British and Irish Literature Christopher Marlowe
by
M. L. Stapleton
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846719-0039

Introduction

Interest in Christopher Marlowe (b. 1564–d. 1593), England’s first poet-playwright, has been steady since the middle of the 19th century but has increased substantially since the 1960s. It often features a biographical current. Some who conflate literary analysis with life study also sensationalize the contested documentary “facts”: the author’s alleged atheism, homosexuality, brawling, espionage, and blasphemy. Much scholarly analysis of his relatively small canon emphasizes the alleged relationship of these controversial elements to his “overreaching” protagonists. Academic Marlowe studies have changed dramatically during this period, especially in the area of reception. The scholar Patrick Cheney cites five major trends during 1964–2000: subjectivity, sexuality, politics, religion, and poetics. The once-privileged conception of the single, independently creating author with a fairly well-defined canon and literary personality has been to some degree replaced by what Leah Marcus has labeled “the Marlowe effect.” “Marlowe” is simply a convenient corporate entity to describe a number of related texts. Independent authorship cannot be precisely determined, since these texts were surely the product of collaboration, which helps account for their immense, even revolutionary influence on English literature. This indeterminacy extrudes into biographical studies as well. In spite of Marlowe’s amazing output, produced in only six or eight years, it is often forgotten that no work with his name on the title page was published in his lifetime.

Biographical Studies

Substantial revisionism has influenced the biographical element traditionally associated with Marlowe studies (e.g., Bakeless 1942, cited under Earlier Texts and Studies; Boas 1930, cited under Individual Works: Doctor Faustus; Kocher 1947, cited under Critical Studies: The Massacre at Paris). With a more scholarly cast, Honan 2005 and Riggs 2005 are substantial lives of Marlowe based on available documents, previous studies, and readings of individual plays as psychobiography. Kuriyama 2002 and Kendall 2003 are more academic. This trend was also strongly opposed by Downie 2007. Tucker 1995 and Hammer 1996 provide overviews of biographical scholarship, and Urry 1988 publishes newer documents and contextualizes them. Entries in this section complement those in Reception and Textual Studies.

  • Downie, J. A. “Marlowe, May 1593, and the “Must-Have” Theory of Biography.” Review of English Studies 58 (2007): 245–267.

    DOI: 10.1093/res/hgm040Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Critique of biographers who misread the limited data about Marlowe to construct fanciful accounts of his life and works, such as Charles Nicholl.

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  • Hammer, Paul E. J. “A Reckoning Reframed: The ‘Murder’ of Christopher Marlowe Revisited.” English Literary Renaissance 26 (1996): 225–242.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-6757.1996.tb01490.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Uses the arguments of Kendall 2003 and Riggs 2005 to disprove many of the claims in Charles Nicholl’s The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1992). His murder “would soon have been forgotten if the victim had been less famous and left no legacy of verse” (p. 241).

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  • Honan, Park. Christopher Marlowe: Poet and Spy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    Marlowe’s government service and life experiences are clearly reflected in his works. Engagingly written with a clear sense of narrative and theme; attempts to place him in his theatrical and political milieu. Well received and in some ways the standard biography.

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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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    A dual biography explaining that the notorious Baines Note is “remarkably similar to the dark self-portrait(s) which Baines had painted ten years before when in prison in Rheims” (p. 24) and may not be reflective of Marlowe at all.

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  • Kuriyama, Constance Brown. Christopher Marlowe: A Renaissance Life. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002.

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    Influential study that argues that scholars, biographers, and literary critics tend to reach conclusions about Marlowe’s life without any real evidence, especially his personality, his motivations, and the persistent conception of him as transgressive. Incorporates material not published in Urry 1988 and includes an appendix that collects all known primary documents related to Marlowe’s life. Excellent.

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  • Riggs, David. The World of Christopher Marlowe. New York: Holt, 2005.

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    Reads the plays biographically and examines the known facts and documents, such as they are. Detailed analysis of the institutions that produced Marlowe: “city, church, grammar school, university, secret service, and public playhouse” (p. 8). Elizabeth and her advisers strongly disapproved of the destructive energies that Marlowe’s plays could have released and had him murdered as a result.

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  • Tucker, Kenneth. “Dead Men in Deptford: Recent Lives and Deaths of Christopher Marlowe.” Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama 34 (1995): 111–124.

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    Useful survey and critique of scholarship on Marlowe’s death from the late 1980s onward. Discredits the more sensational accounts and concludes that many have the need to see Marlowe as “the quintessential heroic individualist” (p. 122) against intolerance and cruelty.

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

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    Documented archival information on Marlowe’s early life in Canterbury; also includes further data on his life in Cambridge, London, and Deptford. Focus on friends, family, and other known relationships.

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Complete Works

Brooke 1910 is the landmark one-volume work that includes both plays and poetry and was until the late 20th century the standard edition, in old spelling. The two truly significant multivolume and multieditor efforts are Case 1930–1933 and Gill 1987–1998. Each of the Case 1930–1933 volumes is edited by an eminent Marlowe scholar of the early 20th century. Only two of the Gill 1987–1998 volumes are not edited by the general editor. Bowers 1981 has important readings based on principles of recension that Fredson Bowers established (e.g., “veil of print”), a revision of his 1973 edition. The two single-volume texts of the plays most frequently cited are Burnett 1999 and Romany and Lindsey 2003, the former more popular with students and scholars.

Individual Works

The concept of individual editions of each play descends directly from the idea of the multivolume, multieditor set. Single editions of individual plays and the poetry became popular in the mid-20th century, especially the New Mermaids and Revels Plays volumes for university study, especially for Doctor Faustus, Tamburlaine, and Edward II. Renewed interest in The Jew of Malta has occasioned more editions of that play. Dido, Queen of Carthage and The Massacre at Paris have not been accorded publication in freestanding single editions.

Dido, Queen of Carthage

Like The Massacre at Paris, this play has never been accorded its own freestanding Revels or Mermaid version for school use, though its editorial tradition is long and well documented and has been represented in collected works since the early 20th century, from Brooke 1910 to Romany and Lindsey 2003 (both cited under Complete Works). Gill 1987 revises and challenges Brooke 1931 and Oliver 1968, incorporating more recent textual scholarship on the play and grouping it with translations from classical sources as well as Hero and Leander.

Doctor Faustus

Editions of Marlowe’s most popular, studied, and controversial work continue to proliferate, with debate continuing about which version is preferable, the A-text (1604) or the B-text (1616). Although Greg 1950 (cited under Textual Studies) and Ribner 1976 prefer B for theological and thematic reasons, most scholars prefer A, because it is now generally agreed that it was printed from manuscript sources close to Marlowe, as demonstrated authoritatively in Bevington and Rasmussen 1993 and Rasmussen 1993 (cited under Textual Studies). Kastan 2005, Wooton 2005, and Keefer 2008 offer substantial critical modern-spelling editions, including backgrounds, criticism, and sources, for scholarly and school use. Boas 1930 is still useful as a modern-spelling edition, and Gill 1990, though idiosyncratic, is a good old-spelling edition with a substantial textual apparatus and commentary.

Edward II

Earlier single editions as well as those in collected works tended to avoid the issue of same-sex relations that is unavoidably part of the play, though this has been largely remedied by Rowland 1994, Forker 1995, and Wiggins 2005. However, Charlton and Waller 1933 establishes authoritatively not only that William Shakespeare borrows from Marlowe in his conception of a history play but also that Marlowe incorporates elements from the first tetralogy (i.e., the Henry VI plays, Richard III) in Edward and that Shakespeare in turn reprocesses this matter in Richard II. Ribner 1970 is the standard advanced student edition, with texts, commentary, background, and critical essays.

