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Christopher Marlowe Plays

Enigmatic and versatile, Christopher Marlowe was one of the most promising playwrights of the Elizabethan era. Born in the same year as William Shakespeare, Marlowe died very young and didn’t share the same limelight as his contemporaries.

Marlowe’s writings were much more liberated, quite in contrast to the restrained and conservative Tudor dramas. He wrote mainly in the blank verse and his plays were much more dramatic and at the same time poetic. It is believed that his works greatly influenced Shakespeare, one of the greatest poets of his time.

Marlowe’s literary career was cut short due to his untimely death at the age of 29. By this time Marlowe has written a total of 6 plays all of which were published. Several of his works were based on current events like the “The Massacre at Paris” and “Dido, Queen of Carthage”. Marlowe’s greatest works were “The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus” that earned him instant recognition.

Christopher Marlowe Works

Christopher Marlowe Plays

Tamburlaine the Great

Tamburlaine the Great was Marlowe’s first play and was published in 1590. The play is a gorgeous depiction of the rise to power of a shepherd Tamburlaine who belonged to a humble family.

The Scythian shepherd boy is so determined that nothing could stop him, and is even feared by Mycetes, the King of Persia. The play takes us into a journey of the eventful life of Tamburlaine and his several victories and conquests. In the end, Amyras, Tamburlaine’s son laments how he wishes he could achieve the greatness of his father.

The play gives a strong message of how a person is valued only by his actions and not by his birth. The epic play demonstrates how Tamburlaine turned the “Wheel of Fortune” into his side and defied fate several times.

In Tamburlaine, Marlowe asks his audience to focus more on victories and achievements and less on the trivial matters of life. The play was a huge success and greatly acknowledged by the Elizabethan society.

Tamburlaine the Great by Christopher Marlowe
Tamburlaine the Great by Christopher Marlowe

Dido, Queen of Carthage

The Tragedy of Dido, Queen of Carthage is based on the mythical character of the Queen of Carthage. The play consists of 5 acts and was written by Marlowe and partly by Thomas Nashe and was published in 1594.

Dido was a Phoenician princess who was in love with Trojan Prince Aeneas. Her real name was Elissa but was later named as Dido meaning the “wanderer”.

After the death of Phoenician King of Tyre, Dido’s brother Pygmalion kills her husband Sychaeus. The ghost of Sychaeus tells Dido how he was killed and about the whereabouts of a hidden treasure. Dido who was afraid for her own life founds the treasures and flees to the city of Carthage. There she exchanges her wealth with the locals of Carthage and offers her services. Soon, Dido becomes the Queen of Carthage.

Dido meets Aeneas and falls in love with him when struck by the arrow of Cupid. After a while, the Trojan Prince leaves Dido to follow his dreams and Dido is left devastated and commits suicide.

The historical story of Dido is engaging and at the same time intriguing and introduces us to many legendary Greek characters of mythology.

The Tragedy of Dido
The Tragedy of Dido

The Jew of Malta

The protagonist of the play is Barabas, a wealthy Jewish merchant of the island of Malta. Barabas is a shrewd businessman and to stay safe he must fight the Turkish government. In his act, he uses his daughter Abigail.

Even though, majority of the Maltese population are Christians they live under the shadow of the Turks and have to pay a huge ransom for their safety. The citizens of Malta have not paid their dues for years that has disappointed the Turkish Sultan Calymath.

Meanwhile, the Jews gather up in the Senate house. They are asked to convert to Christianity or else all their properties will be confiscated. Barabas refuses and Ferneze seizes his property and his houses are converted to a nunnery.

Clever Barabas plots a plan. He asks Abigail to pretend as if she wants to convert to Christianity. Here the story develops with the introduction of some really interesting characters like that of Bellamira, Mathias, Lodowick, and Pilia-Borza. In the end, Barabas dies and Ferneze frees Malta from Turkish invasion.

Marlowe has portrayed Barabas as an immensely complex character who is scheming and conspiring all the time and even would not leave his own daughter from his plot.

The play often referred to as black comedy is somewhat controversial and there is a lot of debate in the way that it portrays the Jews. Some of the characters are quite unfitting in comparison to how the Christian monks and nuns have been depicted in the story.

The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe
The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe

Edward II

Christopher Marlowe wrote this classic play in 1593 and is based on the life events of King Edward II of England.

The play is written in five acts and begins with young prince Edward II ascending the throne of England after his father’s death.

The tragic play unveils the early life of Edward and later when the weak prince was betrayed and deposed off by his own Queen, Isabella of France and her lover. The last act of the historical play ends with the merciless death of Edward II in the dungeon of Berkeley Castle.

Edward II again encapsulates the rise and fall of a tragic prince and his adversaries. In this play, Marlowe again emphasizes the fact that no one can evade the “Fortune’s Wheel”, not even the mighty king.

Edward The Second by Christopher Marlowe
Edward The Second by Christopher Marlowe

The Massacre at Paris

Christopher Marlowe’s Massacre at Paris is a historical play based on the massacre that took place in Paris on St Bartholomew’s Day in 1574.

The 16th century was a time of great turbulence and the entire nation of Europe was the victim of severe religious and political unrest especially France. There were reported incidents of hatred and extreme violence between the Catholics and the Huguenots or French Protestants. The incident of St Bartholomew’s Day was one of the most tragic events in history and Marlowe’s uses this story in his play.

The play begins with the marriage ceremony of Henry of Navarre who is a Huguenot noble to Margaret of Valois, sister of the Catholic King. The Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici is not happy with the marriage and despises Henry Navarre.

The Duke of Guise plots a murder plan and kills the Queen of Navarre and the admiral. The massacre spreads to the entire nation of France and Henry Navarre also raises his army of men to tackle the situation.

The play portrays how thousands of Huguenots were murdered mercilessly by the Catholics at the Queen’s order.

The Massacre at Paris
The Massacre at Paris

The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus

The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus is Marlowe’s greatest invention and is based on the life of a talented German scholar who trades his soul to the devil in exchange of more power and knowledge that mankind can know.

Doctor Faustus is incredibly successful and has learned everything that traditional knowledge books can provide. He wants more and decides to practise black magic. Under the guidance of his friends Valdes and Cornelius he summons the devil Mephostophilis, a servant of Lucifer.

Faustus signs an agreement with the devil whereby he sells his soul in return for 24 years of extensive magic and power despite warnings of the torments of the hell.

Time has passed and Faustus regrets his action. The Good and Evil angels appear. The Good angel asks Faustus to repent, but his mind is corrupted by Mephostophilis who promises him to show ‘Hell”. By now Faustus has explored all the wonders of Heaven and Earth and is waiting for his final day.

The 24 years have passed. As the final day comes, Faustus regrets his choices and begs for mercy to God. The Good angel abandons him and the gates of hell open. As the clock strikes eleven, Faustus is dragged to hell and is body is torn into pieces.

The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus-Christopher Marlowe
The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus-Christopher Marlowe

Check out some of Marlowe’s famous monologues

Famous Plays by Christopher Marlowe

Famous poems by Christopher Marlowe

The Inevitable Day Poem by Christopher Marlowe

Enter A Spy, The Double Life of Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe Famous Quotes

Christopher Marlowe Vs William Shakespeare Comparison

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