Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Marlowe, Christopher
MARLOWE, CHRISTOPHER (1564–1593), dramatist, was son of John Marlowe a shoemaker, of Canterbury, who was a member of the shoemakers' and tanners' guild of the town. The father also acted as 'clarke' of 'St. Maries;' married at St. George's Church, 29 May 1561, Catherine, apparently the daughter of Christopher Arthur, rector of St. Peter's, and died on 26 Jan. 1604-5. The dramatist was the eldest son but second child of the family. Two sisters are noticed in the borough-chamberlain's accounts, viz. Ann, wife of John Crauforde, a shoemaker, who was admitted a freeman 29 Jan. 1594, and Dorothy, wife of Thomas Graddell, a vintner, who was admitted a freeman 28 Sept. 1594. The poet was baptised at the church of St. George the Martyr, Canterbury, on 26 Feb. 1563-4. He was educated at the king's school of his native town. The treasurer's accounts between 1678 and 1580 are very defective, but they show that Marlowe, while attending the school, received an exhibition of 1l. for each of the first three quarters of 1579. On 17 March 1580-1 he matriculated as a pensioner of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He is entered in the register as 'Marlin,' without a christian name — proof, apparently, that he did not come up to Cambridge with a scholarship from his school. It has been suggested that his academical expenses were by Sir Roger Manwood [q. v.] the judge, who lived at St. Stephen's, near Canterbury, and whose death in 1592 was the subject of a Latin elegy by Marlowe. But it is equally possible that his father was able to provide for him, or he may have been one of the thirty students 'kept' at Corpus Christi College by Archbishop Parker in addition to the two for Whom he provided scholarships from the Canterbury school. Marlowe graduated B.A. in 1583 and M.A. in 1587. Among the fellows and tutors of his college was Francis Kett [q.v.], who was burnt for heresy at Norwich in 1589. Malone's theory that Marlowe derived from Kett the advanced views on religion which he subsequently developed is not justified by the extant details of the 'blasphemous heresies' for which Kett suffered. Kett was a mystic, who fully acknowledged the authenticity of the scriptures, although he gave them an original interpretation. Kett's deflection from conventional orthodoxy may have encouraged in Marlowe antinomisn tendencies, but he was in no sense Kett's disciple. While a student Marlowe mainly confined himself to the Latin classics, and probably before leaving Cambridge he translated Ovid's 'Amores' into English heroic verse. His rendering, which was not published till after his death, does full justice to the sensuous warmth of the original. He is also credited at the same period with a translation of Coluthus's 'Rape of Helen,' but this is no longer extant (Culler's MSS.)
Of Marlowe's career on leaving the university no definite information is accessible. His freouent introduction of military terms in his plays has led to the suggestion that he saw some military service in the Low Countries. It is more probable that he at once settled in London and devoted himself to literary work. A ballad, purporting to have been written in his later years, entitled 'The Atheist's Tragedy,' describes him 'in his early age' as a player at the Curtain Theatre where he 'brake his leg in one lewd scene,' but the ballad is in all probability one of Mr. Collier's forgeries. At an early dale he certainly attached himself as a dramatist to one of the leading theatrical companies—that of the lord admiral (the Earl of Nottingham). By that company most of his plays were produced, und he had the advantage of securing Edward Alleyn's services in the title-roles of at least three of his chief pieces. Kyd, Nashe, Greene, Chapman, and probably Shakespeare, were at one period or another personally known to him, but besides the chief men of letters of the day, he lived in intimate relations with Thomas Walsingham of Chislehurst (first cousin of the queen's secretary, Sir Francis), and with his son, Sir Thomas, who married a daughter of the Hanwood family of Canterbury. Sir Walter Raleigh was also, it is clear, on friendly terms with Marlowe.
It was as a writer of tragedies that Marlowe's genius found its true province: and it cannot have been later than 1587 that he composed his earliest drama, 'Tamburlaine,' which worked a revolution in English dramatic art. It is only by internal evidence that either the date or Marlowe's responsibility for the piece can be established. It was licensed for publication on 14 Aug. 1590, and was published in the same year, but none of the title-pages of early editions bear an author's name. A passage which Mr. Collier printed as part of Henslowe's 'Diary' for the year 1597 (p. 71) mentions 'Marloe's Tamberlen,' but the words are clearly forged (Warner, Dulwich M8S.) The only external contemporary testimony to Marlowe's authorship of the piece is a reference by Gabriel Harvey to Marlowe, under the pseudonym of 'Tamburlaine,' in 1598. A description of Nashe's squalid garret in the 'Black Book,' 1604, doubtfully ascribed to Middleton, speaks of spiders stalking over Nashe's head, 'as if they had been coDning of Tamburlaine' and Malone, not very rationally , found here proof that Nashe was at least a part author of the play. Nashe, at the time of the production of 'Tamburlaine' was no friend of Marlowe, although he subsequently knew and respected him, and internal evidence practically gives Marlowe sole credit for the play. The sonorous verse, the bold portrayal of the highest flight of human ambition, 'the high astounding terms' in which the characters expressed themselves, the sudden descents from sublimity into bombast, all identify the piece with the works which Marlowe openly claimed for himself later. He was conscious that in 'Tamburlaine' he was treading a new path. In the prologue he promised to lead his audience away
- From jiggling veins of rhyming mother-wits
- And such conceits as clownage keeps in pay
Although rhyme was chiefly favoured by earlier dramatists, blank verse had figured on the stage several times since the production of 'Gorboduc' in 1562 (cf. Gascoigne, Jocasta, c. 1568), but Marlowe gave it a new capacity and freed it of those mechanical restraints which had obscured its poetic potentialities. In his hand the sense was not interrupted at the end of each line, the pauses and the force of the accent varied, and the metre was proved capable for the first time of responding to the varying phases of human feeling. The novelty of the metrical experiment was the first characteristic of 'Tamburlaine' that impressed Marlowe's contemporary critics. Nashe held his effort up to ridicule in his preface to Greene's 'Menaphon,' which was probably written in 1587. Nashe writes doubtless with a satiric reference to Marlowe's recent graduation as M.A.: 'Idiote artmasters intrude themselves to our eares as the alcumists of eloquence; who (mounted on the stage of arrogance) think to outbrave better pens with the swelling bumbast of a bragging blank verse.' A little later Nashe refers to 'the spacious volubility of a drumming decasillabon.' Greene—who unfairly sneered at Marlowe in 'Menaphon' as a 'cobler's eldeste sonne'—soon afterwards, in his 'Perimedes,' 1588, denounced his introduction of blank verse, and, affecting to be shocked by Marlowe's ambitious theme, deprecated endeavours to dare 'God out of heaven with that atheist "Tamborlaine."' In his 'Mourning Garment' Greene again ridiculed 'the life of Tomlivolin' (i.e. Tamburlaine).