The Jew of Malta

Simeon 2009 is the preferred single scholarly edition, although Lynch 2009 is also well done and perhaps even more useful for students, especially undergraduates. Bawcutt 1978 also contains an excellent introduction and notes, since the editor has published substantially on the play. Ribner 1970 should also be consulted in tandem with earlier editions, because it accounts for earlier criticism. Serious scholars should certainly examine Bennett 1931 and Gill 1995.

The Massacre at Paris

Like Dido, Queen of Carthage, this play has never been published in a single freestanding Revels or Mermaid version for school use, though it also possesses a long editorial tradition and has been represented in collected works since the early 20th century, from Brooke 1910 (cited under Complete Works) onward. All three editions here are excellent, but the play is the province of scholars rather than students. Oliver 1968 is still frequently used in studies of the play, somewhat superseding Bennett 1931. Esche 1998 is an excellent old-spelling edition. Each of the three texts contains an appendix discussing the Collier Leaf, the manuscript with an alternate version of a scene in Massacre.

Tamburlaine, Parts 1 and 2

As with The Jew of Malta, substantial critical interest in multiculturalism has generated newer editions of this pair of plays, most notably Dawson 2003. Jump 1967 and Ribner 1974 are also still useful for students who seek to examine earlier critical and editing traditions, each containing backgrounds, critical essays, chronology, and bibliography. Cunningham 1981 has been reprinted twice and is the most frequently used and cited freestanding edition of the Tamburlaine plays. Ellis-Fermor 1930, from the Case 1930–1933 multivolume set (cited under Complete Works), was once the standard modern-spelling edition. Fuller 1998 is the standard scholarly old-spelling text.

Translations and Poetry

Most of the six editions in this section should be consulted by anyone attempting a scholarly book or essay on Marlowe’s poetry. Each has strengths: the brevity of Burnett 2000 and MacLure 1968, the fulsome annotation of Cheney and Striar 2006, or the excellent scholarly apparatus and relationship of poetry to Dido, Queen of Carthage in Gill 1987. Martin 1931 is still useful as a modern-spelling edition of the poetry with detailed footnotes. Orgel 2007 is the most accessible paperback annotated modern-spelling text with substantial introduction and notes.

  • Burnett, Mark Thornton, ed. Christopher Marlowe: The Complete Poems. London: Dent Everyman, 2000.

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    Complements Burnett 1999 (cited under Complete Works) to form an ersatz two-volume edition. The Marlowe text most frequently used by scholars and students. Modern spelling, very brief introduction, chronology, annotations in the back of the book.

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  • Cheney, Patrick, and Richard J. Striar, eds. The Collected Poems of Christopher Marlowe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    An excellent edition that sets the poetry in its cultural context, with replies to “Passionate Shepherd” especially. Clearly designed for students with fulsome and helpful annotations. For scholars also, since annotations of Ovid’s Elegies often explain subtle differences from the Latin source text. First edition to incorporate the work in Pearcy 1984 (cited under Elegies) on Marlowe’s use of the Dominicus Niger commentary that informed most of his choices. Highly recommended.

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  • Gill, Roma, ed. All Ovids Elegies, Lucans First Booke, Dido, Queene of Carthage, Hero and Leander. Vol. 1 of The Complete Works of Christopher Marlowe. Edited by Roma Gill. Oxford: Clarendon, 1987.

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    Old-spelling edition of Ovid’s Elegies, Hero and Leander, Lucan’s First Book, and other poetry with critical apparatus and fulsome commentary, including excerpts from Musaeus and Ovid.

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  • MacLure, Millar, ed. The Poems: Christopher Marlowe. Revels Plays. London: Methuen, 1968.

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    Traditional edition for scholars and advanced students with same-page critical apparatus and annotations. The introduction is brief and organized according to the individual works. Notable for its defense of Ovid’s Elegies as poetry; complements Steane 1964 (cited under Earlier Texts and Studies).

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  • Martin, L. C., ed. Marlowe’s Poems. Vol. 4 of The Works and Life of Christopher Marlowe. Edited by R. H. Case. London: Methuen, 1931.

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    Modern-spelling edition with introduction, notes, commentary, and textual history. Comprehensive knowledge of the Amores in Latin but does not always reflect Marlowe’s use of a commentary that encouraged his “mistranslations” in Ovid’s Elegies.

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  • Orgel, Stephen, ed. Christopher Marlowe: The Complete Poems and Translations. Rev. ed. New York: Penguin, 2007.

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    A revision of the 1971 Penguin edition used by virtually all students who studied Marlowe’s poetry. The introduction and bibliography have been substantially updated, including an explanation of why the Brooke 1910 (cited under Complete Works) transposition of the consummation passage in Hero and Leander should be retained.

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Critical Studies

General studies of Marlowe proliferated especially in the 1990s with accounts of the canon from special perspectives, such as the psychoanalytic view of Proser 1995, the feminism of Deats 1997, and the intertextuality and theorizing about a literary career of Cheney 1997. The Marxism of Shepherd 1986 was a natural outgrowth of the new historicism of Greenblatt 1980. More traditional approaches followed in Hopkins 2000 and Logan 2007 and attention to performance and theater history in Lunney 2002. These complement the biographical-critical work of Riggs 2005 and Honan 2005 (both cited under Biographical Studies). Weil 1977, although devoted to a fairly specific subject (Erasmian irony), is a model of clarity and good sense and features an unpretentious prose style.

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

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    Argues that Marlowe cultivated a deliberately “Ovidian” counter-Virgilian career in opposition to Edmund Spenser’s in creating a sense of Elizabethan national identity. Accordingly groups the works into phases, such as amatory, epic, tragedy. Godshalk 1974 (cited under Earlier Texts and Studies) also attempts a thematic organization for the canon.

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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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    First comprehensive feminist reading of the plays, with focus on Dido, Queen of Carthage; Tamburlaine; Edward II; and Doctor Faustus. Marlowe interrogates the masculine ethos of his culture.

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  • Greenblatt, Stephen. “Marlowe and the Will to Absolute Play.” In Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare. By Stephen Greenblatt, 193–221. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.

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    Probably the single most influential short, general critical study of Marlowe, his “fathomless and eerily playful self-estrangement” (p. 220).

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  • Hopkins, Lisa. Christopher Marlowe: A Literary Life. London: Palgrave, 2000.

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    Overview of Marlowe’s canon; discussion of his early life, his education, and the composition of his plays; and analysis of his literary afterlife. Uses the perspective that he is concerned with family, society, and colonialism: ethnic difference (Dido, Queen of Carthage; Tamburlaine), religion (The Jew of Malta, Doctor Faustus), and sexuality (Edward II, The Massacre at Paris, Hero and Leander).

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  • Logan, Robert A. Shakespeare’s Marlowe: The Influence of Christopher Marlowe on Shakespeare’s Artistry. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007.

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    Contests conventional theory that the playwrights were rivals; argues for Marlowe as a shaping force on William Shakespeare’s work: verbal dexterity, reconfiguring genre, deliberate ambiguity. Usefully recounts and reconsiders previous points of comparison, such as The Merchant of Venice and The Jew of Malta, The Tempest and Doctor Faustus.

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  • Lunney, Ruth. Marlowe and the Popular Tradition: Innovation in the English Drama before 1595. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2002.

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    Marlowe as a popular dramatist who wrote for a well-defined audience with clear expectations and understanding of tradition. Informed by the idea of performance, especially staging and audience response. “New ways of seeing” were more important to spectators and more influential on other playwrights than the “mighty line.”

