Christopher Marlowe, English Poet (1564-1593)
Christopher Marlowe was a famous English playwright, poet, and translator of the Elizabethan era, born in Canterbury, Kent, England, in February 1564. He was the second of nine children in his family. His father, John Marlowe, was a shoemaker, and his mother, Catherine Arthur, was from a well-to-do family.
Marlowe attended The King’s School in Canterbury and later won a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he studied from 1580 to 1587. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1584 and his Master of Arts in 1587. There was some controversy over granting his master’s degree because of a period of absence, which led to speculation that he might have been working as a spy for the government.
After university, Marlowe moved to London, where he became a successful playwright. He is often hailed as one of the foremost dramatists of his time, second only to William Shakespeare. Marlowe’s plays are known for their blank verse and their overreaching protagonists. Some of his most famous works include “Doctor Faustus,” “Tamburlaine the Great,” “The Jew of Malta,” and “Edward II.” These plays explore themes of ambition, power, and human frailty, and they had a significant influence on the English theatre of the Renaissance.
Marlowe’s career, however, was short-lived. He died under mysterious circumstances at the age of 29 on May 30, 1593, in Deptford, London. Marlowe was reportedly killed in a brawl over a tavern bill, though some theories suggest his death was linked to his alleged work as a spy or his controversial personal beliefs.
Despite his brief life, Christopher Marlowe left a lasting impact on English literature and drama. His innovative use of language and exploration of complex themes paved the way for future playwrights, and his work continues to be celebrated and performed today.
Marlowe’s Poetic Innovation
Marlowe was one of the first English playwrights to use blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter) extensively in drama. His mastery of blank verse brought a new musicality and flexibility to English drama, allowing for more natural speech patterns and a greater range of expression. This innovation had a profound impact on later playwrights, including William Shakespeare.
How did Marlowe’s Poetic Innovation Shape English Drama?
Before Marlowe, most plays were written in a style that was either too formal or too simple. Marlowe’s use of blank verse made the language of plays more beautiful and flexible, allowing characters to speak in a way that felt more real and powerful.
This new style lets playwrights express complex ideas and emotions more clearly. It also made the dialogue in plays more interesting and engaging for the audience. Marlowe’s plays showed that drama could poetically explore deep and serious topics. This inspired other playwrights, including William Shakespeare, to use blank verse in their works. As a result, English drama became richer and more expressive, opening up new possibilities for storytelling on the stage.