Marlowe seems to have mainly depended for his knowledge of his hero on 'Thomas Fortescue's 'Foreste,' 1571, a translation from the Spanish of Pedro Mexia's 'Silva de Varia Lecion,' Seville, 1543. Perondinus's 'Vita Magni Tamerlanis,' Florence, 1651, doubtless gave him suggestions when describing Tamburlaine's person, and he derived hints for his description of Persian effeminacy from Herodotus, Euripides, and Xenopbon (cf. Englische Studien, xvi. 459). The play, although in two parts, is really a tragedy in ten acts. Its full title when published ran: 'Tamburlaine the Great. Who, from a Scythian Shephearde by his rare and woonderfull Conquests, became a most puissant and mightye Monarque. And (for his tyranny and terrour in Warre) was tearmed, "The Scourge of God. Deuided into two Tragicall Discourses, as they were sundrie times shewed upon Stages in the Citie of London. By the right honorable the Lord Admyrall, his seruauntes. Now first and newlie published. London. Printed by Richard Jhones, 1590,' 8vo (Bodleian and Duke of Devonshire's libraries): another 8vo edition, 1593 (Brit. Mus.) The half-title of the Second Part is: 'The Second Part of the bloody Conquests of mighty Tamburlaine. With his impassionnate fury for the death of his Lady and loue faire Zenocrate; his fourme of exhortation and discipline to his three sons, with the maner of his own death.' The first part was reissued in 1605, and the second part in 1606 (for E. White), 4to (Brit. Mus.) A modern edition, by Albrecht Wagner, appeared at Heilbronn in 1885.
As in most of Marlowe's plays, some buffoonery figures in the extant texts of 'Tamburlaine,' but Marlowe's reprobation in the prologue of the 'conceits' of 'clownage seems to clear him of responsibility for it. Richard Jones, the publisher, in his preface states that he purposely omitted 'some fond and frivolous gestures digressing, and, in my poor opinion, far unmeet for the matter.' But Jones would appear to have treated some of the actors' interpolations with much gentleness; he admits that all of them were 'greatly gaped at' by 'some vain conceited fondlings' when they were shown upon the stage. With playgoers the piece was from the first very popular. Taylor the Water-poet states that 'Tamburlaine perhaps is not altogether so famous in his own country of Tartaria as in England.' The title-rule was filled by Alleyn, who wore breeches of crimson velvet, while his coat was copper-laced. A ballad on the plot was licensed to John Danter on 5 Nov. 1594. At the same time Marlowe's extravagances readily lent themselves to parody. The ludicrous line in Tamburlaine's address to the captured kings
Holla, ye pampered jades of Asia,
was parodied by Pistol, and was long quoted derisively on the stage and in contemporary literature. Hall, in his 'Satires,' ridicules the stalking steps of Tamburlaine's 'great personage.' Ben Jonson, in his 'Discoveries,' notes that 'the true artificer will not fly from all humanity with the Tamerlanes and Tamer-Chams of the late age, which had nothing in them but the scenical strutting and furious vociferation to warrant them to the ignorant gapers.' About 1650 the play was revived at the Bull Theatre. Thirty years later it had passed into obscurity. Charles Saunders, in the preface to his play, 'Tamerlane,' 1681, wrote: 'It hath been told me there is a Cockpit play going under the name of "The Scythian Shepherd, or Tamberlaine the Great," which how good it is any one may judge by its obscurity, being a thing not a bookseller in London or scarce the players themselves who acted it formerly, cow'd call to remembrance.' In 1686 Sir Francis Fane [q. v.] made Tamerlane the Great the hero of his tragedy, 'The Sacrifice,' and clearly owed something to Marlowe.
'Faustus' may fairly he regarded as Marlowe's second play. Its date may be referred to 1588. A 'Ballad of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, the Great Conjurer,' was entered on the Stationers' Registers on 28 Feb, 1588–9. It was doubtless founded on Marlowe's tragedy, and may be identical with The 'Ballad of Faustus' in the Roxburghe collection. Henslowe did not produce the play before September 1594, but it was not until that time that be was connected with the lord admiral's company, for which the piece was written, and no inference as to its date is to be drawn from his entry.
The 'Tragedy of Dr. Faustus' was entered on the Stationers' Registers 7 Jan. 1600–1, but the 4to of 1604 is the earliest edition yet discovered. A copy (probably unique) is in the Bodleian Library. The title runs: 'The Tragicall History of D. Faustus. As it hath beene Acted by the Right Honourable the Earl of Nottingham his servaunts. Written by Ch. Marl. London. Printed by V. S. for Thomas Bushell, 1604.' Five years later this edition was reissued practically without alteration. A unique copy is in the town library of Hamburg, and has the title: 'The Tragicall History of the horrible Life and Death of Doctor Faustus. Written by Ch. Marl. Imprinted at London by G. E. for John Wright, 1609, 4to.' A reissue dated 1611 belonged to Heber (Heber, Catalogue, No. 3770). A fourth 4to, which contains some scenes wholly rewritten, and Others printed for the first time, was published in 1616 as 'The Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus. Written by Ch. Marl. London. Printed for John Wright, 1616.' Other quartos, agreeing in the main with that of 1616, appeared in 1619 (belonging to Mr. F. Locker Lampson), 1620, 1624, 1631, and, 'with several new scenes,' 1603 (very corrupt). Careful modern editions are by Wilhelm Wagner, London (1877 and 1885) by Dr. A. W. Ward, Oxford (1878 and 1887), and by H. Breymann, Heilbronn, 1889.