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  • Proser, Matthew N. The Gift of Fire: Aggression and the Plays of Christopher Marlowe. New York: Peter Lang, 1995.

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    Psychoanalytic reading of the plays, especially the failure of aggression in Tamburlaine, The Jew of Malta, Doctor Faustus, and Edward II because of Marlowe’s “inability to achieve complete authoritative integration in his plays” because of “a failure or insufficiency of ‘executive ego’” (p. 6).

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  • Shepherd, Simon. Marlowe and the Politics of Elizabethan Theatre. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1986.

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    Asserts that “Marlowe’s texts work to make knowledge of the ideological language of the state” (p. 120). Theater is a social institution in which Marlowe participates, and political discourses are embedded in power relations.

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  • Weil, Judith. Christopher Marlowe: Merlin’s Prophet. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511897436Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Marlowe is a subtle rhetorical manipulator, a masterful ironist like Desiderius Erasmus. He designs conflict for readers and theatergoers in experiencing protagonists who are appealing yet replete with moral failings.

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Edited Collections

Two important and influential anthologies of Marlowe criticism were published in the 1960s: Leech 1964 and Morris 1968 (both cited under Earlier Texts and Studies). Two decades passed before the next edited collection appeared, Freidenreich, et al. 1988, from which much contemporary Marlowe criticism can be said to emanate. Cheney 2004 reflects more recent scholarly trends in sections devoted to individual works and themes. Deats and Logan 2002 and Deats and Logan 2008 both focus on cultural studies and theatrical issues, such as performance and history. In some ways edited collections by diverse groups of scholars contain the most important work on Marlowe, reflecting the immense diversity of approaches and opinion. Grantley and Roberts 1996 is concerned largely with biography. Downie and Parnell 2000 focuses on the construction of the author and of “Marlowe” as an entity. White 1998 analyzes early modern sexuality as reflected in the Marlowe canon, and Scott and Stapleton 2010 is devoted to the playwright-poet as a craftsman or artisan. Bartels and Smith 2013 contextualizes Marlowe’s works, world, and reception.

  • Bartels, Emily, and Emma Smith, eds. Christopher Marlowe in Context. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

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    Essays on Marlowe’s works, world, and reception, setting the playwright in his historical context by Bartels, Leah S. Marcus, Laurie Maguire, James R. Simeon, Thomas Cartelli, Lisa Hopkins, and others.

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  • Cheney, Patrick, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Christopher Marlowe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521820340Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Essays on reception, textual study, and biography and on each of the canonical works by Cheney, Russ McDonald, Laurie Maguire, Sara Munson Deats, Julia Reinhard Lupton, Georgia Brown, Thomas Cartelli, Mark Thornton Burnett, Lisa Hopkins, Lois Potter, and others.

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  • 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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    Essays on performance, early modern culture, and genre 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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    Essays devoted to theater history and performance, the family, ethics, religion, and Marlowe’s relation to Shakespeare by the editors and by Ruth Lunney, Rick Bowers, William Hamlin, Constance Brown Kuriyama, David Bevington, and 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 challenge critical orthodoxies about Marlowe’s life and work, especially the modern construction of him as author. Topics include dramaturgy, magic, homoeroticism, female characters, and performance. Contributors include the editors, 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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    The first edited collection dedicated to Marlowe since the 1960s. Essays 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 Press, 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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  • Scott, Sarah K., and M. L. Stapleton, eds. Christopher Marlowe the Craftsman: Lives, Stage, and Page. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010.

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    Essays on biography, theater history and performance, close reading of poetry, Ovidian influence, and Marlowe’s relation to the wider world. An extensive bibliography. Essays by the editors and by Alan Dessen, Dympna Callaghan, Stephen Booth, Robert A. Logan, Meredith Skura, and others.

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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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    Essays by the editor and by Charles Nicholl, Patrick Cheney, Judith Weil, Sara Munson Deats, Alan Shepard, Thomas Cartelli, Ian Frederick Moulton, and others with attention to sexuality, queer theory, and early modern culture.

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Dido, Queen of Carthage

Though not as popular as Doctor Faustus, Edward II, and Tamburlaine, this play is gaining in critical interest and favor from the dismissive assessments of it as farce or naive travesty in the early 20th century to more serious consideration, frequently according to historicist perspectives. Mary E. Smith, in two important studies, Smith 1977a and Smith 1977b, was a pioneer, treating the play in a substantial book-length analysis and in detailed essay form concerning its theater history. Comparisons between Dido and Elizabeth are inevitable, with some of the best in Stump 2000 and Williams 2006. Crowley 2008 historicizes Marlowe’s use of his source materials as political commentary. Bowers 2002 discusses theatricality and Wiggins 2008 the possible circumstances of composition.

  • Bowers, Rick. “Hysterics, High Camp, and Dido, Queen of Carthage.” In Marlowe’s Empery: Expanding His Critical Contexts. Edited by Sara Munson Deats and Robert A. Logan, 95–107. Newark: Delaware University Press, 2002.

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    It is a mistake to ignore the play’s theatricality in favor of overtly literary interpretations, such as a focus on Virgil. Its comic aspects and tendencies to overthrow gender binaries suggest “a decidedly ‘camp’ sensibility” (p. 96).

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  • Crowley, Timothy D. “Arms and the Boy: Marlowe’s Aeneas and the Parody of Imitation in Dido, Queene of Carthage.” English Literary Renaissance 38 (2008): 408–438.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-6757.2008.00131.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The play satirizes contemporary English military interventions through its portrayal of Aeneas and is drolly self-conscious about its imitation of classical sources, Virgil, Ovid, and Lucan.

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  • Smith, Mary E. “Love Kindling Fire”: A Study of Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragedy of Dido, Queen of Carthage. Salzburg Studies in English Literature. Salzburg, Austria: Institut für Englische Sprache und Literatur, University of Salzburg, 1977a.

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    The play does not imitate Virgil but radically transfigures him. Love, providence, and kinship are important themes, and Marlowe’s sardonic perspective is also important.

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  • Smith, Mary E. “Staging Marlowe’s Dido, Queene of Carthage.” Studies in English Literature 17 (1977b): 177–190.

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    Interesting attempt to re-create the first stagings of the play in Marlowe’s time by the children’s company that performed it; concludes that it may not have been entirely successful.

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  • Stump, Donald. “Marlowe’s Travesty of Virgil: Dido and Elizabethan Dreams of Empire.” Comparative Drama 34 (2000): 87–94.

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    Marlowe’s tragedy can be directly related to Elizabeth’s proposed French marriage to the duke of Alençon, just as the epilogue to William Gager’s Latin Dido play makes a direct comparison to the queen.

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  • Wiggins, Martin. “When Did Marlowe Write Dido, Queen of Carthage?” Review of English Studies 59 (2008): 521–541.

    DOI: 10.1093/res/hgn104Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Three plays were composed at nearly the same time. Marlowe and Thomas Nashe adapted concepts of imperial and romantic conquest from Tamburlaine as well as the struggle between the human and divine in Doctor Faustus in writing Dido.

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  • Williams, Deanne. “Dido, Queen of England.” English Literary History 73 (2006): 31–59.

    DOI: 10.1353/elh.2006.0010Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Dido explores the relationship between power and virginity that Elizabeth cultivated, which influenced William Shakespeare.

