’s Tamburlaine: A Study in Renaissance Moral Philosophy. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 1941.

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    A polemically Christian interpretation, arguing that the two parts of Tamburlaine are joined together in a continuous presentation, thereby demonstrating the eventual workings of divine Providence in human history.

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  • Birringer, Johannes H. Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus and Tamburlaine: Theological and Theatrical Perspectives. Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and New York: Peter Lang, 1984.

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    A study of how form and content are related in Marlowe’s brilliant and controversial plays, taking into account multiplicity of interpretations, inconsistencies, and contradictions as risks Marlowe evidently considered worth taking.

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  • Fieler, Frank B.Tamburlaine, Part 1, and Its Audience. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1961.

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    A study of how London audiences in the late 1580s would presumably have responded to Marlowe’s defiant presentation of his Übermensch.

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  • Geckle, George L. Tamburlaine and Edward II. Text and Performance Series. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1988.

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    A theatrical comparison of Marlowe’s Tamburlaine and Edward II in their presentations of two overachievers, Tamburlaine himself and Mortimer Jr., among other matters.

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  • Howe, James Robinson. Marlowe, Tamburlaine, and Magic. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1976.

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    A study of the supernatural in Tamburlaine, related in subject to Parr 1953.

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  • Parr, Johnstone. Tamburlaine’s Malady, and Other Essays on Astrology in Elizabethan Drama. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1953.

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    Parr’s essay on Tamburlaine offers a learned history of the astrological pseudo-science that Marlowe turns to repeatedly in his presentation of his superhero.

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  • Sanders, Wilbur. The Dramatist and the Received Idea: Studies in the Plays of Marlowe and Shakespeare. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1968.

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    An instructive historical comparison of Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta with Shakespeare’s Richard II, Tamburlaine and Edward II with Richard III, Doctor Faustus with Macbeth, and still more.

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  • Waith, Eugene M. The Herculean Hero in Marlowe, Chapman, Shakespeare, and Dryden. New York: Columbia University Press, 1962.

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    An admiring portrait of heroic energy in such larger-than-life-size protagonists as Marlowe’s Tamburlaine and Chapman’s Bussy D’Ambois, among others. Republished in 1967.

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Doctor Faustus

Probably Marlowe’s best-known and most performed play, Doctor Faustus (c. 1588–1589 or possibly 1592) relates the life story and eventual damnation of a learned man who sells his soul to the devil for twenty-four years in which to pursue knowledge, power, and pleasure. The following studies debate the paradoxes of predestination and free will and whether the play is ultimately orthodox in its denunciation of evil or subversive in its sympathy with the protagonist. Kastan 2005 and Bevington and Rasmussen 1993 are edited editions with full introductions and commentary addressing a wide range of critical issues. Hattaway 1982 studies the play in the theater. Gatti 1989 looks at Marlowe’s indebtedness to the thought of a remarkable skeptic and heretic from Italy. Masinton 1972 offers an overview of Doctor Faustus in the context of the other major plays.

  • Bevington, David, and Eric Rasmussen, eds. Christopher Marlowe: Doctor Faustus, A- and B- Texts (1604, 1616). The Revels Plays. Manchester, UK: University of Manchester Press, 1993.

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    With a substantial introduction on date, sources, the orthodox framework, humanist aspiration, magic and poetry, genre and structure, style and imagery, staging and themes in the 1616 quarto, and the play in performance. The same editors also edited Christopher Marlowe: Doctor Faustus and Other Plays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).

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  • Birringer, Johannes H. Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus and Tamburlaine: Theological and Theatrical Perspectives. Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and New York: Peter Lang, 1984.

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    A study of how form and content are related in Marlowe’s brilliant and controversial plays, taking into account multiplicity of theological and theatrical interpretations, inconsistencies, and contradictions.

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  • Gatti, Hilary. The Renaissance Drama of Knowledge: Giordano Bruno in England. London and New York: Routledge, 1989.

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    Marlowe may well have been inspired by this controversial Italian philosopher, pantheist, and mathematician, whose propounding of the idea that the earth revolves around the sun, along with his other so-called heresies, led to his being burned at the stake in 1600.

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  • Hattaway, Michael. Elizabethan Popular Theatre: Plays in Performance. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982.

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    A theater-oriented study of plays in the native tradition rather than in the neoclassical vein, exploring playhouses, stages, performances, players, and playing, and illustrated by detailed readings of The Spanish Tragedy, Mucedorus, Edward II, Doctor Faustus, and Titus Andronicus.

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  • Kastan, David Scott, ed. Doctor Faustus: Christopher Marlowe. A Norton Critical Edition. New York: Norton, 2005.

