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CHARACTERISTICS OF MARLOWE AS A DRAMATIST Introduction:- The origins of drama have always and everywhere been deeply rooted in simple

piety and religious instinct. In England too, the cradle of the drama rested on the altar of the Church. In the very ritual of the Church, in the Mass itself and in the religious festivities, we find inherent seeds of occasions and themes for dramatic development. The clergy who were obliged to find some method of teaching and explaining to the ignorant and illiterate masses the doctrinal truths of religion, took advantage of the gospel stories which they illustrated by a series of living pictures, generally called pageants( carnivals/plays) or dumb-shows. These early church entertainments, which were spiritual and not secular, yielded place in course of time to humanistic development. In this second stage, the scope of the dramatic productions gradually extended in respect of subject-matter, accommodation and participants. The actors spoke as well as acted and Mysteries (stories taken from the Scriptures) and Miracle plays (dealing with incidents in the lives of saints and martyrs) became common. In the third stage, the serious and light elements which were interwoven in the earlier period were bifurcated and Moralities and Interludes supplanted(replaced) the Mysteries and Miracle Plays. The Moralities were didactic, abstract, serious, allegorical, whereas the Interludes were light entertainments, full of gaiety and humour. In the fourth stage of development which was reached by the middle of the 16th century, Tragedy and Comedy established themselves as definite and separate branches of drama. Gorboduc (1561) by Thomas Sackville and Thomas Norton has the distinction of being the first regular English Tragedy, while in the field of comedy the honour goes to Ralph Roister Doister (1541) by Nicholas Udall. Christopher Marlowe (15641593) 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. Marlowes 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. Marlowes contribution to English tragedy is very vital and manifold. He has rightly been called the Morning Star of the great Elizabethan drama. At the time that Marlowe unfurled(unfolded) the banner of his dramatic career, the theatrical repertory (theatre) consisted of tragedies on the model of Seneca, comedies like those of Plautus and Terence, historical plays, romances, court comedies and dramatized episodes of private life. English drama, thus, was in a somewhat chaotic condition, struggling between a well-formed chill and a structureless enthusiasm. The classicists had form, but no fire; the popular dramatists had interest, but little sense of form. J.A. Symonds observes: There was plenty of productive energy, plenty of enthusiasm and activity. Theatres continued to spring up and acting came to rank among the recognised professions. But this activity was still chaotic. It was at such a critical time that Marlowe arrived on the scene with his poetry and his passion, his intellectual vigour and his academical training. It was as though Marlowe was specially destined to save English drama from a perilous landslide by discerning in the existing chaotic and conflicting elements the real and vital seed of art, and set its flowering beyond all risks of accident by his singular and significant achievement. Although the tragedy of the age showed some innovation, yet most of the Senecan characteristicslong 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. Marlowes 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. It was left to Marlow to create the real tragic hero. Almost all the heroes of Marlowe Tamburlaine, Faustus or Jew of Maltaare 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 fullflooded 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. However, they perish by the forces beyond their control. The tragic flaw in their character brings about their tragic ends. Inner Conflict Another great achievement of Marlowe was to introduce the element of conflict, especially inner struggle in two of his great tragediesDoctor Faustus and Edward II. And this inner conflict reveals the real significance of character as the main-stay of a great tragedy. Marlowes Reform of Theme and Language Marlowes Tamburlaine Part I appeared on the stage with a haughty, almost insolent trumpet note of revolt both against the conventional theme of the dramatists and their language. He announced that he would break the conventions in two important directions: With the jigging veins of rhymesters are contrasted the Scythians high astounding terms, while his heroic exploits are similarly set off against the mere conceits of clownage. These bold reforms, in simple language, are in the direction of versification and subject-matter. He boldly adopted for use in the popular drama the blank verse, so long used by his contemporaries only for dramas on the classical model. He was the first to feel rightly that for adequate dramatic expression in serious subjects the vehicle of rhymed lines and stanzas was ridiculously inadequate. It is true that Marlowe could contribute almost nothing to the genuinely comic side of the drama, nor to the grace and loveliness of prose dialogue. He gave strength, force and vigour to the drama which once for all turned its career