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Doctor Faustus

By a fairly wide margin, this is the Marlowe play that has garnered and continues to attract the most scholarly interest. Because of its two early versions, known as the A-text (1604) and the B-text (1616), and the controversies about which, if either, is to be preferred, commentary is almost equally concerned with textual criticism, literary interpretation, and cultural study with special attention to magic and religion, such as Sinfield 1992 and Poole 2006. Bevington 1962 is still influential in its attention to the morality tradition. Deats 2010 provides the best introduction with its separate sections on different thematic and textual aspects of the play, including reception and the importance of such study for understanding Marlowe. Warren 1981, Marcus 1989, Duxfield 2005, and Keefer 2006 complement the textual commentary of Rasmussen 1993 (cited under Textual Studies) and by analogy the edition of the play in Bevington and Rasmussen 1993 (cited under Individual Works: Doctor Faustus).

  • Bevington, David. “The Conflict of Conscience and Doctor Faustus.” In From “Mankind” to Marlowe: Growth of Structure in the Popular Drama. By David Bevington, 245–262. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1962.

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    Thorough account of the play’s relation to the morality tradition, with Nathaniel Woodes’s The Conflict of Conscience (Oxford: Malone Society, 1952) as an example, in the most respected and cited general study of English Renaissance drama in the 20th century.

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  • Deats, Sara M., ed. Doctor Faustus: A Critical Guide. New York: Continuum, 2010.

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    Edited collection with essays on performance history, critical background, bibliography, resources, hermeticism, printing, and postcolonial theory by David Bevington, Robert A. Logan, Andrew Duxfield, Georgia Brown, and others. Since each section suggests further reading and materials, a valuable resource.

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  • Duxfield, Andrew. “Modern Problems of Editing: The Two Texts of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.” Literature Compass 2 (2005): 1–14.

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    A comprehensive overview of the controversies surrounding the editing of the play in literary criticism and textual scholarship. Post-structuralist theory displaced essentialist value judgments.

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  • Keefer, Michael. “The A and B Texts of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus Revisited.” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 100 (2006): 227–257.

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    Argues that some speeches in the B-text are superior to those in the A and that the 1604 edition was probably printed from a variety of manuscripts.

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  • Marcus, Leah S. “Textual Instability and Ideological Difference: The Case of Doctor Faustus.” Renaissance Drama, n.s., 19 (1989): 1–29.

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    A challenge to the notion of single authorship of the play. Explores the perspectives of editors who assume that an urtext or lost original can be posited as definitive and analyzes the different ideologies behind the A- and B-texts as well as the 1668 adaptation. Coinage of the term “Marlowe effect” as opposed to the personality of the author himself.

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  • Poole, Kristin. “Dr. Faustus and Reformation Theology.” In Early Modern English Drama: A Critical Companion. Edited by Garrett A. Sullivan, Patrick Cheney, and Andrew Hadfield, 96–107. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    Faustus as an individual riven by theological conflicts between medieval Catholicism and the more radical ideas of the Reformation, especially dramatized in the 1616 version of the play.

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  • Sinfield, Alan. “Reading Faustus’s God.” In Critical Essays on Christopher Marlowe. Edited by Emily Bartels, 231–238. New York: Hall, 1992.

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    The play is “radically and provocatively indeterminate” (p. 234) theologically and textually, enacting Calvinist and Lutheran doctrine about predestination in competition with the orthodox Catholic concept of free will.

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  • Warren, Michael J. “Doctor Faustus: The Old Man and the Text.” English Literary Renaissance 11 (1981): 111–147.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-6757.1981.tb00808.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Strong, sensible argument for reading A and B as separate texts and plays.

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Edward II

After Doctor Faustus, this is Marlowe’s most studied and popular work. Commentary almost always features the problem of same-sex relations in the play, the debate about early modern conceptions of sexuality, and the anachronistic nature of the term “homosexual.” Cartelli 2004 provides an excellent and neutral overview. Gibbs 2000 and Bono 2003 focus on gender in the figure of Isabella. Stewart 2006 and Crewe 2009 explore and critique contemporary approaches to the king’s sexuality. McElroy 1984 is concerned with the king’s subjectivity, Tromly 1998 with desire and tantalization, and Skura 1997 with the relationship between Edward II and Richard II.

  • Bono, Paola. “Santa, puttana, lupa assassina: Le contraddizioni di Isabella in Edoardo II di Marlowe.” In La posa eroica di Ofelia, Saggi sul personaggio femminile nel teatro elisabettiano. Edited by Viola Papetti and Nancy Isenberg, 131–147. Rome: Storia e Letteratura, 2003.

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    Examines the multifaceted perceptions of Isabella in the play and of early modern women in general.

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  • Cartelli, Thomas. “Edward II.” In The Cambridge Companion to Christopher Marlowe. Edited by Patrick Cheney, 157–183. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521820340Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An overview of late-20th- and early-21st-criticism and approaches to the play, especially the disordered personal and political relations that dominate the action.

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  • Crewe, Jonathan. “Disorderly Love: Sodomy Revisited in Marlowe’s Edward II.” Criticism 51 (2009): 385–399.

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    “Both the martyrdom and murder of Edward imply a violent and deeply embedded ‘homophobia’ against which enlightenment, whether early modern or contemporary, makes headway with great difficulty.” The play may advocate tolerance, but it does not dramatize it. A useful corrective.

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  • Gibbs, Joanna. “Marlowe’s Politic Women.” In Constructing Christopher Marlowe. Edited by J. A. Downie and J. T. Parnell, 164–176. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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    Marlowe does not restrict women to the private emotional realm but allows them to occupy the public and political spheres, especially Isabella in Edward II. The usual gender binaries do not apply.

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  • McElroy, John F. “Repetition, Contrariety, and Individualization in Edward II.” Studies in English Literature 24 (1984): 205–224.

    DOI: 10.2307/450524Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The play’s rhetoric and theme suggest a duality that cannot be reconciled. Yet Edward is poignant and sympathetic, Marlowe’s “most complex and subtly individualized portrait.”

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  • Skura, Meredith Anne. “Marlowe’s Edward II: Penetrating Language in Shakespeare’s Richard II.” Shakespeare Survey 50 (1997): 41–55.

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    Explains the interrelationship between the two plays, especially Marlowe’s use of William Shakespeare in Edward II.

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  • Stewart, Alan. “Edward II and Male Same-Sex Desire.” In Early Modern English Drama: A Critical Companion. Edited by Garrett A. Sullivan, Patrick Cheney, and Andrew Hadfield, 82–95. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    It is not possible to discover exactly what Marlowe’s opinion of same-sex relationships is, and therefore the audience must “confront its own preconceived notions about kingship, friendship, and desire” (p. 93).

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  • Tromly, Fred C. “The Play of History and Desire: Edward II.” In Playing with Desire: Christopher Marlowe and the Art of Tantalization. By Fred C. Tromly, 113–132. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998.

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    Chapter relates play to Marlowe’s theme of tantalization with attention to the mythic figure of Tantalus rather than Phaeton or Icarus, figures more often associated with him.

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Elegies

Marlowe’s translation of Ovid’s Amores has benefited handsomely from serious analysis in James 2006, on Marlowe’s politics, and Cheney 2004 (cited under Edited Collections), on his career trajectory. Both versions of Ovid’s Elegies are important for the history of poetical form and Ovidian reception in England, recounted in Piper 1969 for couplets, Pearcy 1984 for Marlowe’s use of Dominicus Niger’s commentary, and Moulton 1998 for the possible reasons for the arrangement of the poems in the first edition. Bowers 1972 provides an exhaustive bibliographical essay on the first printings of the text. Gill 1998 analyzes the text as poetry, and Macfie 2004 demonstrates the relationship between the translation and the close of Hero and Leander. Stapleton 2014 explores the relationship between the Elegies and the plays and how the act of translation aided Marlowe in his apprenticeship as a dramatist.

