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Playwright, poet. Christopher Marlowe was a poet and playwright at the forefront of the 16th-century dramatic renaissance. His works influenced William Shakespeare and generations of writers to follow.
During Christopher Marlowe's short career, he produced one of the most controversial and well-known plays of all time, "Doctor Faustus." The truth behind his sudden death still remains suspicious and unresolved.
Though little is known about William Shakespeare's personal life, his works such as "Hamlet," "Romeo and Juliet," and "King Lear," have influenced literature and theater for over 400 years.
William Shakespeare is one of the most well known and influential playwrights of our time, yet little is known about his childhood. Discover how Shakespeare became the bard the world knows today.
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Born in Canterbury, England, in 1564. While Christopher Marlowe's literary career lasted less than six years, and his life only 29 years, his achievements, most notably the play The Tragicall History of Doctor Faustus, ensured his lasting legacy.
Christopher Marlowe was born in Canterbury around February 26, 1564 (this was the day on which he was baptized). He went to King's School and was awarded a scholarship that enabled him to study at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, from late 1580 until 1587.
Marlowe earned his bachelor of arts degree in 1584, but in 1587 the university hesitated in granting him his master's degree. Its doubts (perhaps arising from his frequent absences, or speculation that he had converted to Roman Catholicism and would soon attend college elsewhere) were set to rest, or at least dismissed, when the Privy Council sent a letter declaring that he was now working "on matters touching the benefit of his country," and he was awarded his master's degree on schedule.
The nature of Marlowe's service to England was not specified by the council, but the letter sent to Cambridge has provoked abundant speculation, notably the theory that Marlowe had become a secret agent working for Sir Francis Walsingham's intelligence service. No direct evidence supports this theory, but the council's letter clearly suggests that Marlowe was serving the government in some secret capacity.
Surviving Cambridge records from the period show that Marlowe had several lengthy absences from the university, much longer than allowed by the school's regulations. And extant dining room accounts indicate that he spent lavishly on food and drink while there, greater amounts than he could have afforded on his known scholarship income. Both of these could point to a secondary source of income, such as secret government work.
But with scant hard evidence and rampant speculation, the mystery surrounding Marlowe's service to the queen is likely to remain active. Spy or not, after attaining his master's degree, Marlowe moved to London and took up writing full-time.
After 1587, Christopher Marlowe was in London, writing for the theater and probably also engaging himself occasionally in government service. What is thought to be his first play, Dido, Queen of Carthage, was not published until 1594, but it is generally thought to have been written while he was still a student at Cambridge. According to records, the play was performed by the Children of the Chapel, a company of boy actors, between 1587 and 1593.
Marlowe's second play was the two-part Tamburlaine the Great (c. 1587; published 1590). This was Marlowe's first play to be performed on the regular stage in London and is among the first English plays in blank verse. It is considered the beginning of the mature phase of the Elizabethan theater and was the last of Marlowe's plays to be published before his untimely death.
There is disagreement among Marlowe scholars regarding the order in which the plays subsequent to Tamburlaine were written.
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