Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)

Christopher Marlowe was born in Canterbury on 26 February, 1564. The family was rather poor. The father was a shoemaker, and he couldn’t afford to send his son to a good private school. At the age of fourteen Christopher managed to enter the Grammar School. When he was 16 he won a scholarship from Cambridge after the competitive examinations.

Christopher came to London in 1587. He wanted to become an actor, but broke his leg and couldn’t take part in the performances. Then Marlowe decided to become a dramatist. His principle works are: “Doctor Faustus” (1588) where he described the power of Knowledge, “The Jew of Malta” (1589) — about the power of Money and “Edward II” (1593) — about the loss of Power.

Christopher Marlowe was the first in England to approach history from a political point of view. That was the reason why the police agents suspected him of being disloyal and murdered him in a fight at a London tavern in 1593.

Doctor Faustus” was acted in 1588. The play is based on the well-known story about Faustus who sells his soul to the devil, Mephistopheles, in return for entertainment during twenty-four years when the devil has to fulfil all the wishes of Faustus. The last days of that splendid life are horrible for Doctor Faustus. He is afraid of death. The description of his fear is impressive. Marlowe manages to reflect Faustus’s feelings very vividly.

The Jew of Malta” is very violent The Jews are taxed by the governor of Malta. One of the Jews, Barabas by name, refuses to pay the tax. That’s why his house and money are confiscated. He becomes poor. And in revenge, he begins a violent life: he poisons his daughter, Abigail, and makes her lover die. More than that, Barabas helps the Turks to occupy Malta, and they make him the governor of Malta. But the Jew’s intentions are brutal, and he decides to kill all the Turkish officers. He invites them to a meal in a big hall, the floor of which is arranged in such a way that it can suddenly fall, and the soldiers are to fall down into a bowl of boiling water. But the Turkish officers make his secret known, and the Jew himself is thrown down into that terrible vessel.

Edward II” is the best Marlowe’s play. It deals with English history. He approaches the English history from a political point of view. Edward II (1284-1327) was the king of England from 1307 until he was murdered by his enemies, including his wife, in 1327. Edward II was nothing like his father Edward I, a very strong leader known as the “Hammer of the Scots”. Edward II gave his attention to his numerous favorites.

Marlowe sets an example for other dramatists in the great Elizabethan Age in two important ways: he uses the powerful blank verse lines to strengthen the drama, and he makes his characters act and think in such a way that the sense of tragedy is heightened.

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