  • Bowers, Fredson. “The Early Editions of Marlowe’s Ovid’s Elegies.” Studies in Bibliography 25 (1972): 149–172.

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    A densely bibliographical account of the two early printings of Certaine of Ovids Elegies and their relationship to one another and to All Ovids Elegies by one of the leading textual scholars of the 20th century.

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  • Gill, Roma. “Marlowe and the Art of Translation.” In “A Poet and a Filthy Play-maker”: New Essays on Christopher Marlowe. Edited by Kenneth Friedenreich, Roma Gill, and Constance Kuriyama, 327–342. New York: AMS, 1988.

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    A somewhat less scathing appraisal of Marlowe’s translation than Gill’s essay in Morris 1968 (cited under Earlier Texts and Studies), “‘Snakes Leape by Verse.’”

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  • James, Heather. “The Poet’s Toys: Christopher Marlowe and the Liberties of Erotic Elegy.” Modern Language Quarterly 67 (2006): 103–127.

    DOI: 10.1215/00267929-67-1-103Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Marlowe intuited the political dimensions and implications of elegiac meter in Ovid’s poetry, and his imitation and use of his predecessor in his works is pervasive in this way. “Ovidian elegy approaches its political commitments” as “a mode of engagement: it takes up the expressive liberties of classical republicanism” (p. 126). An essential article on Ovid’s Elegies.

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  • Macfie, Pamela Royston. “All Ovids Elegies, the Amores, and the Allusive Close of Marlowe’s Hero and Leander.” Renaissance Papers (2004): 1–16.

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    An excellent essay that demonstrates how Marlowe reworks two of his Elegies translations into the end of his epyllion. Careful, close reading and lucid writing.

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  • Moulton, Ian Frederick. “Printed Abroad and Uncastrated: Marlowe’s Elegies with Davies’ Epigrams.” In Marlowe, History, and Sexuality: New Critical Essays on Christopher Marlowe. Edited by Paul Whitfield White, 77–90. New York: AMS, 1998.

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    Contends that Marlowe’s translation was the real target of the Bishops’ Ban of 1599, since it seems to advocate unmanly sexual dependence on and enslavement to women, a threat to the state’s masculinity and military security.

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  • Pearcy, Lee T. The Mediated Muse: English Translations of Ovid, 1560–1700. Hamden, CT: Archon, 1984.

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    First chapter examines Marlowe’s translation technique and skillful use of the heroic couplet. First publication that credibly identifies Marlowe’s text of Ovid, the edition of Dominicus Niger (1568) with a commentary that influenced the translation.

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  • Piper, William Bowman. “The Inception of the Closed Heroic Couplet.” Modern Philology 66 (1969): 306–321.

    DOI: 10.1086/390100Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The earliest sustained analysis of Marlowe’s poetics in this first substantial use of this literary form in English. New Critical close reading approach. Essential.

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  • Pearcy, Lee T. Marlowe’s Ovid: The Elegies in the Marlowe Canon. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2014.

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    The first book-length study of the Elegies, focusing on the relationship between Marlowe’s translations and the rest of his works. Argues that translating this Ovidian text was essential to Marlowe’s development as a creator of dramatic speech, especially the soliloquy.

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Hero and Leander

Marlowe’s epyllion has been studied from a number of angles. Two trends are the history of the text and sexuality. Campbell 1984, Leonard 2000, and Pasquarella 2008 explore the poem’s editorial history. Keach 1972, Bieman 1979, Miller 1989, and Haber 1998 explore Marlowe’s attitudes to sex and gender. Semler 2005 contends that Marlowe uses Lucretius to criticize Ovidianism. Weaver 2008 analyzes the possible use of Spenserian and Erasmian concepts of rhetoric.

The Jew of Malta

Modern critical history of this text began with T. S. Eliot’s pronouncement that the play was a savage farce, an imprimatur from which it has benefited enormously and from which it is still recovering. Bawcutt 1970 and Minishull 1982 provide sustained analysis of Machiavellianism and Dessen 1974 of anti-Semitism. More recent criticism concerns performance and staging, such as Bowers 2008 and Scott 2010. Some also historicize the play, such as Lupton 2005, Ide 2006, and Parker 2008. The edited collection by Logan 2013 provides new perspectives.

  • Bawcutt, N. W. “Machiavelli and Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta.” Renaissance Drama, n.s., 3 (1970): 3–49.

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    First sustained analysis of Niccolò Machiavelli in the play. Barabas is more derivative of contemporary political quarrels than of Il principe itself.

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  • Bowers, Rick. “Wrestling with Comic Villainy: Barabas and Other ‘Heels’ in The Jew of Malta.” In Radical Comedy in Early Modern England: Contexts, Cultures, Performances. By Rick Bowers, 23–36. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008.

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    The play’s characters are broadly theatrical to the point of obnoxiousness, part of the play’s radical excess, “a rigorously contrived spectacle of disproportion” (p. 24).

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  • Dessen, Alan. “The Elizabethan Stage Jew and Christian Example: Gerontus, Barabas, and Shylock.” Modern Language Quarterly 35 (1974): 231–245.

    DOI: 10.1215/00267929-35-3-231Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Marlowe’s play is “sardonic,” and its anti-Semitism is somewhat tempered by the excoriation of the Christian hypocrites in Malta.

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  • Ide, Arata. “The Jew of Malta and the Diabolic Power of Theatrics in the 1580s.” Studies in English Literature 1500–1900 46 (2006): 257–279.

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    Malta represents England, and Barabas embodies popular fears about Jesuits and Spaniards invading.

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  • Logan, Robert A., ed. The Jew of Malta: A Critical Reader. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.

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    New interpretations of the controversial play, with attention to antisemitism, genre, farce, and Marlowe’s conception of the larger world, with essays by Sara M. Deats, Ian McAdam, Roslyn L. Knutson, and others.

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  • Lupton, Julia Reinhard. “Deformations of Fellowship in Marlowe’s Jew of Malta.” In Citizen-Saints: Shakespeare and Political Theology. By Julia Reinhard Lupton, 49–72. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

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    Marlowe’s portrayal of the Maltese Jewish community, the perceived similarities between Islam and Judaism, and theatrical representations of Jews in the Elizabethan theater.

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  • Minishull, Catherine. “Marlowe’s ‘Sound Machevill.’” Renaissance Drama, n.s., 13 (1982): 35–53.

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    Barabas is not truly Machiavellian, but Ferneze is and a true believer using piety to justify his perfidy.

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  • Parker, John. “Barabas and Charles I.” In Placing the Plays of Christopher Marlowe: Fresh Cultural Contexts. Edited by Sara Munson Deats and Robert A. Logan, 167–184. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008.

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    The play was revived on the Caroline stage to criticize Charles I’s Catholic sympathies in a nonthreatening way.

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  • Scott, Sarah K. “The Jew of Malta and the Development of City Comedy: ‘The Mean Passage of a History.’” In Christopher Marlowe the Craftsman. Edited by Sarah K. Scott and M. L. Stapleton, 99–108. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010.

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    Marlowe’s play is a precursor to the Jacobean dramatic genre of city comedy and influenced Benjamin Jonson. Detailed analysis of use of asides.

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Lucan’s First Book

Marlowe’s most unloved text has profited from important late-20th- and early-21st-century analysis, most notably the book-length study Cheney 2009 and the worthy essay on the use of blank verse Perez Fernandez 2009. Earlier work (Gill 1973, Shapiro 1988) explains its possible place in Marlowe’s writing career.

