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CHAPTER XV.

MARLOWE.

I. The Life of Marlowe–Catalogue of his Works.-11. The Father of

English Dramatic Poetry–He Fixes the Romantic Type-Adopts the Popular Dramatic Form, the Blank Verse Metre of the Scholars -He Transfigures both Form and Metre-His Consciousness of his Vocation.-III. The History of Blank Verse in England, Italian Precedent-Marlowe's Predecessors—Modern and Classical Metrical Systems—Quantity and Accent—The Licentiate Iambic-Gascoigne's Critique-Marlowe's Innovations in Blank Verse-Pause--Emphasis -Rhetoric a Key to good Blank Verse—The Variety of Marlowe's Metre.—IV. His Transfiguration of Tragedy— The Immediate Effect of his Improvements—He marks an Epoch in the Drama.--V. Colossal Scale of Marlowe's Works—Dramatisation of Ideals-Defect of Humour - No Female Characters. -VI. Marlowe's Leading Motive–The Impossible Amour—The Love of the Impossible portrayed in the Guise-In Tamburlaine-In Faustus—In MortimerImpossible Beauty-What would Marlowe have made of "Tannhauser'?— Barabas—The Apotheosis of Avarice.-VII. The Poet and Dramatist inseparable in Marlowe-Character of Tamburlaine. -VIII. The German Faustiad—Its Northern Character—Psychological Analysis in ‘Doctor Faustus’– The Teutonic Sceptic-Forbidden Knowledge and Power-Grim Justice-Faustus and Mephistophilis—The Last Hour of Faustus-Autobiographical Elements in • Doctor Faustus.'— IX. “The Jew of Malta'-Shylock -- Spanish Source of the Story-An Episode of Spanish Humour-Acting Qualities of Marlowe's Plays.-X. 'Edward II.'--Shakspere and Marlowe in the Chronicle-Play–Variety of Characters—Dialogue–The Opening of this Play – Gaveston — Edward's Last Hours.-XI. “The Massacre at Paris'- Its Unfinished or Mangled Text-Tragedy of * Dido'— Hyperbolical Ornament- Romantic and Classic Art.-XII. Marlowe greater as a Poet than a Dramatist-His Reputation with Contemporaries.

I.

Of the life of Christopher Marlowe very little is known. He was a shoemaker's son, born at Canterbury in 1564. -two months earlier than Shakspere at Stratfordand was educated at the King's School in that town. He entered Benet College, Cambridge, as a Pensioner, in 1581, and after taking his B.A. degree came up to seek his fortune in London, 'a boy in years, a man in genius, a god in ambition,' as Swinburne no less truly than finely writes of the young Titan of the stage. It is more than probable that Marlowe, under the influence perhaps of Francis Kett, who was a Fellow of Benet College in 1573, and was burned at Norwich in 1589 for anti-Christian heresy, had already contracted opinions which closed a clerical career against him, and which rendered any of the recognised professions distasteful. Be this as it may, he was indubitably born a poet, and nothing but the exercise of his already fullgrown genius could have satisfied his nature.

The most remarkable point to notice about Marlowe is that he served no apprenticeship to art, and went to school with none of the acknowledged masters of his age. His first extant tragedy shows him in possession of a new style, peculiar to himself, representative of his own temperament, and destined by its force, attractiveness, and truth to revolutionise the practice of all elder playwrights and contemporaries. The demand for plays in public theatres was sufficient at this epoch to make dramatic authorship fairly profitable. The society of the green-room and the stage, in revolt against conventions and tolerant of eccentricities in conduct and opinion, suited the wild and ardent spirit of a man who thirsted lawlessly for pleasure and forbidden things. Marlowe does not seem to have hesitated in his choice of life, but threw his lot in frankly with the libertines

MARLOWE'S LIFE.