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    The A- and B- texts of 1604 and 1616, with a generous inclusion of early modern documents and of criticism on the play by Charles Lamb, William Hazlitt, A. C. Bradley, A. C. Swinburne, Cleanth Brooks, G. K. Hunter, Susan Snyder, Jonathan Dollimore, Michael Neill, Alan Sinfield, Katharine Eisaman Maus, Stephen Orgel, G. B. Shaw, and others.

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  • Masinton, Charles G. Christopher Marlowe’s Tragic Vision: A Study in Damnation. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1972.

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    A study of the central importance of damnation in Marlowe’s five major plays, thus setting Doctor Faustus’s fascination with the diabolical and the rebellious in human nature as engaging with similar ideas in the other plays.

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The Jew of Malta

Marlowe’s compelling presentation of a Jewish villain (c. 1589–1589) has inevitably invited comparisons with Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Scholars beginning with Spivack 1958 have generally seen Marlowe’s Barabas as a theatrical descendant of the morality Vice: gloating, inventive, resourceful, malign. Shapiro 1996 puts the matter in a historical perspective. Sanders 1968 compares The Jew of Malta with Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

Edward II

Probably the last (1591–1593) of Marlowe’s major plays, Edward II brings Marlowe’s study of power and sensuality back from the foreign lands of Persia, Germany, and Venice in his previous plays to his native England and to a flawed monarch who alienates his nobles by his fierce and amorous attachment to a personal favorite. Both Hattaway 1982 and Geckle 1988 approach this complex subject through the medium of Marlowe’s theater. Sanders 1968 compares Edward II with Shakespeare’s Richard II.

  • Geckle, George L. Tamburlaine and Edward II. Text and Performance Series. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1988.

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    An exploration of two plays of Marlowe in a series of performance-oriented studies.

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  • Hattaway, Michael. Elizabethan Popular Theatre: Plays in Performance. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982.

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    A theater-oriented study of plays in the native tradition exploring playhouses, stages, performances, players, and playing, and illustrated by detailed readings of The Spanish Tragedy, Mucedorus, Edward II, Doctor Faustus, and Titus Andronicus.

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  • Sanders, Wilbur. The Dramatist and the Received Idea: Studies in the Plays of Marlowe and Shakespeare. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1968.

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    An instructive historical comparison of Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta with Shakespeare’s Richard II, Tamburlaine and Edward II with Richard III, Doctor Faustus with Macbeth, and still more.

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The Massacre at Paris

Shepard 2002 writes on what may have been Marlowe’s last play before he was murdered on 30 May 1593, a highly topical investigation of the so-called Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre on 23–24 August 1572, when French soldiers and Roman Catholic clergy, at the instigation probably of Catherine de’ Medici and the Duc de Guise, fell on unarmed Huguenots (French Calvinist Protestants) in Paris and its environs, resulting in deaths estimated to have been anything from five thousand to thirty thousand.

Sources

Marlowe’s learning is a subject of considerable interest. He seems to have been fascinated with the history of the Middle East, with Roman history (as in Cheney 2009), English political history, sorcery and magic, medieval drama (as in Parker 2007), and the Bible (as in Cornelius 1984), among other matters, as these source studies indicate. Thomas and Tydeman 1994 provides a comprehensive account.

Marlowe and Other Renaissance Dramatists

Marlowe’s contemporaries and near-contemporaries in the world of theater included Kyd, Greene, Peele, Shakespeare, Jonson, Chapman, and Webster. Some were later dramatists influenced by him, as studied by Sullivan 2005 and Taunton 2001. The connection of Marlowe and Shakespeare is the focus of Sanders 1968, Shapiro 1991, Hillman 2002, and Wilson 1953. Barber 1988 is insightful about Marlowe’s connection with Thomas Kyd. Sullivan 2005 offers a thematic study of memory and forgetting in which Marlowe shares his fascinations with other dramatists. Taunton 2001 provides a similar comparative study of war. Wilson 1953 sees Marlowe and Shakespeare as innovators with genre at the start of their extraordinary careers.

  • Barber, C. L. Creating Elizabethan Tragedy: The Theater of Marlowe and Kyd. Edited by Richard P. Wheeler. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.

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    Argues cogently that Elizabethan tragedy, as seen in the works of these two playwrights, grew out of cultural anxieties brought to the surface when Protestantism displaced Catholicism with its psychologically reassuring configuration of the Holy Family.

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  • Hillman, Richard. Shakespeare, Marlowe, and the Politics of France. Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Palgrave, 2002.

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    An exploration of ways in which English players and audiences were fascinated by French affairs in the 1590s and 1600s, and by stagings that closely matched the mechanisms through which political meanings of French-English relations were constructed.

