Christopher Marlowe

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Plays by Christopher Marlowe

Doctor Faustus

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Doctor Faustus is a play about desire: for the best in life, for knowledge, power, material comfort, and influence. Faustus sells his soul to the devil hoping to learn the secrets of the universe, but is fobbed off with explanations which he knows to be inadequate. He is obsessed with fame, but his achievement as a devil-assisted celebrity magician is less substantial than it was previously as a scholar.

Marlowe's most famous play is a tragedy, but also extremely funny. It involves hideous representations of the Seven Deadly Sins, and of Helen of Troy, the world's most beautiful woman. With its fireworks and special effects, it was one of the most spectacular and popular on the Elizabethan stage. Yet, ever since Marlowe's death, it has been regularly rewritten. Its mix of fantastical story, slapstick, and raw human emotion still arouses conflicting interpretations, and presents us with endlessly fascinating problems.

This student edition is based on the earlier so-called A-text of the play, with the B-text scenes included in an appendix. It contains a lengthy Introduction with interpretation of the play in its historical and cultural context, stage history, discussion of the complex textual problems, and background on the author, date and sources.

video Doctor Faustus (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

Doctor Faustus is Christopher Marlowe's most renowned and controversial work. Famous for being the first dramatised version of the Faustus tale, the play depicts the sinister aftermath of Faustus's decision to sell his soul to the Devil's henchman in exchange for power and knowledge. Stage director: Matthew Dunster. Screen director: Ian Russell. Featuring: Charlotte Broom, Michael Camp, Nigel Cooke, Jonathan Cullen, Arthur Darvill, Robert Goodale, Paul Hilton, Sarita Piotrowski, Will Mannering, Pearce Quigley, Iris Roberts, Felix Scott, Chinna Wodu, Richard Clews, Jade Williams, Beatriz Romily.

video Doctor Faustus (Stage on Screen)

Stage on Screen
Type: Video

The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, to give it its full title, by Christopher Marlowe, was first published in 1604, at least twelve years after its first performance, although the basic story of the play is much older.
Having decided he has accumulated all he can of conventional knowledge, Doctor Faustus turns to magic in a quest for greater truths. Before long, he ends up selling his soul to the devil – the famous 'Faustian pact' that has entered everyday language. Dr Faustus gradually realises his terrible mistake. He apparently repents, but finally dies, the devil coming to collect his soul, and his friends the dismembered body.
A classic that never dates
Is Doctor Faustus a tragic hero or a terrible example? It's not clear. But with its themes of sin, Satanism, death, damnation and magic, the play naturally holds great appeal for modern students, as well as theatre lovers across the ages.
In addition, Dr Faustus is a good choice for anyone studying Shakespeare, as he and Marlowe were contemporaries. Both wrote for the same acting company and influenced each other's work. Certainly, as an Elizabethan tragedian, Marlowe is considered second only to the great man himself. Notoriously, there are even those who believe that Marlowe actually wrote Shakespeare's plays, his early death notwithstanding.
Director: Elizabeth Freestone.
Featuring: Joanna Christie, Amy Rockson, Harvey Virdi, Jonathan Battersby, Guy Burgess, Samuel Collings, Mark Extance, Gareth Kennerley, Adam Redmore, Tim Treloar, Conrad Westmaas

Edward II

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

When the courageous and impressive Edward I dies, his son, Edward II, is a disappointing successor. He prefers domestic tasks to waging wars, and he prefers men to women. However, Edward I’s death is good news for Piers Gaveston, who has been exiled and is now allowed to return to England under the young Edward’s wishes. The new King bestows extravagant favours upon Gaveston, including the protection of his life, while his sovereign duties are neglected. Not everyone is as smitten with Gaveston as the King, however, and the King’s nobles pressure Edward to banish the favourite to Ireland. It is Edward’s Queen, Isabella of France, who will only be satisfied with Gaveston’s murder.

