Who is Christopher Marlowe?

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  • Written By: A Kaminsky
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  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2019
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Christopher Marlowe was an English playwright and a contemporary of William Shakespeare. Born 6 February 1564 in Canterbury, he was raised in the merchant class and had access to at least a decent education. He graduated from Benet College in 1571 and in the 1580s he joined the Lord Admiral's Company of Players in London.

Marlowe had four great theatrical works: Tamburlaine the Great, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, The Jew of Malta and Edward the Second. Certainly he had other works, but these were his most well known, and the ones still performed. Of these, Faustus is probably the best known, and the one that had the greatest impact on popular culture. Marlowe was also a poet of renown in his day and many literary experts say his work had a direct influence on Shakespeare's plays. In all likelihood, he had little formal training in writing, which makes his literary achievements all the more notable.


Christopher Marlowe was notorious in his own time for his unorthodox religious beliefs, and some sources say he was openly homosexual, but this many centuries later, it is difficult to know exactly where the truth lies. Contemporaries and other sources note he "partied hard," to use an anachronism. Some said he was an atheist, but that also is up for debate. He did have popular friends at Queen Elizabeth I's court, including Sir Walter Raleigh, who may have been one of his patrons.

Marlowe died in May 1593, in Deptford. Contemporary scholars theorize he was probably killed during a barroom brawl, and this is certainly not out of the realm of possibility, considering how few actual facts are known about his life. He was buried in the churchyard of St. Nicholas in Deptford, and some while later, outrageous stories about the circumstances of his death were circulated, including one that he was stabbed to death in a fight over a man. His colorful life was even used as a solemn warning to others in "The Theatre of God's Judgments" by Puritan author Thomas Beard.

Much of what Marlowe achieved was overshadowed by what Shakespeare was doing at the same time. His work has largely been appreciated long after his death, rather than during his short life.


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