Christopher Marlowe as a Dramatist


Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593) was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. Marlowe was the foremost Elizabethan tragedian of his day who belonged to the group of university-educated practitioners of literature known collectively as the ‘University Wits’. He greatly influenced William Shakespeare, who was born in the same year as Marlowe and who rose to become the pre-eminent Elizabethan playwright after Marlowe’s mysterious early death.

He is famous for his dramas-Tamburlaine, Doctor Faustus, Jew of Malta and Edward II.

Marlowe’s tragedy is significant due to its newness, renaissance influence, Machiavellian morality, powerful and passionate expressions, element of tragic inner conflict, overreaching protagonists, popular literary style, high seriousness, bombastic language and blank verse. Swinburne remarks: ‘Before him, there was neither genuine blank verse nor genuine tragedy in our language. After his arrival the way was prepared and the paths were made straight for Shakespeare.’

               

Marlowe’s contribution to English tragedy is very vital and manifold. He has rightly been called the ‘Morning Star’ of the great Elizabethan drama. Following are the salient features of his tragedies.


          Tragedy Before Marlowe


It was in the fifteenth century that tragedy came into English dramatic field. And this was due to the influence of the Revival of Learning and the translation of great Italian tragedies of Seneca. And the first English tragedy was Gorboduc by Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville. In the style and treatment of theme Seneca was very much their model. Although this tragedy showed some innovation, yet most of the Senecan characteristics—long sententious speeches, lack of action, talkative ghosts and horrible scenes of murder were very much there. The credit goes to Marlow to free the Elizabethan drama from the worst features of the Senecan tragedy. We can discuss various characteristics of his tragedy to point out how he formulated the English drama, specially the tragedy which was improved upon and perfected by a genius like Shakespeare.

Marlowe’s Tragic Heroes

Marlowe put forward a new kind of tragic hero. The medieval concept of tragedy was the fall of a great man, kings or royal personalities. But it was left to Marlow to create the real tragic hero. Almost all the heroes of Marlowe—Tamburlaine, Faustus or Jew of Malta—are of humble parentage, but they are endowed with great heroic qualities and they are really great men.

His tragedy is, in fact, the tragedy of the hero. All other characters of Marlovian drama look insignificant besides the towering personality of the tragic hero.

Tragic Flaw In His Heroes

       

Marlowe revived the Aristotelian conception of tragic hero in so far as he introduced a certain flaw or flaws in his character. His heroes are men fired with indomitable passion and inordinate ambition. His Tamburlaine is in full-flooded pursuit of military and political power, his Faustus sells his soul to the devil to attain ultimate power through knowledge and his Jew of Malta discards all human values in order to gain maximum wealth. But they perish by the forces beyond their control.

Inner Conflict

Another great achievement of Marlowe was to introduce the element of conflict, especially inner struggle in two of his great tragedies—Doctor Faustusand Edward II. And this inner conflict reveals the real significance of character as the main-stay of a great tragedy.

  

High Seriousness / Absence Of Female Characters

Another notable characteristic of Marlowe’s tragedies is its high seriousness and hence there is complete lack of humour. According to many a critic, the scenes of clownishness in Doctor Faustus are nothing but later interpolations. His often neglects female characters.

Poetic Excellence / Blank Verse

Marlowe’s poetic excellence was highly appreciated even by his contemporaries. Swinburne pays his tribute: ‘The first great English poet was the father of English tragedy and the creator of English blank verse.’

            All of Marlowe’s heroes, Faustus is the most poetic, as he is a prototype of Marlow himself with his passionate love of beauty and yearning for sensuous pleasures.

                   Was this the face that launched a thousand ships,

                        And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?

                        Sweet Helen make me immortal with a kiss.

            A new spirit of poetry was breathed into the artificial and monotonous verse of old plays. He made blank verse a great dramatic medium acknowledged by all his successors as the metre indispensable for any serious drama.

Plot Construction

As for as plot construction is concerned all Marlow’s great plays, with the exception of Edward II to some extent, suffer from great technical defects. There are no sub plots in his dramas.

Influence On Shakespeare

Shakespeare was heavily influenced by Marlowe in his work, as can be seen in the re-using of Marlovian themes in Antony and Cleopatra, The Merchant of Venice, Richard II, and Macbeth (Dido, Jew of Malta, Edward II and Dr. Faustus respectively). In Hamlet, after meeting with the travelling actors, Hamlet requests the Player perform a speech about the Trojan War, which at has an echo of Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage. In ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost Shakespeare brings on a character “Marcade” in conscious acknowledgement of Marlowe’s character “Mercury”, in ‘The Massacre at Paris’.

We may conclude by the illuminating remarks of Schelling:

‘Marlowe gave the drama passion and poetry and poetry was his most precious gift. Shakespeare would not have been Shakespeare had Marlowe never written or lived. He might not have been altogether the Shakespeare we know.’

Major Themes of the Novel “A Tale of Two Cities” Resurrection and Renunciation

  • Major Themes of the Novel “A Tale of Two Cities” Resurrection and Renunciation:                  

A TALE OF TWO CITIES is rich in meaning and significance because it deals with several themes all of which have been skillfully coordinated and integrated with another. Some of these themes are obvious and others are less obvious and need careful examination. Dickens shows grand objectivity of historical events, but also shows personal projection in the novel.

      However, A TALE OF TWO CITIES is a highly impersonal work with multiplicity of themes.  Resurrection is indeed the central theme of A TALE OF TWO CITIES. Resurrection here takes a variety of forms, and almost at every stage, we witness some manifestation of it. Resurrection has, of course, a religious connotation and generally calls up the image of Jesus Christ rising from his grave on the third day of his Crucifixion. But here resurrection requires a secular meaning. In addition to its religious meaning. Related to this is the theme of renunciation. Dickens makes use these twin themes in a very elaborate manner. Dickens derived both of these themes from Wilkie Collin’s play, The Frozen Deep in the performances of which Dickens himself had taken part as an actor.