The relations between the two texts of 1604 and 1616 present numerous points of difficulty. Neither seems to represent the author's final revision. In a very few passages the later quarto presents a text of which the earlier seems to supply the author's revised and improved version. In other passages the readings of 1616 seem superior to those of 1604. At the same time each edition contains comic scenes and other feeble interpolations for which Marlowe can scarcely have been responsible: nor is it satisfactory to ascribe them, with Mr. Fleay, to Dekker. In 1662 Henslowe paid William Bird and Samuel Rowley 4 l. for making additions to 'Faustus,' and, as far as the dates or internal evidences go, either quarto may with equal reasonableness be credited with contributions by Bird and Rowley. The two editions were certainly printed from two different playhouse copies, each of which imperfectly reproduced different parts of the author's final corrections. Some of the scenes which only figure in the 1616 quarto were certainly extant more than twenty years earlier. A line in one of the interpolated scenes of 1616 was imitated in the 'Taming of A Shrew,' published as early as 1594, while reference was made to an incident in another added scene some three years later in the 'Merry Wives of Windsor' (iv. 5.71). A careful collation of the 1604 edition by Proescholdt is in 'Anglia,' iii. (1881). In the edition published at Heilhronn in 1889 the quartos of 1604 and 1616 are printed on opposite pages.
Although a collection of disconnected scenes rather than a drama, and despite its disfigurement by witless interpolations. Faustus's apostrophe to Helen, and his great soliloquy in the presence of death — 'an agony and fearful colluctation' — render the tragedy a very great achievement in the range of poetic drama. The first connected account of the story of Faust appeared at Frankfort-on-the-Maine in 1587 under the title 'Historia Ton. D. Jobann Fausten dem weitbeschreyten Zauberer und Schwartzkunstler.' A unique copy is in the Imperial Library of Vienna (cf. reprint by Dr. August Kuhne, Zerbat, I86S). The earliest English translation extant, 'The Historie of the damnable Life and deserved Death of Dr. John Faustus, by P. F., Gent.' is dated in 1592, but the title-page describes it as 'newly imprinted,' a proof that an earlier edition had appeared. From that earlier edition Marlowe doubtless derived his knowledge of the legend (cf. Th. Delius, Marlowe's Paustus und seine Quelle, Bielefeld, 1881: see 'Marlowe's Faust,' by Duntzer in Anglia, i. 44, and by H. Bretmann, Englische Studien, v. 56).
The play was again well received. Alleyn assumed the title-role, and twenty-three performances were given by Henslowe between September 1594 and October 1597. On the last occasion, however, the receipts were 'nil.' According to Prynne's 'Histrio-Mastix,' 1633, f. 556, on one occasion the devil himself 'appeared on the stage at the Belsavage Playhouse in Queen Elizabeth's dayes' while the tragedy was being performed, 'the truth of which,' Prynne adds, 'I have heard from many now alive, who well remember it' (cf Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. v. 265). A phrase in the famous description of Helen is borrowed by Shakespeare in 'Troilus and Cressida,' and scene v. is closely imitated in Barnabe Barnes's 'Devil's Charter,' 1607, where the hero, Alexander Borgia, undergoes some of Faustus's experiences (cf. Herford, Lit. Relations of England and Germany, pp. 197 sq.) Dekker's 'Olde Fortunatus' also shows signs of Faustus's influence. 'Of all that Marlow hath written to the stage his "Dr. Faustus" hath made the greatest noise,' wrote Phillips in his 'Theatrum Poetarum,' 1675. In 1684 appeared Mountfort's 'Life and Death of Dr. Faust,' in which Marlowe's tragedy was converted into a pantomime, and in that uncomplimentary form obtained a new lease of popularity (cf. Anglia, vii. 341 sq.) Abroad Marlowe's work was equally well appreciated. English companies of actors performed it on their continental tours in the seventeenth century. It was acted at Grätz in 1608, and at Dresden in 1626, and very frequently at Vienna (cf. Meissner, Die englischen Comodianten ... in Oesterreich). Goethe admired it, and had an intention of translating it before he designed his own play on the same theme. W. Muller rendered it into German in 1858, and Francois Victor Hugo translated it into French in 1668. A Dutch version was published at Groningen in 1887.
Marlowe's third effort was 'The Jew of Malta.' An incidental reference to the death of the Duke of Guise proves that its date was subsequent to 1588. It was frequently acted under Henslowe's management between 26 Feb. 1591–2 and 21 June 1596, and was revived by him on 19 May 1601. Alleyn, who took the part of Barabas the Jew, is said to have worn an exceptionally large nose. In 1633 it was again acted in London, both at court and at the Cockpit. On 24 April 1818 Kean revived at Drury Lane a version altered by S. Penley, and played Barabas himself; it ran for twelve nights (Genest, Hist. Account, viii. 645). It was equally popular abroad. In 1607 English actors produced it while on continental tours at Passau, and in 1608 at Grätz. In an early seventeenth-century manuscript, now at Vienna, there is a German comedy based partly on Marlowe's play and partly on Shakespeare's 'Merchant of Venice.' This is printed in Meissner's 'Die englischen Comildianten,' pp. 180 sq.
