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of his death, and to some slight extent by satirical allusions to puritans in his plays. But he was beloved and regretted by friends and fellow-poets, and his memory probably suffered from the general contempt and dislike of actors and play-writers during the rise and prevalence of puritan opinions.
Marlowe died at the early age of 29, being killed by one Francis Archer,' in the last week of May 1593, in a brawl at Deptford, where he was buried on June 1, as is recorded in the register of the parish church of St. Nicholas ?.
§ 2. The literary life of Marlowe is contained in the short space of time included within the years 1587–1593. During these years he wrote and placed on the stage five plays :Tamburlaine the Great, Part I; Tamburlaine the Great, Part II; The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus; The few of Malta ; and Edward the Second.
There remain also three Acts of a tragedy called The Massacre at Paris ; and a portion of another, Dido Queen of Carthage, which was afterwards completed by Thomas Nash.
Besides these tragedies Marlowe wrote an unfinished poem called Hero and Leander; translations of part of Ovid's Elegies, and of the first book of Lucan's Pharsalia ; some epigrams; and a lyric piece of great beauty, The Passionate Shepherd to his Love, which is very well known. It no doubt suggested the name under which Shakespeare alludes to the poet in As You Like It, iii. 5. 80:
• Dead shepherd, now I find thy saw of might,
“Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight?”' for the latter line is quoted from Marlowe's Hero and Leander,
$ 3. The following dates may be assigned, on the authority of Mr. J. P. Collier and Mr. Dyce, to Marlowe's plays.
Cf. Collier, Annals of the Stage, iii. p. 113; Dyce, Marlowe's Works (1850), Preface ; Ward, History of Dramatic Literature, i. p. 173 ; The Works of Marlowe, ed. Cunningham.
Tamburlaine, Part 1, was written about 1585-7, and acted with great success; and Part II was performed very soon after with equal popularity. The production of such a poem as Tamburlaine was an extraordinary feat for a young man of less than twenty-three years of age. Although it is, to a modern reader, too grandiloquent and bombastic, ' a ranting play, after the old style of tragedies,' the vigour of its language and the poetical spirit and passion of very many passages gave it at once high rank among the plays of the time, and sufficiently account for its great popularity. The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus was written and acted in 1588 or 1589? And in 1589-90 there followed The Jew of Malta, a play that gave many hints which Shakespeare has used for the surroundings and the character of Shylock in
The Merchant of Venice. Edward the Second, the best and most finished of all Marlowe's plays, was acted about the year 1590, before 'Shakespeare, who was born in the same year as Marlowe, had produced any play worthy of his name, or of comparison with the masterpiece of his contemporary.
§ 4. The style of Marlowe's tragedies is so marked an advance on that of his predecessors, as to justify us in saying that they begin a new era in the history of dramatic poetry. He was the earliest writer who used the new blank verse for a drama to be performed on the public stage and before a general audience.
The metre was first used by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (born 1518 ? ; executed Jan. 19, 1547), in his translation of Books ii and iv of Virgil's Æneid, published 1557. The author says it is 'translated into English, and drawn into a strange metre.' "The earliest instance of its application to the
purposes of the drama was in the tragedy of Ferrex and Porrex (or Gorboduc], by [Thomas] Sackville (Lord Buckhurst, born 1536, died 1608] and [Thomas] Norton
1 Cf. Ward's Dr. Faustus (Clarendon Press Series).
[born 1532], acted before the Queen in 1561-2 [18th Jan. 1562]. The example was followed in 1566 in [George] Gascoigne's [1525-1577] locasta, played at Gray's Inn. .... These, it will be remarked, were plays either performed at Court or before private societies 1.'