          The resurrection of Dr Manette: 

                            First Resurrection: The theme of resurrection is introduced at the very beginning when Mr. Lorry, who is traveling by the mail-coach top Dover, sends a message to Tellison’s Bank through the messenger, Jerry Cruncher. The words of Mr. Lorry‘s message are “Recalled to Life”. (Give summary of Dr. Manette’s story) Mr. Lorry begins to feel drowsy and it seems to him that he is going to Paris in order to dig out a dead man from the grave where he had been long buried. When Lorry meets Dr. Manette, it is truly a resurrection or rebirth after death for Dr. Manette.   Second Resurrection: Normal life and living with his daughter, starting his medical practice and his giving up the habit of shoe-making and the return of sanity is his second resurrection.

        Charles Darnay’s Resurrection: Give Darnay’s account of Old Bailey where Dr. Manette, Lucie and Carton are present and Darnay is resurrected because of Sydney Carton from a serious crime of treason against England. Darnay’s second resurrection: When he is caught in Paris and is prisoned for fifteen months at La Force and is resurrected by the influence of Dr. Manette. (Give account of case and the prevailing condition of Paris after the revolution). Darnay’s third resurrection: which is the most important. Dr. Manette’s written paper discovered from his cell is read out in the court and Darnay is sentenced to death, but his death is replaced by Sydney Carton, a kind fellow. (Give an account his story at the prison). This is his third resurrection. This time he has almost been taken out of his grave.

        The Resurrection of Carton: Though Carton dies, but he achieves a resurrection in two senses: Firstly, his death constitutes a spiritual resurrection for him. By this sacrificial death, Carton who has been leading a life of profligacy, is morally regenerated. This moral regeneration or redemption is a kind of resurrection for him. Secondly, when Carton conceives his bold plan to save Darnay’s life, the words of the Christian Burial Service are  echo in his ears, “I am the Resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me though he were dead yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” Carton had heard these words at the time of his father’s funeral, and these words now come to him as a promise that the man who believes in Lord Jesus Christ never dies. These words echo in his ears when he is actually going to be executed. Thus, Carton dies, feeling sure that he will find himself alive in another world. Carton dies with the certainty of resurrection.

The Grotesque resurrection of Cly: There are comic and serious resurrections. Resurrection in this novel assumes some comic and grotesque forms also. Roger Cly, a spy, is believed to have died and been buried in the graveyard of Saint Pancras’s Church, but later we find him alive in Paris at his old occupation of spying. So a man who was thought to be dead, came to life is also a kind of comic resurrection. His normal funeral ceremonies were performed and he was buried to avoid the wrath of certain person who had become hostile to him in London.

       The comic resurrection of Solomon (Barsad): Another comic example of resurrection is Barsad – Miss Pross’ brother whom she had almost given up as dead, but he appears in Paris. Miss Pross unexpectedly sees him and is astonished, though he feels greatly embarrassed to be recognized by her.

         Jerry Cruncher – A Resurrection Man:   Another example of the grotesque type of resurrection is to be found in the nefarious business which Jerry Cruncher is pursuing in order to supplement his  income. He and his associates dig out newly-buried coffins from their graves and take out the dead bodies in order to sell them to a surgeon for medical purposes. Young Jerry has espied his father at this kind of work and he too aspires to become “A resurrection man.”

Resurrection in the sense of Political and Social regeneration:Finally, resurrection, for the purpose of this novel, may also be taken to mean political and social regeneration. The French People having been oppressed and exploited for centuries have been clamoring for a new political and social order without any success. Ultimately they rise in revolt against the established authority and try to being about sweeping reforms. Of course, their action involves unheard-of-criminal acts. The moral of the French Revolution, according to Dickens is that the upper classes everywhere should take a warning from what happened in France and should mend their ways in order to see that the poor are contented and happy.

 Renunciation as a theme:

The other theme, lessprominent but more valuable, is renunciation. It  is through a renunciation of his claim to the family estate and the family title that Charles Darnay attains a heroic stature in our eyes. When Charles Darnay was still a child, his mother had imposed a duty on him and he had bravely promised to keep faith with her. On growing up, he decides to giveup his claim to the family inheritance because he realizes that the family to which he belongs had done many wrongs to the poor people. To him the family inheritance signifies, “a crumbling tower of waste”. This act of his shows his generous heart, a spirit of self-sacrifice indicative of his humanitarian instincts.

          Social injustice, violence, bloodshed and imprisonment as themes of the novel: Among the various themes of this novel is the social injustice. This theme is related of course, to the French Revolution which was largely a result of those oppressive classes. The first glimpse of social injustice is given in the chapter called the Wine-Shop. When the wine from the broken cask is spilled on the ground symbolize bloodshed in the streets of Paris and the hunger and poverty of the people who rush to drink it. The incident of the child being run over by Marquis’s carriage. He scolds the people for not caring about their children and spins a coin for the bereaved father as if for the compensation of the death of the child. The most shocking example of social injustice is the prolonged imprisonment of Dr. Manette has recorded the circumstances under which he was made a prisoner is hair-raising.  A TALE OF TWO CITIES is deeply colored by Dickens’ early experiences in life and by what was happening to his emotional life when he started writing this novel. Early in his life, he had been a miserable witness to the imprisonment of his father which had left an unforgettable impression upon his mind. Prison and Imprisonment are two themes always present in various novels of Charles Dickens. Almost everybody in A TALE OF TWO CITIES is in prison.

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