for both greatness and stability. He lifted the drama into the sphere of high literature. The English stage in his time was in great need of intensity. Grace, sentiment, wit, fancy had been communicated to the English drama by various talents of the age, communicated with reckless and very often ridiculous excess; but the vigour, dash and animation which only can make a drama as a whole a living, pulsating expression of life were the gifts of Marlowe alone. The Gift of Stability and Direction Before the year 1587 in which Marlowes Tamburlaine Part I was put upon the stage and the young dramatist rose suddenly to giddy heights of fame and popularity, English drama was in a chaotic condition groping its way to a much-desired stability but pulled in different directions. There were the learned, scholarly playwrights writing for the Court, or the Inns of Court, or the Universities. These neo-classicists insisted on form, decorum and dignity even with artificiality and rigidity. On the other hand, there were popular playwrights holding to the native tradition of formlessness but giving much of vivacity and vigour to the presentation. Senecan models in tragedy and imitations of Terence and Plautus in comedy, both in the courtly dramas and those for the public stage, confused the issue. As medium of expression, rhymed lines and stanzas of various sorts still held their sway, though the first blank verse tragedy had been produced as early as 1562 and prose had occasionally been used in some comedies. The age, however, as Nicoll remarks, obviously wished for no trammels upon the theatre. Freedom, action, passion, the audiences desired, and these they found in the work of the romantic playwrights. And Marlowe, when he first appeared on the stage, he fulfilled this popular desire for freedom, action, passion. His successive dramas were wonderful, almost overwhelming, embodiments of the spirit of Renaissance. All the four plays from his pen were indeed exemplary of the tragic art in dramatic poetry. They were enough to give a permanence and stability to the drama. It was passion, vigour and poetry that the populace thirsted for and these were exactly the gifts that Marlowe brought to the drama. Gift of Poetry and Lyricism Marlowe was a born poet, the greatest poet and lyricist of the Renaissance before Shakespeare. Marlowe not only reformed the dramatic blank verseby infusing variety, vigour and spontaneous flow and cadencebut made it the aptest vehicle for the poetry of high passion and imagination. He breathed into the blank verse the animation and life-spirit of high lyricism. It has been truly remarked that all his heroes are essentially poets in their nature, for they are all reflections of Marlowes personality. Imbued with the Renaissance thirst for unlimitable power, infinite knowledge and unbounded ambition without any moral inhibition, Marlowe communicated his spirit to the heroes of his dramas. Tamburlaine speaks high poetry of unquenchable aspirations in the most melodious resounding verses; he gives clear utterance in poetry to Marlowes love of the impossible. So also Barabas in The Jew of Malta speaks in high poetry of his ambition for boundless wealth not for power which wealth brings but for the joy of the greediness in wealth. Faustus is shaped in a similar mould: With him the passion takes the form of a desire to conquer the secret of nature but his words have the glow of enthusiastic rapture. Even Mortimer in Edward II and Edward himself are poets, given as they are the dreams of the endless joy of living a life of ease, splendour and power. Marlowe is not only a poet but a poet of passion. Tamburlaines raptures over the beauty of his wife Zenocrate at her dying moments, Faustuss rhapsody over Helens beauty, Edwards p assionately pathetic self-pity-all these gave to the English dramatic verse the passion and emotion which go with high poetry. In this connection, Schellings remark is worth quoting: Marlowe gave the drama passion and poetry; and poetry was his most precious gift. Shakespeare would have never been Shakespeare had Marlowe never written or lived. He might not have been altogether the Shakespeare we know. Marlowes 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. Of all Marlowes 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. 