Lecture 11: Marlowe and Jonson


Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) & Ben Jonson (1572-1637)

– Marlowe and Jonson are two other great playwrights
– Marlowe is said to have died in a violent fight in a pub.
– At 29, he was the most famous of his dramatist generation.
– Unlike Shakespeare, he had a university education (University Wits).
– Marlowe’s plays are different from Shakespeare’s in style and content.
– His tragedies have superhuman heroes who stretch the limits of human life.
– Marlowe’s language is more classically based than Shakespeare’s.
– Shakespeare’s kings speak like kings, women, speak like women, fools speak like fools…etc
– His characters use a more poetic style, regardless of their position.
“Dr. Faustus”
– Dr Faustus is Marlowe’s best-known hero.
– He sells his soul to the devil in exchange for all knowledge and power.
– The play shows a series of Faustus ambitions, but in the end he has no time.
– When the devil returns to claim the soul he has bought, Faustus tries to keep death away.
O Soul, be changed into little water-drops,
And fall into the ocean, ne’er be found!
Ugly hell, gape not! Come not, Lucifer!
I’ll burn my books.

– Faustus does not speak to the audience; he speaks to his soul, to hell, and ot the devil himself.

“The Jew of Malta”
– Barabas in “The Jew of Malta” is depicted even greedier than Shakespeare’s Shylock.
– Barabas has one of the first black servant, Ithamore, in English Drama.
– And the play represents Machiavelli on the English stage for the first time.
– Marlowe’s theme was always power such as Tamburlaine who conquers the whole world.
– Marlowe stretches drama further in subject matter and dramatic performance.

Ben Jonson

• Ben Jonson was influenced by classical writers.
• His tragedies were not so successful as his comedies.
• Many of his early plays caused controversy for their political relevance.
• He was put in jail more than once.
• “Every Man in his Humour” (1598) and “Every Man out of his Humour” (1599). ‘Humour’ here means “emotion”.
• Characters are guided by jealousy or moral concern or false bravery.
• Two of Jonson’s best comedies are “Volpone” (1606) and “The Alchemist” (1610) during the reign of King James I.

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