  • Cheney, Patrick. Marlowe’s Republican Authorship: Lucan, Liberty, and the Sublime. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

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    With Lucan as example, Cheney contends that the Marlowe canon collectively exhibits an innovative perspective, one that foretells the English political traditions of republicanism and liberty, and suggests that he attempted to develop a poetics of the sublime.

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  • Gill, Roma. “Marlowe, Lucan, and Sulpitius.” Review of English Studies 24 (1973): 401–413.

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    The “errors” in translation derive from Marlowe’s use of Sulpitius’s 16th-century commentary rather than his own misreading of the Pharsalia.

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  • Perez Fernandez, José María. “From Virtue to Compulsion: Epic, Translation, and the Significance of Early Modern Blank Verse.” Cahiers Elisabéthains 75 (2009): 1–16.

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    Comparative study of the Earl Surrey’s experiments with blank verse in his Aeneid translation in contrast with Marlowe’s much more developed and successful use of the form in Lucan’s First Book, which informs the latter’s dramatic poetry.

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  • Shapiro, James. “‘Metre Meete to Furnish Lucans Style’: Reconsidering Marlowe’s Lucan.” In “A Poet and a Filthy Play-maker”: New Essays on Christopher Marlowe. Edited by Kenneth Freidenreich, Roma Gill, and Constance B. Kuriyama, 315–325. New York: AMS, 1988.

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    The translation must have been a mature production, probably composed after Edward II, perhaps along with Hero and Leander during the closing of the theaters for plague in 1592–1593.

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Manwood Elegy

Marlowe’s last poem, “On the Death of Sir Roger Manwood,” a short Latin elegy for the jurist who helped clear him from wrongdoing in the death of William Bradley, is an important key to understanding his skills in Latin and knowledge of classical culture, important in other works in his canon, such as Ovid’s Elegies; Dido, Queen of Carthage; and Lucan’s First Book. Brown 2004 is the best brief general study, and Callaghan 2010 is the only substantive essay on the poem.

  • Brown, Georgia E. “Marlowe’s Poems and Classicism.” In The Cambridge Companion to Christopher Marlowe. Edited by Patrick Cheney, 106–126. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521820340Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Brief section (pp. 108–110) on the poem explaining how Marlowe “uses classical culture to undermine the social and political authority classicism is supposed to uphold” (p. 108).

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  • Callaghan, Dympna. “Marlowe’s Last Poem: Elegiac Aesthetics and the Epitaph on Sir Roger Manwood.” In Christopher Marlowe the Craftsman. Edited by Sarah K. Scott and M. L. Stapleton, 159–178. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010.

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    Detailed analysis of Marlowe’s last known poem in the context of his Ovidianism. Unique reading and interpretation; excellent.

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The Massacre at Paris

Marlowe’s least-respected work has undergone a critical renaissance in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, beginning with Bono 1979, which defends the play’s internal structure, and Briggs 1983, an article that explains his subversive use of his sources in The Massacre at Paris and elsewhere, contra Kocher 1947. The play’s theatricality has also been historicized, as in Poole 1998 and Hillman 2002. Its notoriously undated octavo, long a concern of bibliographers, has been fixed at 1596 in Hailey 2011. MacKenzie 2007 and Probes 2008 examine the skillful use of literary conventions to allude to contemporary religious controversies.

  • Bono, Paola. “The Massacre at Paris (1592).” In Le forme del teatro. Edited by Giorgio Melchiori, 11–52. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1979.

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    Analyzes the internal organization of Massacre.

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  • Briggs, Julia. “Marlowe’s Massacre at Paris: A Reconsideration.” Review of English Studies 34 (1983): 257–278.

    DOI: 10.1093/res/XXXIV.135.257Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The play’s poor critical reception is undeserved. It is not Protestant propaganda, is faithful to the facts available at the time, and dramatizes ritualized violence and cruelty. A partial refutation of Kocher 1947 and an attack on Wilbur Sanders’s The Dramatist and the Received Idea (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1968).

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  • Hailey, R. Carter. “The Publication Date of Marlowe’s Massacre at Paris, with a Note on the Collier Leaf.” Marlowe Studies 1 (2011): 25–40.

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    Ingenious analysis of paper stocks reveals that this notoriously undated quarto can be definitively dated 1596.

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  • Hillman, Richard. Shakespeare, Marlowe, and the Politics of France. London: Palgrave, 2002.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230285859Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Audiences would have noted the parallel between Edward II–Gaveston in Edward II and Henri III–Épernon in The Massacre at Paris, aided by contemporary English accounts of the French. It “was in the very discursive air breathed by Marlowe and his audiences” (p. 73).

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  • Kocher, Paul H. “Contemporary Pamphlet Backgrounds for Marlowe’s The Massacre at Paris, Part I.” Modern Language Quarterly 8 (1947): 151–173.

    DOI: 10.1215/00267929-8-2-151Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This and Kocher’s subsequent piece (“Contemporary Pamphlet Backgrounds for Marlowe’s The Massacre at Paris, Part II,” Modern Language Quarterly 8 (1947): 309–318) are two extremely important articles that attempt to relate the play’s action and apparent propagandistic qualities to contemporary pamphlets about the wars of religion. To some extent made obsolete by Briggs 1983 but still worth consulting.

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  • MacKenzie, Clayton G. “The Massacre at Paris and the Danse Macabre.” Papers on Language and Literature 43 (2007): 311–334.

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    The emblem tradition of the Danse Macabre that informs Henri’s death in the play would have caused “a violent frisson of terror and self-reflection” in the Elizabethan audience that transcends mere anti-Catholic propaganda.

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  • Poole, Kristin. “Garbled Martyrdom in Christopher Marlowe’s The Massacre at Paris.” Comparative Drama 32 (1998): 1–25.

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    Compares the play with accounts of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, discusses the politics of torture and physical trauma, and relates the play to Marlowe’s work.

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  • Probes, Christine McCall. “Rhetorical Strategies for a Locus Terribilis: Senses, Signs, Symbols, and Theological Allusion in Marlowe’s The Massacre at Paris.” In Placing the Plays of Christopher Marlowe: Fresh Cultural Conflicts. Edited by Sara Munson Deats and Robert A. Logan, 149–165. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008.

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    Sensory imagery, symbolic stage props, liturgical symbolism, and theological and biblical allusions are the four rhetorical techniques that Marlowe uses to portray religious violence in the play.

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“The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”

The most imitated, parodied, and therefore notorious lyric of the 16th century has received surprisingly little critical attention, perhaps because of its deceptive artlessness. Bruster 1991, Henderson 1995, and Cheney 1998 set it in its literary-historical context.

  • Bruster, Douglas. “‘Come to the Tent Again’: ‘The Passionate Shepherd,’ Dramatic Rape, and Lyric Time.” Criticism 33 (1991): 49–72.

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    Bakhtinian interpretation: “a poetic compendium of social tropes concerning power and authority” that invited “revisionary, often violent, versions” of the poem.

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  • Cheney, Patrick. “Career Rivalry and the Writing of Counter-Nationhood: Ovid, Spenser, and Philomela in Marlowe’s ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.’” English Literary History 65 (1998): 523–555.

    DOI: 10.1353/elh.1998.0022Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Relates “Shepherd” to the thesis of “counter-nationhood” advanced in Cheney 1997 (cited under Critical Studies): reflects a counter-Virgilian, anti-Spenserian notion of a literary career, beginning with an “amatory” phase.