A lost ballad, doubtless based on the play, was entered on the Stationers' Registers by John Danter on 16 May 1594. Next day the tragedy was itself entered there by Nicholas Ling and Thomas Millington, but it was not published till 1683. when it was edited by Thomas Heywood. The full title runs: 'The Famous Tragedy of the Rich Jew of Malta. As it was played before the King and Qveene in Her Majesties Theatre at White Hall, by her Majesties servants at the Cock-pit. Written by Christopher Marlo. London. Printed by I. B. for Nicholas Vavasour, 1633' 4to. It was included in Dodsley's collection, 1780; it was separately edited by W. Oxberry, 1818; and was translated by E. von Buelow into German in his 'Altenglische Schaübhne,' 1831, pt. i. A Dutch translation was issued at Leyden as early as 1645.
The opening scenes are in Marlowe's best vein, and are full of dramatic energy; in the later acts there is a rapid descent into 'gratuitous, unprovoked, and incredible atrocities,' hardly tolerable as caricature, and it is possible that the only accessible text presents a draft of Marlowe's work defaced by playhouse hacks. As in 'Tamburlaine,' Marlowe here again sought his plot in oriental history, although no direct source is known. He embodied hearsay versions of the siege of Malta by the Turks under Selim, son of the sultan Soliman, in 1565, and of another attack on the island by the Spaniards (cf. Jurien de la Graviere, Les Chevaliers de Malte et la Marine de Philippe II, Paris, 1887). Barabas resembles a contemporary historical personage, Joan Miquez (b. 1520), afterwards known as Josef Nossi, a Portuguese Jew, who, after sojourning in Antwerp and Venice, settled in Constantinople, exerted much influence over the sultan, became Duke of Naxos and the Cyclades (1569), and took part, in the siege of Cyprus in 1570 against the Venetians (cf. Folieta, De Sacro Fœdere in Selimum, Geneva, 1587). Marlowe also knew the chapter on Malta in Nicholas Nicholay's 'Navigations . . . into Turkie,' translated by T. Washington the younger, 1586 (cf. 'Die Quelle von Marlowe's "Jew of Malta,"' by Leon Kellner, in Englische Studien, x. 80–110).
'Edward II' was Marlowe's chief incursion into the English historical drama, and by the improvement manifest in dramatic construction it may be ascribed to his latest year. Marlowe mainly borrowed his information from Holinshed and had occasional reference to Stow, but in his spirited characterisation of Gaveston and Edward II, Mortimer and Edmund, earl of Kent, he owes little to the chroniclers. It is the best constructed of Marlowe's pieces. 'The reluctant pangs of abdicating royalty in Edward,' wrote Charles Lamb, 'furnished hints which Shakespeare scarcely improved in his "Richard II;" and the death scene of Marlowe's king moves pity and terror beyond any scene, ancient or modern, with which I am acquainted.' The work was entered on the Stationers' Registers by William Jones on 6 July 1593. A unique copy of an edition of 1594 is in the public library of Cassel. The earliest edition known in this country was published in 1598 as 'The Troublesome Raigne and Lamentable Death of Edward the Second, King of England; with the Tragiciall Fall of proud Mortimer; And also the Life and Death of Peirs Ganeston, the great Earle of Cornewall, and mighty Favorite of King Edward the Second, as it was publiquely acted by the Right Honourable the Earle of Pembrooke his servauntes. Written by Chri. Marlow, Gent. Imprinted at London by Richard Bradocke, for William Jones, 1598, 4to' (British Museum and Bodleian). A manuscript cony of this edition, in a seventeenth-century hand, is in the Dyce Library. The text is in a far more satisfactory state than in the case of any other of Marlowe's works. Other early editions are dated 1612 and 1622. It was translated into German by Von Buelow in 1831. There are recent editions by Mr. F. O. Fleay (1877) and by Mr. O. W. Tancock, Oxford, 1879 and 1887.
In two dramatic pieces—of far inferior calibre—Marlowe was also concerned. The 'Massacre at Paris,' which concludes with the assassination of Henry III, 2 Aug. 1689, appears to have been first acted 3 Jan. 1692-3 (Henslowe, Diary). It reproduces much recent French history and seems to have been largely based on contemporary reports. The text of the printed piece is very corrupt. A fragment of a contemporary manuscript copy (sc. 19) printed by Mr. Collier is extant among the Halliwell-Phillipps papers, and attests, as far as it goes, the injury done to the piece while going through the press. The soliloquy of the Duke of Guise in sc. 2 alone is worthy of notice. The only early edition is without date. It was probably published in 1600. The title runs: 'The Massacre at Paris: with the death of the Duke of Guise. As it was plaide by the right honourable the Lord High Admirall his Serrante. Written by Christopher Marlow. At London Printed by E A. for Edward White. There are copies in the British Museum, the Bodleian, and the Pepysian libraries.
The 'Tragedy of Dido,' published in 1594, is described as the joint work of Marlowe 'and Thomas Nash. Gent.' Unlike Marlowe's earlier efforts, it is overlaid with quaint conceits and has none of his tragic intensity. Æneas's recital to Dido of the story of the fall of Troy is in the baldest and most pedestrian verse, and was imdoubtedly parodied bv Shekespeare in the play-scene in 'Hamlet.' The piece must have been a very juvenile effort, awkwardly revised and completed by Nashe after Marlowe's death. The title of the editio princep runs: 'The Tragedie of Dido Queene of Carthage: Played by the Children of her Majesties Chappell. Written by Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nash, Gent. At London, Printed by the Widdowe Orwin for Thomas Woodcocke, 1594. Copies are in the Bodleian, Bridgwater House, and Devonshire House libraries.