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. Gift of Individuality: Machiavellian Ideal Marlowe had not indeed the dramatic capacity of presenting a character by the portrayal of its development through clash and conflict. It may be said with reasonable justification that each of his four great dramas centres round a single character of the superbly heroic type and it is not all mobile. It is ready-made from the beginning and ends as it began. The whole theme only illustrates the ready-made character. This is certainly a defect in a master dramatist. However, in the case of Marlowe as a pioneer in that age of experiment it is a credit that he gave a superb individuality to his characters,the heroes of his tragedies. In fact, Marlowe was too much under the influence of the Renaissance conception of greatness as taught by great Machiavelli. A. Nicoll explains: We may note the influence of Machiavelli..Most heard of him by report, and took him as a symbol of all that was atheistical, immoral and corrupt. His Prince is merely a summing up of regular Renaissance ideals of conduct; it is the culmination of that individualism which marks off the newly awakened Europe from the anonymity and communal ideals of the Middle Ages. So Marlowe presents his heroes, Tamburlaine, Dr. Faustus and Barabas, over-riding the ordinary moral codes of their times in order to find the complete realisation of their particular ideals; in the Jew of Malta he brings Machiavelli forward in person to speak the prologue to his tragedy. One important result of this insistence upon virtue must be noted. Call it what we please, virtue, ambition, will, tends to overlook class, and accordingly the dramas of Marlowe break away slightly from the more ancient medieval plan. For the Middle Ages tragedy was a thing of princes only; for Marlowe it was a thing of individual heroes. Thus his Tamburlaine, King though he may be by the end of the drama, is born a peasant. The Jew is but a Mediterranean money-lender, and Faustus an ordinary German doctor and an alchemist. The medieval conception of the royalty of tragedy is here supplanted by the Renaissance ideal of individual worth. It is the union of the two which gives us the majesty of Macbeth and Lear. This is one of Marlowes most outstanding contributions to the development of a truly august type of English tragedy. His main conception of serious dramaRenaissance virtue battling on to success and then falling unconquered before fateis at the root of all the great seventeenth century tragic activity;

only Shakespeare made his figures more human and stressed more on the fatal flaw in the greatness of their characters. Marlowes Gift to the Historical Drama Edward II coming last in the series of Marlowes major dramatic productions marks a development in several aspects. It is the best of the English chronicle plays of the time. Though there is a wide gap between it and even the immature chronicle plays of Shakespeare like Richard III and Richard II, yet it marks a development in Marlowes power of characterization. The central character of the unfortunate King is not very attractive but is so portrayed that the pathos of his end is calculated to draw the sympathy of the audience. The subordinate characters are sketched with some individualities and there is an attempt, not unsuccessful, of evolving something like a plot. Edward II, in the matter of plot and construction, stands on a different level from any of the authors previous works. Instead of being a collection of unconnected episodes, or the tantalisingly imperfect fulfilment of a great design, it is a complex and organic whole, working up by natural stages to a singularly powerful climax. Marlowe: The Poet of Passion Marlowe is undoubtedly the poet of passion par excellence. It is passion that heaves in his poetry at every turn. Yet it has other striking characteristics too, especially three marked onespictorial quality, ecstatic quality and vitalising energy. The pictorial richness of Marlowes poetry reminds us of the intense and quivering colour effects that we come across in the poetry of Keats. As Frederick Boas observes: Never again, till the coming of Keats, did the sensuous imagination that glories in the lust of the eye and the pride of life speak in tones so full and rich. The ecstatic quality is well exemplified in Faustuss apostrophe Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss; The ecstatic quality of Marlowes poetry reveals his easily excitable moods which are moved to exuberant expression by certain appeals to the imagination such as the appeal to beauty. Marlowe, the wistful visionary that always followed the trail of adventure in life as well as in literature, lived in a self-wrought world of beauty and wonder. The vitalising energy of Marlowes poetry is evident in all his four great tragediesTamburlaine, Dr. Faustus. The Jew of Malta and Edward II. It is this pervading energy that redeems these plays from many an absurdity and endows them with compelling beauty and elevating power. Not satisfied with vague descriptions, Marlowe often actualises his themeas in the pageant of the Seven Deadly Sins in Dr. Faustus. Such a thing is native to Marlowes genius and is the out flowing of a virile and vital imagination. It is this vitalising energy that imparts to the young poets eloquence a vibrant music that compels the readers admiration. High Seriousness / Absence Of Female Characters Another notable characteristic of Marlowes 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. Plot Construction As for as plot construction is concerned all Marlows 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). 