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  • Henderson, Diana E. “‘Unhappy Dido’: Marlowe’s Lyric Strains.” In Passion Made Public: Elizabethan Lyric, Gender, and Performance. By Diana E. Henderson, 120–166. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995.

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    Relates the rhetoric of “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” to Dido, Queen of Carthage, especially “the fragility and self-deceit of lyric pleading” (p. 122).

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Tamburlaine, Parts 1 and 2

Late-20th- and early-21st-century studies of the two plays are divided almost equally between gender, such as Emsley 2000 and Whitfield 2000, and multiculturalism, such as Bartels 1993 and Vitkus 2003. Whitney 2006 is a useful theater-history approach. Battenhouse 1973 is one of the few articles on Part 2. Howe 1976 is the only book-length treatment of the play and provides a full discussion of magic. Wilson 1995 historicizes the hero in the context of Ivan the Terrible. Szurawitzki 2005 analyzes Machiavellianism.

  • Bartels, Emily C. “East of England: Imperialist Self-Construction in Tamburlaine.” In Spectacles of Strangeness: Imperialism, Alienation, and Marlowe. By Emily C. Bartels, 53–81. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.

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    The Tamburlaine chapter demonstrates how the protagonist reinvents himself according to the expectations and conventions of his milieu: “In the game of empire, supremacy is not given but made—and made, ironically, out of others’ visions and voices.” A subversion-and-containment approach to the cross-cultural aspects of Marlowe’s plays.

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  • Battenhouse, Roy W. “Protestant Apologetics and the Subplot of 2 Tamburlaine.” English Literary Renaissance 3 (1973): 30–43.

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    The Sigismund-Orcanes episode derives from John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments and foretells the hero’s fall.

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  • Emsley, Sarah. “‘I Cannot Love, to Be an Emperess’: Women and Honour in Tamburlaine.” Dalhousie Review 80 (2000): 169–186.

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    Zenocrate, Zabina, and Olympia embody many of the same Machiavellian concepts that Tamburlaine and his fellows tend to exhibit.

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

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    The warrior king is a magus who aspires to defy the elements. His belief in his own ability to transcend his surroundings and achieve perfection leads to his death. Book-length study of the play and its relation to the rest of the Marlowe canon.

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  • Szurawitzki, Michael Max. “Contra den ‘rex iustus/rex iniquus’? Der Einfluss von Machiavellis Il Principe auf Marlowes Tamburlaine, Shakespeares Heinrich V, und Gryphius’ Leo Arminius.” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 106 (2005): 349–356.

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    Machiavellian patterns in the dichotomy between a just and an unjust ruler in Tamburlaine and other plays of a similar nature.

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  • Vitkus, Daniel J. “Marlowe’s Mahomet: Islam, Turks, and Religious Controversy in Tamburlaine, Parts I and II.” In Turning Turk: English Theater and the Multicultural Mediterranean, 1570–1630. By Daniel J. Vitkus, 45–76. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

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    In this book chapter Vitkus argues that Marlowe reenacts the political and religious struggles of the Reformation in the Mediterranean world he constructs in Tamburlaine yet interrogates the specious providentialism that reformers invoked in their writings.

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  • Whitfield, Pam. “‘Wretched Zenocrate’: Female Speech and Disempowerment in Tamburlaine I.” Renaissance Papers (2000): 87–97.

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    Tamburlaine disempowers Zenocrate through emotional manipulation, which compels audiences to condemn him for a lack of humanity.

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  • Whitney, Charles. “Tamburlaine Intervenes.” In Early Responses to Renaissance Drama. By Charles Whitney, 17–69. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    Scholarship devoted to the historical reception of drama should include references by contemporaries who allude to plays they have heard of but have not experienced directly. In the opening section of his book, Whitney explains how Tamburlaine’s popularity “came to symbolize the power of the popular theatre itself” (p. 20).

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  • Wilson, Richard. “Visible Bullets: Tamburlaine the Great and Ivan the Terrible.” English Literary History 62 (1995): 47–68.

    DOI: 10.1353/elh.1995.0010Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Tamburlaine’s Scythian identity may have caused Elizabethans to associate him with Ivan, “barbarous, yet cunning and unfaithful” (p. 60). Marlowe may have been familiar with Russia Company papers.

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Earlier Texts and Studies

Virtually anyone studying Marlowe in the latter half of the 20th century would have found these books to be indispensable, since they are mentioned in almost all significant Marlowe criticism and scholarship prior to 1980. Bakeless 1942 may have been the most consistently cited biographical study, and the two edited collections Leech 1964 and Morris 1968 are useful starting points for understanding earlier 20th-century Marlowe criticism. Lewis 1952, Wilson 1953, and Levin 1954 were considered authoritative in their time and create a critical bridge to Bevington 1962 (cited under Critical Studies: Doctor Faustus). Steane 1964 and Godshalk 1974 are outside the mainstream but still read.

Theater History

The emerging field of theater history has compelled students of English Renaissance drama to reconsider conventional critical positions about plays and playwrights with the conditions of the material theater in mind. Playing was a commercial enterprise and involved considerably more companies, works, and playwrights than those of William Shakespeare. Much innovative scholarship concerns the company that performed many of Marlowe’s works, the Admiral’s Men, its playhouses, such as the Rose, and its actors, including Edward Alleyn. Bowsher and Miller 2009 provides an archaeological, architectural, and documents study of the Rose and the Globe with illustrations, which complements Rutter 1999, a compendium of materials on the Rose. Cerasano 1994, Cerasano 2005, Cerasano 2004, Knutson 2005, Knutson 2001, and Knutson 2010 reflect especially illuminated thinking about these issues, often concerning the repertory of a company or the performance history of a play, such as Edward II or Tamburlaine.

  • Bowsher, Julian, and Pat Miller. The Rose and the Globe: Playhouses of Tudor Bankside, Southwark; Excavations 1988–91. London: Museum of London Archaeological Service, 2009.

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    First concrete evidence for the sizes and architectural layouts of these two famous playhouses. Archaeological study written for theater historians and students of Renaissance drama. New documentary sources and narrative that accounts for playhouses in all aspects, especially the Rose and Marlowe’s company. Handsomely illustrated.

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  • Cerasano, S. P. “Tamburlaine and Edward Alleyn’s Ring.” Shakespeare Survey 47 (1994): 171–179.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521470846.015Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Challenges the notion that Alleyn was a relative giant of well over six feet. The size of his ring suggests a much smaller man, five feet, nine inches or so, still large for the time period.

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  • Cerasano, S. P. “Alleyn, Edward.” In The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Edited by Lawrence Goldman. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    Lucid and comprehensive account of the principal actor in Marlowe’s plays. For the notorious theatrical entrepreneur, see in the same work Cerasano’s article “Henslowe, Philip.”

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  • Cerasano, S. P. “The Geography of Henslowe’s Diary.” Shakespeare Quarterly 56 (2005): 328–353.

    DOI: 10.1353/shq.2006.0004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Cartographic reading helps critics and scholars discover lost literary landscapes, and this is especially true in the case of Philip Henslowe’s famous diary. It is a cultural, theatrical, and commercial map of early modern London and helps us understand Marlowe’s milieu.

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  • Knutson, Roslyn L. Playing Companies and Commerce in Shakespeare’s Time. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511486043Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Playing companies, such as the Admiral’s Men, had a vested commercial interest in cooperation rather than rivalry or pointless personal enmity, as previous studies have argued. The model of the guild is the most accurate and useful for understanding the sound business model the companies adopted as they staged plays at theaters such as the Rose with actors such as Edward Alleyn. Landmark study, immensely readable; re-creates Marlowe’s milieu.