Several other plays have been assigned to Marlowe on internal evidence, but critics are much divided as to the extent of his work outside the pieces already specified. Like his friends Kyd and Shakespeare, he doubtless refurbished some old plays and collaborated in some new ones, but he had imitators, from whom he is not, except in his most exalted moments, always distinguishable. Shakespeare's earlier style often closely resembled his, and it is not at all times possible to distinguish the two with certainty. 'A Taming of a Shrew' (1694), the precursor of Shakespeare's comedy, has been frequently assigned to Marlowe. It contains many passages literally borrowed from 'Tamburlaine or 'Faustus,' but it is altogether unlikely either that Marlowe would have literally borrowed from himself or that he could have sufficiently surmounted his deficiency in humour to produce so humorous a play. 'The Trublesome Raign of Kinge John' (1591), 'a poor, spiritless chronicle play,' may in its concluding portions be by Marlowe, but many of his contemporaries could have done as well. Internal evidence gives Marlowe some claim to be regarded as part author of 'Titus Andronicus,' with which Shakespeare was very slightly, if at all, concerned. Aaron might well have been drawn by the creator of the Jew of Malta, but the theory that Kyd was largely responsible for the piece deserves consideration. The three parts of 'Henry VI,' which figure in the 1623 folio of Shakespeare's works, although they were apparently written in 1592, present features of great difficulty. The first part shows very slight, if any, traces of Marlowe's co-operation. But in the second and third plays passages appear in which his hand can be distinctly traced. Each of these plays exists in another shape. Part II. is an improved and much altered version of 'The First Part of the Contention betwixt the two Famous Houses of Vork and Lancaster,' 1594, 4to, and Part III. bears similar relation to 'The True Tragedie of Richard, Duke of Yorke.' 1595, 4to, although the divergences between the two are less extensive. There are many internal proofs that Marlowe worked on the earlier pieces in conjunction with one or more coadjutors who have not been satisfactorily identified. But that admission does not exclude the theory that he was afterwards associated with Shakespeare in converting these imperfect drafts into the form in which they were admitted to the 1623 folio (cf. Fleay, Life of Shakeapeare, pp. 235 sq.; Transactions of New Shakspere Soc. pt. ii. 1876, by Miss Jane Lee; Swinburne, Study of Shakespeare, pp. 51 sq.) Evidence of style also gives Marlowe some pretension to a share in 'Edward III,' 1596, 4to, a play of very unequal merit, but including at least one scene which has been doubtfully assigned to Shakespeare.
Harvey in his 'Newe Latter' of 1593 expresses surprise that Marlowe's 'Gargantua mind' was conquered and had 'left no Scanderbeg behind.' Mr. Fleay infers that Marlowe had written, but had failed to publish, a play concerning Scanderbeg; but this is not the most obvious meaning of a perplexing passage. 'The True History of George Scanderbage, played by the Earl of Oxford's servants' (i.e. not later than 1588), and entered on the Stationers' Registers 3 July 1601, is not extant. 'Lust's Dominion, or the Lascivious Qneen. A Tragedie written by Christofer Marloe, Gent.' published by Kirkman in 1657 (another edit. 1661), is unjustifiably ascribed to Marlowe. It is possibly identical, as Collier suggested, with the 'Spanish Moor's Tragedy,' written for Henslowe early in 1600 by Dekker, Haughton, and Day. Among the plays destroyed by Warburton's cook was 'The Maiden's Holiday,' a comedy assigned to Day and Marlowe. Day belonged to a slightly later generation, and there is no evidence of Marlowe's association with a comedy.
Three verse renderings from the classics also came from Marlowe's pen. His translation of Ovid's 'Amores' was thrice printed in 12mo, without date, at 'Middleborough,' with the epigrams of Sir John Davies [q. v.] Whether 'Middleborough' is to be taken literally is questionable. The earliest edition, 'Epigrammes and Elegies,' appeared about 1597, and is now very rare. A copy at Lamport Hall, Northamptonshire, the property of Sir Charles Edmonds, has been reproduced in facsimile by Mr. Charles Edmonds, who assigns it to the London press of W. Jaggard, the printer of the 'Passionate Pilgrim.' The work was condemned to the flames by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London in June 1599, on the ground of its licentiousness (Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. xii. 436).
Marlowe's chief effort in narrative verse was his unfinished paraphrase of Musæus's 'Hero and Leander.' He completed two 'sestiads,' which were entered by John Wolf as 'an amorous poem' on the Stationers' Registers on 28 Sept. 1593, and were published in 1598 by Edward Blount [q. v.] at the press of Adam Islip. This was dedicated by Blount to Sir Thomas Walsingham. A copy is in Mr. Christie-Millet's library at Britwell. George Chapman finished the poem, and in the same year two further editions of the work appeared from the press of Felix Kingston with the four sestiads added Chapman. Copies of both these later editions are at Lamport. Other editions of the complete poem were issued in 1606 (Brit. Mus.) 1643, 1617 (Huth Library), 1629, and 1637. A copy of the 1629 edition, formerly in Heber's library, contains in seventeenth-century handwriting Marlowe's 'Elegy on Manwood' and some authentic notes respecting his life (see Heber's Cat. 1834, iv. No. 1415). It now belongs to Colonel Prideaux of Calcutta (cf. Notes and Queries, 6th ser. xi. 305, 353, xii. 16; Bullen, iii. App.ii.) The poem is throughout in rhymed heroics, and Marlowe's language is is peculiarly 'clear, rich, and fervent.' Its popularity was as great as any of Marlowe's plays. According to Nashe he was here inspired by 'a diviner muse' than Musæus ('Lenten Stuffe,' in Nashe, Works. Francis Meres, in his 'Palladia Tamia' (1598), declared that 'Musæus, who wrote the loves of Hero and Leander . . . hath in England two excellent poets, imitators in the same argument and subject, Christopher Marlow and George Chapman.' Ben Jonson quotes from it in 'Every Man in his Humour,' and is reported by a humble imitator of Marlowe, William Bosworth, author of 'Chast and Lost Lovers' (1651), to have been 'often heard to say' that its 'mighty lines . . . were fitter for admiration than for parallel.' Henry Petowe published in 1598 'The Second Part of Hero and Leander.' John Taylor the Water-poet claims to have sung verses from it while sculling on the Thames. Middleton in 'A Mad World, my Masters,' described it and 'Venus and Adonis' as 'two luscious marrow-bone pies for a young married wife.' An edition by S. W. Singer appeared in 1821, and it was reprinted in Brydges's 'Restituta' (1814).