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. Conclusion:- Marlowe saw clearly enough that the Romantic drama was suited to the needs of the nation, and that therefore no other form of drama could express so well its abundant, concrete life. He also saw that for the Romantic drama to be a thing of beauty as well as a force, the medium of blank verse must be chosen. He initiated change in: Subject matter, Character, Blank Verse, and Unity to the drama He raised the subject matter of the drama to a higher level. He provided big heroic subjects that appealed to the imagination. Tamburlaine a world conqueror; Faust in pursuit of universal knowledge; Barabas with fabulous dreams of wealth; Edward II with his mingling nobility and worthless sounding that heights and depths of human nature. His subjects were: the insatiable spirit of adventure; the master passions of love and hate; ideals of beauty; the greatness and littleness of human life. He gave life and reality to his characters. They were no longer puppets pulled by a string; but living and breathing realities. One can feel the fierce exaltation of the conqueror, Tamburlaine; the vibrant passion and rapturous longing of Faustus; the fierce selfishness of his Barabas. He took the blank verse of the classical school, hard and unflinching as a rock, and struck it with his rod till the waters of human emotion gushed forth. The old rhyming lines of Romantic drama he put aside; blank verse had little grip, when he took it in hand, but he fathomed its immense possibilities, and saw how it could be made the expression of the finest wit or the most delicate fancy. He gave a unity to the drama, hitherto lacking. Plays before had been formless: a succession of isolated scenes often with no proper connecting link. And although, compared with Shakespeare, the work of Marlowe seems often turgid and unwieldy, yet it shows quite sufficient promise to show us the extent of Shakespeares indebtedness. He glorified the matter of the drama by his sweep of imagination. He vitalized the manner and matter of the drama by his energizing power. He refined verse form and made it suitable for English stage. He gave coherence to the drama. Marlowes work has three marked characteristics: Its pictorial quality, Its ecstatic quality and Its vitalizing energy. Marlowe has been called the father of English Dramatic Poetry; just as Defoe is termed as the Father of English Fiction, and Chaucer the Father of English Narrative Poetry. Marlowe with his instinct for selecting those scenes that best impress the imagination and those similes that strike home most effectively made of the drama a thing of beauty. The pictorial quality is no mere visualizing of a dreamers fancy; it shows the inspiration of that spirit of adventure which was in the air. Ecstatic Quality This is well exemplified in the speech

of Faustus: Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss. It is indeed fire that burns through his verse and gives it glow and radiance, mellowing the harsh crudities and coarse outlines. His discarding the classical convention for the romantic is the culminating proof of his original and artistic instinct. He saw clearly that his vitalising energy was better suited to Romantic drama. This vitalising energy redeemed the Tamburlaine from absurdity, and gave a beauty and lifting power to the Faust legend. He is not content with vague description, but actualizes his subject as in the pageant of the Seven Deadly Sins in Faustus. Many a medieval poet had sung of them, Marlowe gives them life and reality. A cursory examination of Marlowes work might incline the reader to think that his nature was highly passionate. Of Passion, however, in the primal, full-blooded sense of the word, there is really little in Marlowes writings. He is rather excitable and ecstatic, moved to exuberant expression by certain appeals to the imagination, such as the appeal of beauty; but not profoundly emotional as were Shakespeare, or Beaumont and Fletcher, or Webster. He never suggests the man of the world, the student of human nature; always the wistful visionary; living in a world of his own, a world of beauty and wonder.