MARLOWE: The Father of English Tragedy & the Creator of English Blank Verse
Marlowe’s Poetic Language • Inverted structure • Blank verse • Elaborate comparisons • Imagery • Rhetorical symmetry
Inverted Structure • “O what a cozening doctor was this!” (4.5.31). • “Learnèd Faustus, / To find the secrets of astronomy / Graven in the book of Jove’s high firmament, / Did mount him up to scale Olympus’ top: / Where, sitting in a chariot burning bright / Drawn by the strength of yokèd dragons’ necks / He views the clouds, the planets, and the stars. . . .” (3.Chorus.1-6).
Blank Verse • “Mephistophilis. Within the bowels of these elements / Where we are tortured and remain forever. / Hell hath not limits nor is circumscribed / In one self place, but where we are is hell, / And where hell is there we ever shall be” (2.2.125-29).
Elaborate comparisons “Hell strives with grace for conquest in my breast. / What shall I do to shun the snares of death?” (5.1.68-71).
Imagery • “My God, my God, look not so fierce on me. / Adders and serpents, let me breathe awhile. / Ugly hell, gape not, come not, Lucifer!” (5.2. 191-199).
Rhetorical symmetry • “Cut is the branch that might have grown fullstraight, / And burnèd is Apollo’s laurel bough, / That sometime grew within this learnèd man. / Faustus is gone. Regard his hellish fall, / Whose fiendful fortune may exhort the wise / Only to wonder at unlawful things, / Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits, / To practice more than heavenly power permits” (5.3.20-28).
Importance to Poetry • A. C. Swinburne, critic: Marlowe was “the father of English tragedy and the creator of English blank verse.” • Tamburlaine Prologue shows Marlowe’s contempt for stage verse of the period: “jygging vaines of riming mother wits” presented the “conceits [which] clownage keepes in pay.” • Dramatic poets of 16th c followed where Marlowe led
Multi-Dimensional Characters Is Faustus completely good or bad? Does Faustus change during the course of the play? Is Mephistophilis completely evil? Marlowe’s characters are much more fully developed than the characters in medieval plays.
Importance to Tragedy • Blank verse • Poetic language • Multi-dimensional protagonists • Humorous subplots that parallel larger themes • Episodic treatment of events
Epitaph for Marlowe “Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight, / And burnèd is Apollo’s laurel bough, / That sometime grew within this learnèd man” (5.3.20-22).
SourcesBarnet, Sylvan, ed. “Introduction.” Doctor Faustus. Christopher Marlowe. New York: Signet Books, 1969. vii-xix.Bevington, David. “General Introduction.” The Complete Works of Shakespeare. New York: HarperCollins, 1992. Rpt. in Doctor Faustus: Divine in Show. Ed. McAlindon, T. Twayne’s Masterworks Studies. New York: Twayne, 1994. 152-170.Duncan-Jones, Katherine. “Devil May Care.” New Statesman 131 (1996): 42-44.McAlindon, T. Doctor Faustus: Divine in Show. Twayne’s Masterworks Studies. New York: Twayne, 994. “The Sixteenth Century I1485-1603): Introduction.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 6th ed. Ed. M. H. Abrams. New York: W. W. Norton,1996. 253-273. Stenning, Rodney. “The ‘Burning Chair’ in the B-text of Doctor Faustus.” Notes and Queries 43 (1996): 144-145. Stumpf, Thomas A. “Images and Music.” Freshman Seminar: Visits to Hell. (2001). 29 Sept. 2004.<http://www.unc.edu/courses/2001fall/engl/006m/005/thumbnails.html.>Walton, Brenda. Lessons for Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. Orlando, FL: Network for Instructional TV, 1998. 12 Oct. 2004. <http://www.teachersfirst.com/lessons/marl.htm>.