'The First Book of Lucan's Pharsalia,' entered by John Wolf on the Stationers' Registers on 28 Sept. 1593, was issued in 1600, 4to. It is in epic blank verse, and although the lines lack the variety of pause which was achieved by Marlowe's greatest successors, the author displays sufficient mastery of the metre to warrant its attribution to his later years. The volume has a dedication signed by 'Thom. Thorpe,' the publisher of Shakespeare's 'Sonnets,' and addressed to Blount. It was reprinted by Percy in his specimens of blank verse before Milton.
Marlowe's well-known song, 'Come live with me and be my love,' was first printed, without the fourth or sixth stanzas and with the first stanza only of the 'Answer,' in the 'Passionate Pilgrim,' 1699, a collection of verse by various hands, although the title-page bore the sole name of Shakespeare. In 'England's Helicon' the lyric appeared in its complete form, with the signature 'C. Marlowe' beneath it; the well-known answer in six stanzas which follows immediately is signed 'Ignoto' and is ascribed to Sir Walter Raleigh. Marlowe's lyric caught the popular ear immediately. Sir Hugh Evans quotes it in 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' (iii. i.); Donne imitated it in his poem called 'The Bait;' Nicholas Breton referred to it as 'the old song' in 1637; and Isaak Walton makes Maudlin in the 'Complete Angler' sing to Piscator 'that smooth song which was made by Kit Marlowe,' as well as 'The Nymph's Reply' 'made by Sir Walter Raleigh in his younger days.' Walton supplies an additional stanza to each lyric. Both were issued together as a broadside about 1650 (Roxburghe Ballads, i. 205), and they were included in Percy's 'Reliques' (cf. ed. 1876, i. 220 sq.) A beautiful fragment by Marlowe, 'I walked along a stream for pureness rare,' figures in 'England's Parnassus,' 1600.
Marlowe's life ended gloomily. Of revolutionary temperament, he held religious views which outraged all conventional notions of orthodoxy. In 'Tamburlaine'(ii. 5) he spoke with doubt of the existence of God. Greene in his 'Goatsworth of it,' written in September 1592, plainly appealed to bim to forsake his aggressive unbelief. 'Why should thy excellent wit, God's gift, be so blinded that thou abouldst give no glory to the giver?' Chettle, Greene's publisher, wheu defending himself in his 'Kind Hart's Dreame' from a charge of having assisted Greene to attack Marlowe and other dramatists, claimed to have toned down Greene's references to Marlowe, which in their original shape contained 'intolerable' matter. The early manuscript notes in the 1629 copy of 'Hero and Leander' (formerly in Hebers collection) also describe Marlowe as an atheist, and state that he converted to his views a friend and admirer at Dover. The latter, whose name has been deciphered as 'Phineaux' (i.e. Fineux), is said to have subsequently recanted (cf. Hunter's MS. Chorus Fatum). It is moreover certain that just before his death Marlowe's antinomian attitude had attracted the attention of the authorities, and complaints were made to Sir John Puckering, the lord keeper, of the scandal created on the part of Marlowe and his friends by the free expression of their views. On 18 May 1593 the privy council issued 'a warrant to Henry Maunder, one of the messengers of Her Majesties Chamber, to repair to the house of Mr. Thomas Wolsingham in Kent, or to anie other place where he shall understand Christopher Marlow to be remayning, and by virtue hereof to apprehend and bring him to the court in his companie, and in case of need to require ayd' (Privy Council MS. Register, 22 Aug. 1592-22 Aug. 1593, p. 374). Walsingham lived at the manor of Scadbury in the parish of Chislehurst (cf. Hasted, Kent, 1797, ii. 7; Manning and Bray, Surrey, ii. 540). Some weeks earlier (19 March) similar proceedings had been taken by the council against Richard Cholmley and Richard Strange; the former is known to have been concerned with Marlowe in disseminating irreligious doctrines (Privy Council Reg. p. 298). Cholmley and Marlowe both escaped arrest at the time. The poet reached Deptford within a few days of the issue of the warrant, and there almost immediately met his death in a drunken brawl. He was little more than twenty-nine years old. In the register of the parish church of St. Nicholas, Deptford, appears the entry, which is ordinarily transcribed thus: 'Christopher Marlow, slain by Francis Archer 1 June 1593.' Mr. Holliwell-Phillipps read the surname of the assailant as 'Frezer,' i.e. Frazer.
In a sonnet which concludes Gabriel Harvey's 'Newe letter of Notable Contents' (September 1593) reference is made to the death of 'Tamberlaine' as one of the notable events of 'the wonderful yeare' 1593, and in a succeeding 'glosse' death, 'smiling at his Tamberlaine contempt,' is declared to have 'sternly struck home the peremptory stroke.' The exact circumstances are doubtful. Francis Meres, in 'Palladis Tamia,' 1598, wrote: 'As the poet Lycophron was shot to death by a certain rival of his, so Christopher Marlowe was stabd to death by a bawdy serving-man, a riual of his in his lewde love' (fol. 2S6). William Vaughan, in his 'Golden Grove,' 1600, supplies a somewhat different account, and gives the murderer the name of Ingram: 'It so happened that at Detford, a little village about three miles distant from London, as he [i.e. Marlowe] meant to stab with his ponyard one named Ingram that had inuited him thither to a feast and was then playing at tables, hee [i.e. Ingram] quickly perceyving it, so avoyded the thrust, that withall drawing out his dagger for his defence, be stabd this Marlow into the eye, in such sort that, his braynes comming out at the dagger point, he shortly after dyed.' Thomas Beard the puritan told the story more vaguely for purposes of edification in his 'Theatre of God's Judgments,' 1597, p. 148. 'It so fell out,' Beard wrote, 'that in London streets as he [i.e. Marlowe] purposed to stab one, whom he ought a grudge unto, with his dagger—the other party, perceiving so, avoyded the stroke, that withal catching hold of his [i.e. Marlowe's] wrest, he stabbed his [i.e. Marlowe's] owne dagger into his head, in such sort that, notwithstanding all the meanes of surgerie that could bee wrought, he shortly after died thereof.' In the second edition of his book (1631) Beard omits the reference to 'London streets,' which is an obvious error (cf. Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. x. 301).