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  • Sanders, Wilbur. The Dramatist and the Received Idea: Studies in the Plays of Marlowe and Shakespeare. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1968.

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    An instructive historical comparison of Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta with Shakespeare’s Richard II, Tamburlaine and Edward II with Richard III, Doctor Faustus with Macbeth, and still more.

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  • Shapiro, James. Rival Playwrights: Marlowe, Jonson, Shakespeare. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.

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    Case studies of influence, including Marlowe’s influence on Jonson and Shakespeare, and Shakespeare’s on Jonson.

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  • Sullivan, Garrett A., Jr. Memory and Forgetting in English Renaissance Drama: Shakespeare, Marlowe, Webster. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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    A study of oblivion and the desire for lasting fame in these three dramatists.

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  • Taunton, Nina. 1590s Drama and Militarism: Portrayals of War in Marlowe, Chapman, and Shakespeare’s Henry V. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2001.

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    An argument that English war plays of the 1590s, including Marlowe’s, intervened in the military realities of Queen Elizabeth’s last years more than is generally understood.

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  • Waith, Eugene M. The Herculean Hero in Marlowe, Chapman, Shakespeare, and Dryden. New York: Columbia University Press, 1962.

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    An admiring portrait of heroic energy in such larger-than-life-size protagonists such as Marlowe’s Tamburlaine and Chapman’s Bussy D’Ambois.

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  • Wilson, F. P. Marlowe and the Early Shakespeare. Oxford: Clarendon, 1953.

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    An examination of the state of the English theater in the 1580s, when Marlowe and Shakespeare presumably began writing plays, concluding that both made extraordinary contributions to emerging genres, especially the English history play.

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London Theaters and Acting Companies

These studies focus on the theatrical background of Marlowe as a dramatist: how the acting companies were organized and financed (Knutson 2001), and how Marlowe’s work owes much to a native English popular tradition as distinguished from neoclassicism as practiced especially on the Continent (Bevington 1962, Lunney 2002). Henslowe’s Diary is an invaluable archival account of performances by the Admiral’s Men (Foakes and Rickert 2002).

Marlowe in Performance

Hilton 1993 and Wraight 1993 focus on Marlowe’s place in the practical theater of his time, as distinguished from the studies of his theatrical background cited under London Theaters and Acting Companies.

The Life of Christopher Marlowe

Marlowe’s life has proved irresistibly fascinating, not only because he was such a controversial and brilliant playwright bursting upon the London scene in 1587 but also because his life struck most observers as so colorfully unconventional. The bibliographical studies in this list present the whole of Marlowe’s life and career, relating the playwriting to what is known of him as a man. Honan 2005, Riggs 2004, and Hopkins 2000 are recent and highly readable. Boas 1940 and Norman 1971 provide older and more traditional accounts; Bakeless 1942 is comprehensive but less useful for the general reader. Kuriyama 2002 is informed by a psychoanalytic perspective.

Specialized Studies in Marlowe Biography

The following biographical studies are more focused on particular aspects of Marlowe’s life and work than are the sources listed under The Life of Christopher Marlowe. Urry 1988, for example, limits its careful inquiry to the place of Marlowe’s birth and childhood. Nicholl 1992 spins a fascinating yarn about what may have happened in Deptford on 30 May 1593, when Marlowe’s life came to its sudden and violent end. Eccles 1934 is reliable on Marlowe’s life in London. Kendall 2003 focuses on the so-called Baines note, testimony supposedly accusing Marlowe of some pretty spectacular heresies: for example, that Jesus and John the Baptist were lovers.

  • Eccles, Mark. Christopher Marlowe in London. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1934.

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    A careful and resourceful work of biographical investigation, the results of which have largely been subsumed into more recent studies but which helped set a standard for scholarly attention to details.

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  • Kendall, Roy. Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journeys through the Elizabethan Underground. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003.

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    Focuses on the dark side of Marlowe’s brief life, including Richard Baines’s testimonial given against Marlowe alleging him to have been a sardonic atheist and promoter of amorous relationships between males.

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  • Nicholl, Charles. The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe. London: Jonathan Cape, 1992.

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    An absorbing detective story, told as though the story were fiction, which it may be.

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  • Urry, William. Christopher Marlowe and Canterbury. Edited by Andrew Butcher. London and Boston: Faber and Faber, 1988.

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    The work of an archivist at Canterbury with a wide range of acquaintance among scholars, able to provide rich details about the place where Marlowe grew up. An appendix (one among several) provides details about Marlowe’s contemporaries at the King’s School.

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