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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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In London, agitators seized on its theme to advocate the murders of refugees, an event that the play eerily warns the queen of in its last scene. Interestingly, the warning comes from a character referred to as "English Agent," a character who has been thought to be Marlowe himself, representing his work with the queen's secret service.
Marlowe's most famous play is The Tragicall History of Doctor Faustus, but, as is the case with most of his plays,
it has survived only in a corrupt form, and when Marlowe actually wrote it has been a topic of debate.
Based on the German Faustbuch, Doctor Faustus is acknowledged as the first dramatized version of the Faust legend, in which a man sells his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge and power. While versions of story began appearing as early as the 4th century, Marlowe deviates significantly by having his hero unable to repent and have his contract annulled at the end of the play. He is warned to do so throughout by yet another Marlowe variation of the retelling--a Good Angel--but Faustus ignores the angel's advice continually.
In the end, Faustus finally seems to repent for his deeds, but it is either too late or just simply irrelevant, as Mephistopheles collects his soul, and it is clear that Faustus exits to hell with him.
The constant rumors of Christopher Marlowe's atheism finally caught up with him on Sunday May 20, 1593, and he was arrested for just that "crime." Atheism, or heresy, was a serious offense, for which the penalty was burning at the stake. Despite the gravity of the charge, however, he was not jailed or tortured but was released on the condition that he report daily to an officer of the court.
On May 30, however, Marlowe was killed by Ingram Frizer. Frizer was with Nicholas Skeres and Robert Poley, and all three men were tied to one or other of the Walsinghams--either Sir Francis Walsingham (the man who evidently recruited Marlowe himself into secret service on behalf of the queen) or a relative also in the spy business. Allegedly, after spending the day together with Marlowe in a lodging house, a fight broke out between Marlowe and Frizer over the bill, and Marlowe was stabbed in the forehead and killed.
Conspiracy theories have abounded since, with Marlowe's atheism and alleged spy activities at the heart of the murder plots, but the real reason for Marlowe's death is still debated.
What is not debated is Marlowe's literary importance, as he is Shakespeare's most important predecessor and is second only to Shakespeare himself in the realm of Elizabethan tragic drama.
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