Both Vaughan and Beard describe Marlowe as a blatant atheist, who had written a book against the Trinity, and defamed the character of Jesus Christ. Beard insists that he died with an oath on his lips. The council's proceedings against him and his friends were not interrupted by his death. Thomas Baker [q. v.] the antiquary found several papers on the subject among Lord-keeper Puckering's manuscripts, but these are not known to be extant, and their contents can only be learnt from some abstracts made from them by Baker, and now preserved in Harl. MS. 7042. Baker found a document headed 'A note delivered on Whitsun eve last of the more horrible and damnable opinions uttered by Christopher Marly, who within three days after came to a sudden and fearful end of his life.' Baker states that the 'note' chiefly consisted of repulsive blasphemies ascribed to Marlowe by one Richard Bame or Baine, and that Bame offered to bring forward other witnesses to corroborate his testimony. Thomas Harriot [q. v.] the mathematician, Royden (perhaps Matthew Royden), and Warner were described as Marlowe's chief companions, and Richard Cholmley as their convert. Thomas Kyd [q. v.], according to Baker, at once wrote to Puckering admitting that he was an associate of Marlowe, but denying that he shared his religious views. On 29 June following Cholmley was arrested under the warrant issued two months earlier, and one of the witnesses against him asserted that Marlowe had read an atheistical lecture to Sir Walter Raleigh among others. On 31 March 1593–4 a special commission under Thomas Howard, third viscount Bindon, was ordered by the ecclesiastical com mission court to bold an inquiry at Cerne in Dorset into the charges as they affected Sir Walter Raleigh, his brother Carew Raleigh, 'Mr. Thinne of Wiltshire,' and one Poole. The result seems to have been to remove suspicion from Sir Walter Raleigh, who (it was suggested) was involved merely as the patron of Harriot. The 'note' among the Puckering mentioned by Baker is doubtless identical with that in Harl. MS. 6853, fol. 520, described as 'contayninge the opinion of one Christofer Marlye, concernynge his damnable opinions and judgment of Relygion and scorne of God's worde.' This document was first printed by Ritson in his 'Observations on Warton.' It is signed 'Rychard Barne,' and a man of that name was hanged at Tyburn soon afterwards (6 Dec. 1594). Marlowe is credited by his accuser, whose fate excites some suspicions of his credibility withholding extremely heterodox views on religion and morality, some of which are merely fantastic, while others are revolting.
There is no ground for accepting all Bame's charges quite literally. That Marlowe rebelled against the recognised beliefs may be admitted, and the manner of his death suggests that he was no strict liver. But the testimony of Edward Blount the bookseller, writing on behalf of himself and other of Marlowe's friends, sufficiently confutes Game's more serious reflections on his moral character. Blount in 1598, when dedicating Marlowe's 'Hero and Leander' to the poet's patron, Sir Thomas Walsingham, describes him as 'our friend,' and writes of 'the impression of the man that hath been dear unto us living an after-life in our memory.' A few lines later Blount calls to mind how Walsingham entertained 'the parts of reckoning and worth which he found in him with good countenance and liberal affection.' Again, Nashe, when charged by Harvey in 1593 with abusing Marlowe, indignantly denied the accusation, and showed his regard for Marlowe by completing his 'Tragedy of Dido.' 'Poore deceased Kit Marlowe' Nashe wrote in the epistle to the reader in his 'Christ's Tears over Jerusalem' (2nd edit. 1594), and 'Kynde Kit Marlowe' appears in verses by 'J.M.,' dated in 1600 (Halliwell-Phillipps), Life of Shakespeare). Chapman too, whose character was exceptionally high, makes affectionate reference to him in his continuation of 'Hero and Leander.'
Numerous testimonies to Marlowe's eminence as a poet and dramatist date from his own time. An elegy by Nashe, which, according to Bishop Tanner, was prefixed to the 1604 edition of the 'Tragedy of Dido,' is unfortunately absent from all extant copies. Henry Petowe was author of a very sympathetic eulogy in his 'Second Port of Hero and Leander.' Marlowe is described as a 'king of poets' and a 'prince of poetrie.' George Peele, in the prologue to his 'Honour of the Garter' (1593), wrote of
- Marley, the Muse's darling, for thy verse
- Fit to write passions for the souls below.
Thorpe, in his dedication of the 'Lucan,' spoke of him with some point as 'that pure elementall wit.' According to the 'Returne from Pernassus' (ed. Mocray, p. 86),
- Marlowe was happy in his buskined muse,
- Alas, unhappy in his life and end.
- Pitty it is that wit so ill should dwell,
- Wit lent from heauen, but vice sent from hell,
- Our Theater hath lost, Pluto hath got,
- A tragick penman for a driery plot.
The finest encomium bestowed on him is by Drayton, in his 'Epistle ... of Poets and Poesy,' 1627. It runs (the first word means 'unsophisticated;' another reading is 'Next'):--
- Neat Marlowe bathèd in the Thespian springs,
- Had in him those brave translunary things
- That the first poets had; his raptures were
- All air and fire, which made his verses clear;
- For that fine madness still he did retain
- Which rightly should possess a poet's brain.