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and reprobates, whose art he raised from insignificance to power and beauty. No sooner had his imagination given birth to the first part of “Tamburlaine' than he became the idol of the town.1

Marlowe took his Master's degree in - 1587, and before this date · Tamburlaine' had been performed. The rest of his short life was spent in writing tragedies for money. What he gained by his pen he is said to have squandered among the frequenters of suburban taverns. Puritans, who did their best to stigmatise the morals of the stage, described him as a blasphemer and notorious evil-liver. We cannot feel sure that their portrait of the man was substantially correct; though Greene's address to Marlowe on his death-bed makes it appear that, even among his intimate friends, he had gained a reputation for insolent atheism. His end was tragic : a rival in some love adventure stabbed him with his own dagger in a tavern at Deptford. This was in 1593, before the completion of his thirtieth year. If we assign the first part of ‘Tamburlaine' to 1587, this gives a period of some six years to Marlowe's activity as an author. Within that brief space of time he successively produced the second part of Tamburlaine,’ Dr. Faustus,' • The Massacre at Paris,’ The Jew of Malta,' and 'Edward II.' These tragedies were performed during their author's lifetime; and though it is impossible to fix their order with any certainty, internal evidence of style justifies us in assigning the two last-named plays to the later years of his life, while the two *Tamburlaines’are undoubtedly among the earliest fruits of his genius. At his death he left an unfinished drama on the tragedy of 'Dido,' which I am inclined to refer to the beginning of his career as playwright. It shows a still imperfect command of blank verse and a hesitation between that measure and rhyme, which does not belong to the poet's maturity. In addition to these dramatic works Marlowe bequeathed to the world the fragment of a narrative poem, which stands higher in poetic quality, both of conception and execution, than any similar work of the Elizabethan age, not excepting Shakspere's · Venus and Adonis.' I mean, of course, the Hero and Leander.' The translation into blank verse of the first book of Lucan's · Pharsalia’ may pass for an exercise in Marlowe's own licentiate iambic' metre. The rhymed translation of Ovid's 'Amores,' which an Archbishop of Canterbury and a Bishop of London thought worthy of public burning, may also be regarded as an exercise prelusive to that liberal use of the couplet in 'Hero and Leander,' whereby Marlowe stamped rhyming heroic verse with his own seal no less emphatically than he had stamped unrhymed heroic verse in ‘Tamburlaine.' A few minor pieces, including the beautiful and well-known pastoral, 'Come live with me and be my love,' complete the tale of the young poet's contributions to our literature.

1 If we could trust the genuineness of an old ballad, The Atheist's Tragedy, published by Dyce at the end of his edition of Marlowe's works, we should believe that Marlowe began his theatrical career as an actor at the Curtain, where he broke his leg. But the ballad in question, printed from a MS. in the possession of the late Mr. J. P. Collier, has to be classified with other dubious materials furnished by that ingenious student, on which a cautious critic will prefer to found no theories.

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II.

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Marlowe has been styled, and not unjustly styled, the father of English dramatic poetry. When we reflect on the conditions of the stage before he produced · Tamburlaine,' and consider the state in which he left it after the appearance of 'Edward II.,' we shall be able to estimate his true right to this title. Art, like Nature, does not move by sudden leaps and bounds. It required a slow elaboration of divers elements, the formation of a public able to take interest in dramatic exhibitions, the determination of the national taste toward the romantic rather than the classic type of art, and all the other circumstances which have been dwelt upon in the preceding studies, to render Marlowe's advent as decisive as it proved. Before he began to write, various dramatic species had been essayed with more or less success. Comedies modelled in form upon the types of Plautus and Terence; tragedies conceived in the spirit of Seneca ; chronicles rudely arranged in scenes for representation ; dramatised novels and tales of private life; Court comedies of compliment and allegory ; had succeeded to the religious Miracles and ethical Moralities. There was plenty of productive energy, plenty of enthusiasm and activity. Theatres continued to spring up, and acting came to rank among the recognised professions. But this activity was still chaotic. None could say where or whether the germ of a great national art existed. To us, students of the past, it is indeed clear enough in what direction lay the real life of the

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