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  • Knutson, Roslyn L. “Marlowe, Company Ownership, and the Role of Edward II.” Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 18 (2005): 37–46.

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    Edward Alleyn was essential to the dramatic conception of Edward II, as he was to other roles in Marlowe’s canon, part of a pattern in which the Admiral’s Men acquired his scripts. Ultimately, Pembroke’s Men was the company that performed the play, with Richard Burbage in the title role, perhaps giving Shakespeare confidence that he could perform a big part, such as Richard III.

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  • Knutson, Roslyn L. “What’s So Special about 1594?” Shakespeare Quarterly 61 (2010): 449–467.

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    Challenges the idea that 1594 is especially significant in theater history for Marlowe and Shakespeare, especially that the year represented a restoration of order in the world of playing after alleged turmoil beginning in 1587 and continuing through the plague years of 1592 and 1593.

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  • Rutter, Carol Chillington. Documents of the Rose Playhouse. Revels Plays Companion Library. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1999.

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    Lucid narrative account of London’s first South Bank playhouse, Philip Henslowe’s the Rose, which staged many of Marlowe’s plays. Documentary sources used to create a “biography” of the Rose along with Henslowe’s accounts, letters by players, and other materials. Arranged chronologically and linked by explanatory headnotes.

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Reception

Revisionist study of how Marlowe has been received as an author and reinterpreted has constituted the most significant innovation in the field in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Strong critiques of previous methodology are provided in Harraway 2000, Shepherd 2000, and Erne 2005. Wilson 2000 defends tradition and is skeptical of historicism. Dabbs 1991, Hopkins 2004, and Maguire 2004 describe and analyze the emergence of Marlowe studies in previous eras, from the 16th to the 20th century. The Cheney 2004 introduction is a useful overview. Entries in this section complement those in Biographical Studies.

  • Cheney, Patrick. “Introduction: Marlowe in the Twenty-First Century.” In The Cambridge Companion to Christopher Marlowe. Edited by Patrick Cheney, 1–23. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521820340.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Splendid overview of late-20th- and early-21st-century Marlowe studies. Cites five major trends from 1964 to 2000 (that continue into the 2000s): subjectivity, sexuality, politics, religion, poetics.

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  • Dabbs, Thomas. Reforming Marlowe: The Nineteenth-Century Canonization of a Renaissance Dramatist. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1991.

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    Rediscovery and historicization of Marlowe in the 19th century for different ideological reasons, unusual because of the period’s alleged religious and moral austerity and unprecedented.

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  • Erne, Lukas. “Biography, Mythography, Criticism: The Life and Works of Christopher Marlowe.” Modern Philology 103 (2005): 28–50.

    DOI: 10.1086/499177Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Criticizes the “vicious hermeneutic circle” of those who use the plays to write Marlowe’s biography and then use the same fanciful biographical constructs to interpret the plays.

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  • Harraway, Claire. Re-Citing Marlowe: Approaches to the Drama. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2000.

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    Directs commentary away from biography to the texts themselves. Tripartite structure: “Reading and Writing” (Doctor Faustus, Edward II), “the staging of reception and inscription”; “Repetition” (Tamburlaine; Dido, Queen of Carthage), staging “anxieties about the possibility of fathering an original work”; “Re-formation” (The Jew of Malta, The Massacre at Paris), “subversive revisions of conventional structures” (p. 20).

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  • Hopkins, Lisa. “Marlowe’s Reception and Influence.” In The Cambridge Companion to Christopher Marlowe. Edited by Patrick Cheney, 282–296. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521820340Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Overview of early allusions to Marlowe’s life and works, especially his death, 19th-century revival of interest in him, and even late-20th- and early-21st-century novelistic treatments of his life.

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  • Maguire, Laurie E. “Marlovian Texts and Authorship.” In The Cambridge Companion to Christopher Marlowe. Edited by Patrick Cheney, 41–54. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521820340Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Useful overview of the fragmentary and doubtful state of the texts as we have them. Champions the stylometric scholarship of Thomas Merriam that suggests Thomas Kyd and William Shakespeare collaborated with Marlowe. Economically and lucidly written.

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  • Shepherd, Simon. “A Bit of Ruff: Criticism, Fantasy, Marlowe.” In Constructing Christopher Marlowe. Edited by J. A. Downie and J. T. Parnell, 102–115. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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    “Marlowe” as a construct rather than an author, similar to Marcus 1989 (cited under Critical Studies: Doctor Faustus), which coined the “Marlowe effect.” Late-20th- and early-21st-century studies should be harshly interrogated, since they mistakenly interpret him as a subversive whose works are immersed in sex and violence.

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  • Wilson, Richard. “‘Writ in Blood’: Marlowe and the New Historicists.” In Constructing Christopher Marlowe. Edited by J. A. Downie and J. T. Parnell, 116–132. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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    Confronts and critiques the New Historicist model of reading Marlowe, especially Stephen Greenblatt’s, and champions the “revival of the author.”

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Textual Studies

The sometimes deplorable state of Marlowe’s surviving texts and attempts by editors to reconfigure them has been a major issue in the field. Most controversy has surrounded Doctor Faustus, and virtually no study of that tragedy is without some commentary or argument about which version of the play should be used. A close study of Greg 1950 and Rasmussen 1993 provides in miniature a history of Marlowe studies in their disparate approaches to the textual problems of Faustus. Proudfoot 2000 provides a brief overview of the editorial controversies.

  • Greg, W. W., ed. Marlowes Doctor Faustus: 1604–1616; Parallel Texts. Oxford: Clarendon, 1950.

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    The most esteemed textual scholar of the 20th century provides the first substantial parallel edition of both the A-text and the B with a polemical introduction that analyzes the history of scholarship on the play and argues that the 1616 edition is preferable to the 1604 for theological reasons. A landmark study.

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  • Proudfoot, Richard. “Marlowe and the Editors.” In Constructing Christopher Marlowe. Edited by J. A. Downie and J. T. Parnell, 41–54. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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    Examines the farcical revival and revision of Doctor Faustus (1697) as emblematic of Marlowe scholarship and editing. New Bibliographical approach.

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  • Rasmussen, Eric. A Textual Companion to Doctor Faustus. Revels Plays Companion Library. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1993.

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    First major textual study of the play since Greg 1950 but not prescriptive or idiosyncratic. Exhaustive commentary and analysis of both the A- and the B-texts, establishing that A was set in type from an original authorial manuscript and B from an extensively revised version.

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Journals, Concordances, Supplemental Resources

MacLure 1979; Fehrenbach, et al. 1982; and Thomas and Tydeman 1994 are traditional supplementary resources for scholarship: excerpts from vintage criticism, a concordance, and a volume of source material, respectively. These are complemented by web-based materials: Bevington 2010 for bibliography, the Works of Christopher Marlowe for works, and new Internet sites for criticism and performance, such as Marlowe in Performance and the Marlowe Society of America Newsletter, most of whose issues are available online and contain extensive theater and scholarship reviews from the 1980s to the present. Marlowe Studies is the first journal devoted exclusively to the author’s life and works.

Bibliographies

Marlowe scholars recognize the difficulty of collecting resources, some of which can be far-flung and out of the way, so a custom exists in the field of creating and maintaining annotated bibliographies of materials. Tannenbaum 1937 began this tradition. Brandt 1992 and Brandt 2011 complement Friedenreich 1979 and the series in English Literary Renaissance: Post 1977, Levao 1988, and Cheney 2001. Scott 2010 provides the most extensive bibliography of Marlowe’s best-known play, Doctor Faustus.

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