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matriculated as a pensioner in Corpus Christi
College, Cambridge, and graduated as B.A. in
1583, and M.A. in 1587. His earliest play,
Tamburlaine, was licensed on the 14th of August,
1 590, and published in the same year. Of the early
years of his life we have no certain knowledge.
It has been suggested that on leaving the
university he joined a company of players, and
also that he saw some military service in the
Low Countries. But there is no contemporary
evidence in support of either suggestion. In a
book entitled The Theatre of God's 'Judgments,
published in 1597, four years after the death of
Marlowe, he is described as ' by profession a
scholler, brought up from his youth in the uni-
versitie of Cambridge, but by practice a play-
maker and a poet of scurrilitie.' The author,
Thomas Beard, a Puritan divine, was the school-
master of Oliver Cromwell at Huntingdon. He
was educated at Cambridge, and held the degree
of D.D. This book contains the earliest account
of the tragical death of Marlowe, which the
author regarded as a judgment brought upon
him by his atheistical opinions. The account
here given of the death of Marlowe is utterly
untrustworthy, but what is said by Beard to
the credit of Marlowe may be accepted as prob-
ably true. What is meant by the words ' by

138



CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE

profession a scholler ' is uncertain. It may mean
that, like Beard, he lived by teaching, and in this
way made a profession of his scholarship. More
probably, it was a statement of the reputation
as a scholar which he had in the University of
Cambridge, of which Beard was a graduate.
' While a student Marlowe mainly confined him-
self to the Latin classics, and probably before
leaving Cambridge he translated Ovid's Amores
into English heroic verse. His rendering, which
was not published until after his death, does
full justice to the sensuous warmth of the
original. He is also credited at the same period
with a translation of Colathon's Rape of Helen,
but this is no longer extant.' His unfinished
paraphrase of the ' Hero and Leander of Musaeus,
when completed by George Chapman, had a
popularity comparable to the first heir of Shake-
speare's invention. Marlowe's translation of The
First Book of Lucan's Pharsalia into epic blank
verse was published in 1600, and reprinted by
Percy in his specimens of blank verse before
Milton.'* After his arrival in London we find
him among the men of letters of all classes and
tastes who were associated with Sir Walter
Raleigh, and it was probably in this society that
he became a freethinker in regard to religion.

* Diet. Nat. Biography (Sir Sidney Lee).
139



SHAKESPEARE AND HIS FELLOWS

4 Although he [Raleigh] did not personally
adopt the scepticism in matters of religion
which was avowed by many Elizabethan authors,
it attracted his speculative cast of mind, and he
sought among the sceptics his closest com-
panions. . . . With Christopher Marlowe, whose
religious views were equally heterodox, he was
in equally confidential relations. Izaak Walton
testifies that he wrote the well-known answer to
Marlowe's familiar lyric, Come live with me and be
my love.''*

Marlowe was on terms of intimate friendship
with George Chapman, one of the most inter-
esting characters of the Elizabethan age. Chap-
man did not hold the degree of either of the
universities, and his life and character differed
widely from those of the university pens. Wood
(Athen. Oxon.) describes Chapman as ' a person
of most revered aspect, religious and temperate,
qualities rarely meeting in a poet.' Of all the
English dramatists, Charles Lamb thought that
Chapman approached nearest to Shakespeare in
descriptive and didactic passages. His trans-
lation of Homer, with many defects, has some-
what of the spirit of the original, and among the
admirers of this fine old version are Dryden,
Pope, Coleridge, and Charles Lamb. But Chap-

• Diet. Nat. Biography, tit. ' Raleigh.'
I4O



CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE

man's name is best known to the present genera-
tion by Keat's fine sonnet written ' on first
looking into Chapman's Homer ' :

Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne ;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold :
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken.

Marlowe's beautiful poem, Hero and Leander,
unfinished at his death, was published in 1598.
It was afterwards completed by Chapman, and
published in this form in the same year. Chap-
man says that Marlowe ' drunk to me half this
Musaean story,' which implies that he had been
shown the unfinished tale. From some words
in Chapman's addition it appears to have been
completed at the ' late desires ' of Marlowe.

A career so full of promise and of early per-
formance had a tragical ending. The burial
register of the church of St. Nicholas, Deptford,
contains this entry : ' Christopher Marlow,
slain by ffrancis Archer the 1 of June 1593.'
Marlowe was then in the thirtieth year of his age.
Nothing more is known with certainty.

Cut in the branch that might have grown full straight,
And burned is Apollo's laurel bough. *

* The Tragical History of Doctor Eaustus, Sc. XVI.

141



SHAKESPEARE AND HIS FELLOWS

The earliest notice of the death of Marlowe is
in the book already referred to by Thomas Beard,
published in 1597. The Puritan divine, in his
desire to improve the occasion, gives an account
of dying blasphemies of Marlowe, leading to the
conclusion that his death was ' not only a
manifest signe of God's Judgment, but also a
horrible and fcarefull to all that beheld him.'
This account would be read with pain by every
lover of Marlowe, if it were not obviously a tissue
of lies. Marlowe ' not onely in word blasphemed
the Trinitie, but also (as is credibly reported)
wrote bookes against it, affirming our Saviour
to be but a deceiver.' Other things were said
which need not be recorded, as the existence of
any such book is a pure fabrication. Beard's
account of the occurrence is equally devoid of
truth. According to him it took place in
' London streets,' Marlowe dying from a wound
inflicted by himself. That Marlowe died on the
spot with an oath on his lips to the terror of the
beholders is a palpable falsehood, for he sur-
vived the fatal blow long enough to convey to
Chapman his ' late desires,' which were carried
out by the completion of his Hero and Leandcr.