In skilful hands the new metre gave a poet far greater liberty, for it did not require the definite pause at the end of the second line which rimed verse must naturally have. There was no need to satisfy the ear with the recurrence of the sound corresponding to that which marked the end of the first line, and so to make sense subordinate to antithesis. Thought could flow freely unconfined by the narrow bounds of the couplet. Still it was some time before the effect of rime was lost. Hence the early blank verse has very frequent pauses at the end of lines, and too often a completion of the sense in a couplet, and so the lines are monotonous. Marlowe did not avoid this weakness in his earliest plays, but a comparison of the versification of Tamburlaine, Dr. Faustus, and Edward the Second, will show that he gradually got rid of the monotony by an increasing variety and change of the pause (which in the earlier writers almost invariably follows the fourth syllable), by the occasional use of an Alexandrine, an irregular line, or a hemistich or half-line. It should be remembered that the exaggeration of high-sounding language of which Marlowe has been accused was, in part at least, intentional, and was meant to supply some of the resonance that the ear would miss in the absence of rime. This is plainly stated in the prologue to Tamburlaine, Part I:
• From jigging veins of rhyming mother wits,
Cf. Collier, History of the Stage, iii. pp. 107-112, 129-131.
As the poet used his metre with greater ease and success, he trusted less to 'high astounding terms, and more to skilful variation of the pause and emphasis, and to his own wealth of more simple language.
§ 5. Marlowe's English is such as might be expected from what we know of his education and life. It has the marks of the well-educated young university man of the later part of the Elizabethan age. There is a freedom alike from the archaisms of those who were deeply read in the earlier English literature, and from the quaintnesses of the men of the earlier part of the reign. It is for the most part free from those English idioms which were beginning to appear ungraceful and incorrect to those who had been trained in the more logical preciseness of Latin grammar. An abundance of simple and obvious classical allusion shows the scholar fresh from his reading of well-known poets, as Virgil and Ovid, and the young man piecing out smallness of observation by a fullness of memory. While Shakespeare's simile of the hunted deer makes us feel that he has seen and loved the animal, Marlowe has a quotation from a classical poet, and an antithesis between the wounded deer and the lion after the manner of Euphues. Shakespeare is full of nature and the country life which he has known Marlowe of the pomp of war of which he has read. The subjects of his plays do not afford much opportunity for the use of those provincial idiomatic English phrases which so mark much of Elizabethan English. With no comedies, with very few scenes that can be called light or comic, and no really humorous character of the lower class, like Shakespeare's Launcelot Gobbo, or old Gobbo, or the grave-digger, Marlowe's English is not typical of Elizabethan irregularity or freedom. Some instances of irregular concord, a double comparative here and there, or a double negative, and the usual Elizabethan usage of 'thou' and 'you,' scarcely mark his English as different from that of our own day.
$ 6. Edward the Second is the play which shows the perfec
tion of Marlowe's powers and style, and is the best example of his workmanship. Moreover it is the one play which, from accidents of editing and printing, has been preserved very nearly as he wrote it. Professor Ward 1 says of it, “The drama of Marlowe's which seems to me entitled to the highest and least qualified tribute of praise is his historical tragedy of Edward the Second'; and 'none of his plays, except Edward the Second .... is to be regarded as the unadulterated expression of Marlowe's art 2.' It was written and acted about 1589-90, and set an example of the type of English historical play which Shakespeare closely followed, and which has maintained itself.
Plays from English history had been for some years gaining an important place on the stage. Professor Ward notices the Kyng Johan, which is usually (but on slight evidence) assigned to Bishop Bale (1495-1563), as the earliest historical play (circa 1548-50). It represents the history of the reign of King John in rimed verse of no great merit. But the numerous personifications, as of Sedition, Dissimulation, Usurped Power, &c., make it more like a Morality. And the disregard of history shown in the treatment of King John's character, who is ‘a Loller,' “ This good Kynge, This noble Kynge Johan,' (who) as a 'faythfull Moyses, 'withstode proude Pharao for hys poore Israel'-and the vigorous note of contemporary spirit sounded in attacks upon the Pope (who is called 'Antycrist') and the Papal Supremacy, and upon the use of Latin in the Church services, prevent its being a really historical play after the type of Marlowe and Shakespeare.
· Ward, History of Dramatic Literature, i. 193; Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, ed. Ward, p. 1.
2 Edward II was first published in 1598; a somewhat carelessly printed quarto, probably from a prompter's copy. Other editions followed in 1612 and 1622. Cf. Dyce, Marlowe, ii. 163.
3 Ward, History of Dramatic Literature, i. 97.