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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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Some contend that Doctor Faustus quickly followed Tamburlaine, and that Marlowe then turned to writing Edward the Second, The Massacre at Paris, and finally The Jew of Malta. According to the Marlowe Society's chronology, the order was thus: The Jew of Malta, Doctor Faustus, Edward the Second and The Massacre at Paris,
with Doctor Faustus being performed first (1604) and The Jew of Malta last (1633).
What is not disputed is that he wrote only these four plays after Tamburlaine, from c. 1589 to 1592, and that they cemented his legacy and proved vastly influential.
The Jew of Malta
The Jew of Malta (fully The Famous Tragedy of the Rich Jew of Malta), with a prologue delivered by a character representing Machiavelli, depicts the Jew Barabas, the richest man on all the island of Malta. His wealth is seized, however, and he fights the government to regain it until his death at the hands of Maltese soldiers.
The play swirls with religious conflict, intrigue and revenge, and is considered to have been a major influence on Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. The title character, Barabas, is seen as the main inspiration for Shakespeare's Shylock character in Merchant. The play is also considered the first (successful) black comedy, or tragicomedy.
Barabas is a complex character who has provoked mixed reactions in audiences, and there has been extensive debate about the play's portrayal of Jews (as with Shakespeare's Merchant). Filled with unseemly characters, the play also ridicules oversexed Christian monks and nuns, and portrays a pair of greedy friars vying for Barabas' wealth. The Jew of Malta in this way is a fine example of what Marlowe's final four works are in part known for: controversial themes.
Edward the Second
The historical Edward the Second (fully The Troublesome Reign and Lamentable Death of Edward the Second, King of England, with the Tragical Fall of Proud Mortimer) is a play about the deposition of England's King Edward II by his barons and the queen, all of whom resent the undue influence the king's men have over his policies.
Edward the Second is a tragedy featuring a weak and flawed monarch, and it paved the way for Shakespeare's more mature histories, such as Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V.
It is the only Marlowe plays whose text can be reliably said to represent the author's manuscript, as all of Marlowe's other plays were heavily edited or simply transcribed from performances, and the original texts were lost to the ages.
The Massacre at Paris
The Massacre at Paris is a short and lurid work, the only extant text of which was likely a reconstruction from memory, or "reported text," of the original performance. Because of its origin, the play is approximately half the length of Edward the Second, The Jew of Malta and each part of Tamburlaine, and comprises mostly bloody action with little depth of characterization or quality verse. For these reasons, the play has been the most neglected of Marlowe's oeuvre.
Massacre portrays the events of the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572, in which French royalty and Catholic nobles instigated the murder and execution of thousands of protestant Huguenots.
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