The father of English tragedy was a leader among English poets. The place and value of Christopher Marlowe in the Renaissance literary world cannot be overstated. The Elizabethan poet and dramatist had a tremendous influence on his fellow writers. Although his life was short and violent, much like those of his characters, he accomplished a lot and had a major impact in the world of literature. The other writers of his time owe a great debt to him for making the literary world what it became to be. Marlowe was the one who guided Shakespeare onto the right path of work. Before the creator of dramatic blank verse there was not a legitimate tragedy in the English language. Of the work from Marlowe that survived to this day, “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” is the most famous and most widely known work of all. Christopher Marlowe is the greatest discoverer in all history of poetic literature.
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Marlowe, the oldest son of a shoemaker in Canterbury, England, was born in that city on February 6th of 1564. On the 26th of February in 1564 he was christened at St George’s Church, which was only two months before Shakespeare’s baptism at Stratford-on-Avon. His father, John Marlowe, survived his illustrious son by a dozen years because Christopher only lived to the age of 29. The dramatist learned the fundamentals of his education at the King’s School in Canterbury. While attending there he was awarded a scholarship from the foundation of Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury. Marlowe graduated to Corpus Christi College in Cambridge where he studied the Bible, the Reformation theologians, philosophy, and history. He took his B.A. degree in 1854. Marlowe left his studies at Cambridge, and instead went to carry out a secret mission for the government. He returned in 1587 and he took his degree of M.A. The authorities of the university would not grant his degree at first because they believed that he had been converted to Catholicism. The dispute was then settled when the Queen’s Council intervened and aided Marlowe. He decided to not take the holy orders, and Marlowe went to London to become a dramatist.
Marlowe began writing and his first dramas were composed in blank verse. Sir Walter Raleigh, who had started the first colony in Virginia, was just one of the important friends he made there. Marlowe’s career as a dramatist only lasted six years in 1587 through 1593. He left behind four great plays: Tamburlaine the Great, a heroic epic (1590), Dr Faustus (1588), The Famous Tragedy of the Rich Jew of Malta (1633), and Edward the Second (1594). Many plays have been given to Marlowe’s credit; however, Marlowe never published these texts, and much of his work that remains is incomplete.
Marlowe’s mysterious death may have had a political cause. Prior to his death he had been accused of atheism, blasphemy, subversion and homosexuality. In 1593, Marlowe pointed out, in his opinion, some inconsistencies in the Bible. Marlowe was then suspected of heresy. Thomas Kyd, his roommate, claims that he was tortured and forced into providing evidence against Marlowe, but before he could go before the Privy Council, he was found dead at Dame Eleanore Bull’s tavern in Deptford on May 30, 1593. That night he had gone there to have dinner with some friends. According to witnesses, Marlowe got into an argument over payment for the bill and there was a fight. Marlowe pulled a dagger on another man who defended himself and stabbed Marlowe right above his right eye.
There is reason to believe that Marlowe may have been murdered in order to prevent him from being arrested. If Marlowe had been brought before the Privy Council, he might have brought attention to some important people, such as Raleigh. He was killed one week before the warrant for his arrest was issued. Two days later Marlowe was buried in an unmarked grave. His murderer pleaded his innocence based on self-defense. The Queen officially pardoned the killer. This has partly confirmed the thesis of a political conspiracy behind the death of Christopher Marlowe.
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One of Marlowe’s most popular works of art is “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”. Marlowe wrote the poem in 1589 while he was still attending Cambridge University. It was first printed and published in 1600 in poetry collections. This poem is a pastoral poem. Pastoral poems focus on the love of a shepherd for a woman; as in Marlowe’s poem, the death of a friend, or the simplicity of life on the countryside. Marlowe, the writer of the pastoral poem, is a city resident who admires the shepherd girl or desires the peace and serenity of the country. The setting of the poem is during the spring in a rural environment. The passionate shepherd asks a young country girl to become his love and enjoy all the pleasures that nature has to offer with him. The theme of the poem is the springtime love in a countryside setting.
Marlowe deeply influenced the theatre of the Renaissance literary period with his blank verse. He wrote with great intensity, and villain-heroes, which was a new type for the English stage. The poet Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909) observed of Marlowe that “the father of English tragedy and the creator of English blank verse was therefore also the teacher and the guide of Shakespeare.” Shakespeare and Marlowe both wrote plays for Lord Strange’s acting company and influenced each other’s work. Also Shakespeare favored the blank verse.
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