Based on Holinshed’s Chronicles (1587) and set in early fourteenth century England, Marlowe’s play is a portrait of a flawed monarch, driven by his animal passions and by an overwhelming romantic obsession.

Copyright © 1997 A & C Black Publishers Limited

Tamburlaine the Great: Part One

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Tamburlaine is Marlowe’s seminal play: with the story of a complex and ruthless conqueror he created a magnificent theatrical architecture of power and ambition and proclaimed a new kind of verse.

From humble beginnings as a Scythian shepherd, Marlowe’s conquering hero rises, through his ferocity in war and the sheer force of his personality and imaginative ambition, to become Emperor of the Turks, King of Persia and Arabia and mighty sultan of vast tracts of what is now the Middle East. The play follows his ascent, his triumph and his destruction in two parts full of theatrical splendour and spectacular cruelty, and Marlowe’s ‘high-astounding’ as well as lyrical poetry.

Part one follows Tamburlaine from his origins as a shepherd under threat from the Persian emperor, through his defeat of that ruler, up to the peak of his powers, having consolidated his control, and expanded the reach, of the Perisan empire.

Tamburlaine was a major success in the theatres of the 1580s and 1590s. Marlowe’s blasphemous hero was a challenge to the orthodoxies of his culture, and whether the play constitutes a tragedy, a celebration or an ironically ambivalent study of the heroic is still a much debated question.

Tamburlaine The Great: Part Two

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Tamburlaine is Marlowe’s seminal play: with the story of a complex and ruthless conqueror he created a magnificent theatrical architecture of power and ambition and proclaimed a new kind of verse.

From humble beginnings as a Scythian shepherd, Marlowe’s conquering hero rises, through his ferocity in war and the sheer force of his personality and imaginative ambition, to become Emperor of the Turks, King of Persia and Arabia and mighty sultan of vast tracts of what is now the Middle East. The play follows his ascent, his triumph and his destruction in two parts full of theatrical splendour and spectacular cruelty, and Marlowe’s ‘high-astounding’ as well as lyrical poetry.

Part two sees Tamburlaine grow more vicious as his imperial power becomes permanent. Family members are dispensed with; rivals and local chieftains summarily murdered; even God is challenged. Tamburlaine dies unrepentant, telling his sons to continue to conquer the world in his memory.

Tamburlaine was a major success in the theatres of the 1580s and 1590s. Marlowe’s blasphemous hero was a challenge to the orthodoxies of his culture, and whether the play constitutes a tragedy, a celebration or an ironically ambivalent study of the heroic is still a much debated question.

Copyright © 1997 A & C Black Publishers Limited

Christopher Marlowe (1564-93) was an English playwright and poet, who through his establishment of blank verse as a medium for drama did much to free the Elizabethan theatre from the constraints of the medieval and Tudor dramatic tradition.

His first play Tamburlaine the Great, was performed that same year, probably by the Admiral's Men with Edward Alleyn in the lead. With its swaggering power-hungry title character and gorgeous verse the play proved to be enormously popular; Marlowe quickly wrote a second part, which may have been produced later that year.

Marlowe's most famous play, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, based on the medieval German legend of the scholar who sold his soul to the devil, was probably written and produced by 1590, although it was not published until 1604. Historically the play is important for utilizing the soliloquy as an aid to character analysis and development. The Jew of Malta (c. 1590) has another unscrupulous aspiring character at its centre in the Machiavellian Barabas. Edward II (c. 1592), which may have influenced Shakespeare's Richard II, was highly innovatory in its treatment of a historical character and formed an important break with the more simplistic chronicle plays that had preceded it.

Marlowe also wrote two lesser plays, Dido, Queen of Carthage (date unknown) and The Massacre at Paris (1593), based on contemporary events in France. Marlowe was killed in a London tavern in May 1593. Although Marlowe's writing career lasted for only six years, his four major plays make him easily the most important predecessor of Shakespeare.