Marlowe Christopher 15641593

Born in Canterbury in 1564, Christopher Marlowe was the son of a shoemaker. In January 1579, he was awarded a scholarship to the King's School in Canterbury. Near the end of 1580, he enrolled at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University, where he had received a scholarship intended for students who planned to become clergymen. He received his B.A. in July 1584 and his M.A. in July 1587. The award of the latter degree has left a tantalizing biographical mystery. The university was going to deny the M.A. to Marlowe because of a rumor that he was planning to enter the English seminary at Rheims (that is, convert to Roman Catholicism). However, the Privy Council intervened on Marlowe's behalf in June, writing that "he had done her majesty good service" and that his degree should not be hindered. Precisely what service Marlowe had provided is not known, though it is usually thought to have involved some kind of undercover work, perhaps as a courier or spy.

After graduation, Marlowe embarked on a literary career in London. Several of his works are commonly attributed to his years in Cambridge, though without hard evidence: All Ovid's Elegies; "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love"; and his tragedy Dido, Queen of Carthage. The first part of Tamburlaine the Great must have been written in Cambridge as well, since part 2 of the play was already being performed by fall 1587. Between 1588 and 1592, Marlowe authored four more plays: Doctor Faustus, The Jew of Malta, The Massacre at Paris, and Edward II. Their order and precise dating are uncertain. His poem "On the Death of Sir Roger Man-wood" was written sometime after Sir Roger's death in December 1592, with Hero and Leander and Marlowe's translation of Lucan's First Book probably following in 1593.

This brief career encompasses extraordinary accomplishment, influence, and innovation. Marlowe's much-imitated lyric "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" established the classical "invitation" poem in English literature, and his translations of Ovid's Amores and the first book of Lucan's Pharsalia are the first in English. All Ovid's Elegies revitalized the use of the heroic couplet in early modern England; and Tambur-laine, together with Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, made blank verse into the standard meter of English Renaissance drama. His Hero and Leander is the finest epyllion in English, approached only by William Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis. Marlowe and Shakespeare clearly imitated and learned from each other in their drama as well, and while Shakespeare's plays would soon transcend Marlowe's, Marlowe was the more prominent playwright at the time.

Marlowe's life in London was not simply the life of a sedate and scholarly writer. It is commonly assumed that he continued to perform at least occasional undercover services for the government. Records also exist of several violent or criminal acts in which he was involved. In 1589, he was involved in a swordfight with one William Bradley. The poet Thomas Watson intervened and killed Bradley. Marlowe was arrested and released; Watson pled self-defense and was pardoned. In 1592, Marlowe and Richard Baines were arrested in Flushing, the Netherlands, for counterfeiting. He was returned to England and apparently suffered no legal consequences. Baines later accused Marlowe of atheism and sodomy.

In 1593, Thomas Kyd, with whom Marlowe once roomed, was arrested and tortured on suspicion of authoring a libel against immigrants. A document found in Kyd's possession was deemed heretical, and he claimed that it belonged to Marlowe. Shortly thereafter, Marlowe was arrested by the Privy Council, who received additional reports of Marlowe's atheism, including the note from Baines. Released on his own cognizance, four days later, on May 30, Marlowe was killed in a tavern brawl at Eleanor Bull's house in Dept-ford, a suburb of London. Ingram Frizer stabbed Marlowe over the bill, and one of the greatest geniuses of English literature was dead at the age of 29.

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