Heywood, in his ' Hierarchie of the Blessed Angels,' 1635 (bk. iv.), wrote less effectively:--
- Marlo, renown'd for his rare art and wit.
- Could ne'er attain beyond the name of Kit.
- Although his Hero and Leander did
- Merit addition rather.
Ben Jonson, in his verses to Shakespeare's memory, describes how Shakespeare excelled Marlowe's 'mighty line,' But the most substantial proof of Marlowe's greatness was the homage paid him by Shakespeare. In 'As you like it' (iii. 5, 80) Shakespeare, quoting from Marlowe's 'Hero and Leander,' apostrophised Marlowe In the lines,
- Dead shepherd, now I find thy saw of might,
- 'Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?'
This passage, coupled with the inferences already drawn respecting the two men's joint responsibility for Parts II. and III. of 'Henry VI' justifies the theory that they were personally acquainted. But the powerful influence exerted by Marlowe on Shakespeare's literary work is more interesting than their private relations with each other. All the blank verse in Shakespeare's early plays bears the stamp of Marlowe's inspiration. In 'Richard II' and the 'Merchant of Venice ' Shakespeare chose subjects of which Marlowe had already treated in 'Edward II' and the 'Jew of Malta,' and although the younger dramatist was more efficient in the handling of his plots than the elder, Shakespeare's direct indebtedness to Marlowe in either piece is unmistakable. 'Richard III,' again, is closely modelled on Marlowe. 'But for him,' says Mr. Swinburne, 'this play could never have been written.' In its fiery passion, singleness of purpose, and abundance of inflated rhetoric it resembles 'Tamburlaine' (cf. Swinburne, Study of Shakespeare, pp. 43-4). Shakespeare was conscious of the elder dramatist's extravagances, and at times parodied them, as in Pistol or in the players in 'Hamlet.' But his endeavours to emulate Marlowe's great qualities proves his keen appreciation of them.
Marlowe's plays retained a certain popularity, mainly on account of their extravagances, for many years after his death. 'Tamburlaine' or the 'Jew of Malta' often figured in the programmes of provincial companies in Charles I's time (cf. Gayton, Festivous Notes on Don Quitole, 1654, p. 271). But his place in English literary history was ill appreciated between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. Charles Lamb and Hazlitt first perceived the high merits of his 'Faustus' and 'Edward II,' and Hallam, a very sober-minded critic, finally detected the wide interval which separated him from all the other predecessors of Shakespeare. His reputation has of late years been steadily growing at home and abroad. In the opinion of his most recent critics, Mr. A.C. Swinburne and John Addington Symonds [q. v.], he must rank with the great poets of the world. On comparatively rare occasions did he do full justice to himself; he lacked humour; he treated female character ineffectively; while his early death prevented his powers from reaching full maturity. But the genius which enabled him in his youth to portray man's intensest yearnings for the impossible — for limitless power in the case of Tamburlaine, for limitless knowledge in that of Faustus, and for limitless wealth in that of Barabas — would have assuredly rendered him in middle age a formidable rival to the greatest of all tragic poets.
A complete edition of Marlowe's works, published by Pickering, with a life of the author by G. Robinson, appeared in 3 vols. in 1626. A copy, with copious manuscript notes by J. Broughton, is in the British Museum. Dyce's edition was first issued in 1850 (3 vols.), that by Lieutenant-colonel Cunningham in 1871, and that by Mr. A. H. Bullen (3 vols.) in 1885. A selection of his poetry was issued in the 'Canterbury Poets,' 1885, ed. P. E. Pinkerion, and five plays, ed. H. Havelock Ellis, in ' Mermaid Series' in 1887. A French translation by F. Rabbe, with an introduction by J. Richepin, was published, 2 vols. Paris, 1885. A German translation appears in F. M. Bodenstedt's 'Shakespeare's Zeitgenossen und ihre Werke,' Band 3, 1860. Editions of separate plays have been already noticed.
Twice has the tragedy of Marlowe's life been made the subject of a play. In 1837 Richard Hengist Horne [q. v.] published his 'Death of Marlowe,' which Mr. A. H. Bullen reprinted in his collective edition of the dramatist's works in 1885. Mr. W. L. Courtney contributed to the 'Universal Review' in 1890 (vi. 356 sq.) a dramatic sketch entitled 'Kit Marlowe.' This piece was performed at the Shaftesbury Theatre on 4 July 1890, and was revived at the St. James's Theatre in 1892.
No portrait of Marlowe is known. A fanciful head appears in Cunningham's edition. A monument to his memory, executed by Mr. E. Onslow Ford, A.R.A., has been placed, by public subscription, near the cathedral at Canterbury. It was unveiled by Mr. Henry Irving on 16 Sept. 1891.
[The extract respecting Marlowe from the Privy Council Register is here given for the first time. Mr. Bullen's Introduction to his edition of Marlowe is very valuable. Cf. also Dyce's and Cunningham's Prefaces to their collected editions, and Dr. A.W. Ward's exhaustive introduction to his edition of Faustus (Clarendon Press, 1887, 2nd edit.); see also Hunter's MS. Choras Vatum in Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 24488, pp. 372-80; Collier's Hist. of Dramatic Poetry; Fleay's Life of Shakespeare and Biog. Chronicle of the English Drama; J. A. Symonds's Shakspere's Predecessors, pp. 581 sq.; Ward's Hist. of English Dramatic Literature; Gent. Mag. 1800, pt i. five good papers by James Broughton; Universal Review, 1889, iv. 382 sq. by Mr. J. H. Ingram; A. W. Verity's Marlowe's Influence on Shakespeare, 1886; De Marlovianis Fabulis, a Latin thesis, by Ernert Faligan, Paris, 1887.]