Christopher Marlowe as a poet

NEERAJ BHATT By NEERAJ BHATT, 27th Nov 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Books>Poetry, Drama & Criticism

Christopher Marlowe was not only a celebrated poet and a dramatist but also a famous freethinker of his time-whose death was described by the then moralists as the fitting end to a scandalous life.

Christopher Marlowe as a poet

Christopher Marlowe (1564 -1593) is the first great English poet and creator of English Blank verse. “His work was cast by accident and caprice into an imperfect mould of drama.”His plays, in reality, are-
Poetry and heroes are poets. His rude Tamburlaine is essentially a poet. Dr. Faustus ,too,is highly poetic in the expression of his love for beauty :
“Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?”
But Edward the Second lacks those beautiful touches of poetic fervor which we find in his earlier tragedies like Tamburlaine and Dr. Faustus .Yet we do not find it utterly devoid of that gift altogether. There is nothing prosy and common-place in it. It still attracts our admiration. His poetry is typically renaissance in tone and character. It has graceful diction, charming metre, beautiful similes and allusions taken from classical literature. We find in it an uncontrollable passion for an idea, the scorn for worldly conditions, a soaring passion seeking to scale the infinitude
of power, beauty, thought and love.
He is pre-eminently a poet of passion. His heroes are men capable of great passions, consumed by their desires, and given to the pursuit of their lusts. Edward the Second is given to sensual pleasure, He is infatuated with Gaveston and cares not for his kingdom and his wife Isabella gives vent to his passion for Gaveston in a highly poetic manner :
“The king regards me not ,
But dotes upon the love of Gaveston,
He claps his cheeks and hangs about his neck
Smiles in his face and whispers in his ears.”

Whenever the emotion is highly strung, it at once reaches a lyrical height in expression. Nobody can say that the speeches particularly of Edward the second and Isabella are not sufficiently poetic.When the king is forced by the Archbishop of Canterbury to sign the orders of Gaveston’s banishment, he goes mad with rage and swears destruction on the church of Rome :
“Why should a king be subject to a priest ?
Proud Rome ,that hatchest such imperial grooms
I will fire thy crazed buildings and enforce
The Papal towers to kiss the lowly ground.”

When the king is in passion, whether of sorrow or anger, he bursts fourth in the exuberance of poetic speech.The following lines give vent to his sorrow for Gaveston :
“My heart is in anvil unto sorrow
Which beats upon it like the Cyclop’s hammers.
And makes me frantic for my Gaveston.

When the king receives the news of Gaveston’s death in the hands of Warwick,Edward rises the most dizzy heights of poetry in the expression of his royal wrath, sorrow and desperation in the following lines :
“By earth, the common mother of all,
By heaven and all the moving orbs thereof
I will have heads and lives for him, as many
As I have mansions,castles,towns and towers.”

King Edward’s abdication and death make a lasting impression on our hearts and minds and his memorable lines become a part and parcel of our memory. They so appeal to our sympathies that our hearts and minds and his memorable lines become a part and parcel of our memory. They so appeal to our sympathies that our hearts run out to the king in his sorrow and dejection :
“The griefs of private men are soon allayed,
But not of kings. The forest dear, being struck,
Runs to an herb that closet up the wounds,
But, when the imperial lion’s flesh is gored,
He rends and tears with his wrathful paw.”

Edward becomes far more poetic in his expression when the moment for the surrender of his crown arrives:
“Ah, Leicester, weigh how hardly I can brook
To lose my crown and kingdom without cause,
To give ambitious Mortimer my right……………”
But soon he submits to his destiny :
“But what the heavens appoint, I must obey!
Here take my crown, the life of Edward, too.

In the murder- scene, a superb climax is reached. The unhappy king has been made to stand in knee-deep mire and puddle without sleep and food; he remembers his past days of love and glory:
“Tell Isabella! The queen, I looked not thus,
When for her sake I ran at tilt in France,"

The horror of the scene goes on increasing and the king is murdered at last. Charles Lamb has remarked with regard to the death-scene in Edward the second, “the death-scene of Marlowe’s king moves pity and terror beyond any scene, ancient or modern, with which I am acquainted.”
We find echoes of the voice of Tamburlaine in the proud utterances of young Mortimer who rises to some height of triumph:
“The prince I rule, the queen do I command
The proudest lords salute me as I pass,
I seal, I conceal, I do what I will.”

But soon he falls down and curses his fate in a highly poetic manner.
“Base fortune, now I see, that in thy wheel
There is a point, to which when men aspire
They tumble headlong down………………..
That point I touched.”

On the whole, it may be said that Marlowe was the father of English dramatic poetry in the sense in which Chaucer was the father of English narrative poetry. His greatest gift to Elizabethan drama –was poetry of passion. He has given vent to all human passions for love, beauty, hatred and remorse in a highly poetic manner, in his plays.


Beauty, Classical, Infatuated, Infatuation, Love, Lust, Neeraj Bhatt, Passion, Towers, Town

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author avatar NEERAJ BHATT
Reading poetry is my passion.

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author avatar Buzz
27th Nov 2011 (#)

Neeraj, my friend, I'm so thankful you've been giving us glimpses of poets and their poems here. Very great read indeed.

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author avatar NEERAJ BHATT
27th Nov 2011 (#)

Thank you,my dear friend,Buzz.

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author avatar M G Singh
28th Nov 2011 (#)

Another excellent write up. Enjoyed it

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author avatar NEERAJ BHATT
29th Nov 2011 (#)

Thank you,sir,

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author avatar Ivyevelyn, R.S.A.
28th Nov 2011 (#)

I recognized the name "Christopher Marlowe", then went to look up about him and forgot to come back. I am still not to sure about him and his work, although I should be, I'm sure. Thanks for writing about him.

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author avatar NEERAJ BHATT
29th Nov 2011 (#)

Thank you,Evy.

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author avatar deepa venkitesh
29th Nov 2011 (#)

thank you for yet another interesting read

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author avatar NEERAJ BHATT
29th Nov 2011 (#)

Thank you ,deepa.

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author avatar Songbird B
28th Dec 2011 (#)

Fascinating and very enjoyable insight Neeraj.

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