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Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe was a distinguished playwright in his own right. Most people who have heard his name, however, have probably done so in connection with the theory that Marlowe was the actual author of several of the plays attributed to Shakespeare. This view has generally been dismissed by the relevant experts in the field. However, it seems to nevertheless have a rather tenacious hold on the popular imagination. 

Christopher Marlowe was a playwright and poet who lived in England during the Elizabethan era. Born in the same year, he was greatly influenced by William Shakespeare, who became famous following Marlowe’s enigmatic untimely death. He was known for his enthusiastic protagonists and his dedicated use of blank verse.

Born in Canterbury, his exact date of birth is unknown, though his baptism is on record to have taken place on February twenty sixth in 1564. Marlowe received his education at The King’s School in Canterbury and, later, at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge. There, he received a Master of Arts degree.  

Literary works by Christopher Marlowe

Between 1586 and 1593, Christopher Marlowe wrote seven plays and four books of poetry. The first play, Dido, Queen of Carthage, was rumored to have actually been written in part by Thomas Nashe, though his name never appears on the manuscript. Next came Tamburlaine, a two part play. Between 1589 and 1593, Christopher Marlowe wrote four more plays; Doctor Faustus, The Jew of Malta, Edward II, and The Massacre at Paris. As for his four books of poetry, the dates of publication can only be estimated. Two of the books were translations from Latin to English. Another was titled The Passionate Shepherd to His Love and the unfinished Hero and Leander, which was completed by George Chapman five years after Marlowe started it.

Writing style

Christopher Marlowe was the first writer to prove how effective and expressive blank verse could be when used for drama. Before Marlowe, plays strictly used rhymed verse instead. Finding it too stiff and formal, he completely changed the way writers wrote plays and used blank verse. He alternated the typical stresses to create a more varied and emotionally accessible verse. His style influenced Shakespeare, who would follow Marlowe’s example by using the natural rhythm that blank verse lends. 

Marlowe's personal life

Much of Christopher Marlowe’s life is shrouded in mystery and intrigue. The university was reluctant to give him his degree, however, as there was a rumor that he planned to attend the English university Rheims to prepare to be ordained as a Catholic priest. He was awarded a degree, however, when an intervention by the Privy Council produced a latter on his behalf, commending him on his services to the Queen. There was no explanation of what he had done to deserve such a recommendation, but his degree was granted. There is speculation that Marlowe’s degree was pushed through because of his connections with the government’s intelligence service. It is often alleged that Christopher Marlowe was a spy for the government and that his recruitment occurred at Cambridge. He had a number of long, un-explained absences from the university, much more time than permitted by the university’s regulations.

The death of Christopher Marlow is also rather mysterious. On May eighteenth in 1593, a warrant was issued for his arrest, though no reason was given. It was rumored to be connected to blasphemy; a manuscript of his was called into question for it unorthodox concepts. Though he was arrested and brought into court on the twentieth of May, there is no record of those court proceedings. Ten days later, he was stabbed in a supposedly random incident. While it has long been suspected that is death was connected to his court charges, it has never been proven. Though these mysteries are unlikely to ever be solved, they continue to be a popular topic of discussion among historians.

Christopher Marlowe is famous for giving the literary world an entirely new way to use blank verse and write plays. In addition, however, he remains one of history’s favorite characters because of several enigmatic events throughout his life. The allure of the unknown and his great literary contributions will ensure that he will always remain one of history’s greatest mysteries.

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