The respectable author of Palladis lamia
(1598), Francis Meres, had received a different
version of the occurrence, and, yielding to his

142



CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE

love of antithesis, wrote : ' As the poet Lyco-
phron was shot to death by a certain rival of his ?
so Christopher Marlowe was stabd to death by
a bawdy serving man, a rival of his in his lewde
love.' A few years later Vaughan, in his Golden
Grove (1600), gave another account, according
to which Marlowe meant to stab a man named
Ingram, with whom he was playing at tables,
but Ingram avoided the thrust, and, drawing his
dagger, stabbed Marlowe into the brain through
the eye, so that he shortly after died. This is
noted as the execution of Divine justice upon
Marlowe, ' who as is reported about 14 yeres
agoe wrote a Booke against the Trinitie.'
Marlowe had written no such book, and the
man's name as recorded in the Church register
was Archer, not Ingram.

The occurrence in which Marlowe lost his life
has been described by some recent writers as a
1 drunken brawl.' It may have had its origin
in a quarrel or brawl, although the only account
of the event which is entitled to respect as a
historical document — the entry in the parish
register — records nothing but violence at the
hands of Archer. Drunkenness is not hinted at
as the origin of the quarrel in any one of the
contemporary accounts. It forms no part of
the lurid picture which we owe to the imagination

143



SHAKESPEARE AND HIS FELLOWS

of the Puritan divine, Thomas Beard. The
statement that Marlowe lived an irregular and
vicious life is a not unnatural conclusion from
the manner in which he met his death. But
against this conclusion should be set the purity
of his writings ; the exemplary character of
Chapman, his intimate friend ; and his asso-
ciation with men like Raleigh and Sir Thomas
Walsingham. Edward Blount, the publisher, in
dedicating Hero and Leander to Sir Thomas
Walsingham, writes of Marlowe as a man that
had been dear to them. The book is dedicated to
Walsingham in these words : ' Knowing that
in his lifetime you bestowed many kind favours,
entertaining the parts of reckoning and worth
which you found in him with good countenance
and liberal affection.' To these names may be
added that of Shakespeare.

An event had occurred shortly before the death
of Marlowe which made a certain class of writers
ready to accept any story to the discredit of
Marlowe, without inquiry as to its truth, and to
draw from the unfortunate circumstances of his
death the most unfavourable inferences as to his
life and character.

On the 1 8th of May, 1593, the Privy Council
had issued ' a warrant to Henry Mander, one of
the messengers of Her Majesties Chamber, to

144



CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE

repair to the house of Mr. Thomas Walsingham,
in Kent, or to anie other place where he shall
understand Christopher Marlow to be remayning,
and by virtue hereof to apprehend and bring
him to the Court in his companie, and in case of
need to require ayd. . . . Some weeks earlier
(19th March) similar proceedings had been taken
by the council against Richard Cholmley and
Richard Strange : the former is known to have
been concerned with Marlowe in disseminating
irreligious doctrines {Privy Council Reg., p. 288).' *
A document entitled ' a note,' and headed as
' Contayninge the opinion of one Christofer
Marly concernynge his damnable opinions and
judgment of relygion and scorne of Gods worde,'
is printed, in so far as this could be done with
propriety, in the edition of Marlowe's works
edited by Mr. Bullen (Vol. III., App. III.). The
substance of the charge is that Marlowe was not
only an atheist himself, ' but almost in every
company he commeth persuadest man to
Athiesme.' It is alleged ' that one Richard
Cholmelei hath confessed that he was persuaded
by Marloes reason to become an Athieste,' and a
warrant was issued from the Star Chamber for
the arrest of Cholmeley.

The charge against Marlowe was not supported

* Diet. Nat. Biography, tit. ' Marlowe.'
H5



SHAKESPEARE AND HIS FELLOWS

by sworn testimony. The informant by whom
the note was signed was a man of infamous
character, and it is not possible to avoid sympa-
thising with Mr. Bullen when he writes : ' It is
a comfort to know that the ruffian who drew up
the charges, a certain " Rychard Bame," was
hanged at Tyburn on 6th December 1594-'
One of the charges in the note signed by this
malefactor is that Marlowe, having learned the
art of coining from one Poole, a prisoner in
Newgate, ' ment through help of a connynge
stampe-maker, to coyne french crownes pisto-
lettes and english shillinges.' The manifest
absurdity of this statement and the infamous
character of the informant would justify us in
discrediting the scandalous part of the charges
in the note. The substance of the accusation
which Marlowe had to meet was that he was an
avowed atheist, of an aggressive character. The
proceedings were cut short by the death of
Marlowe, but the general acceptance of the
charge of atheism by the writers of the day leaves
no doubt that it was well founded.

Marlowe's views on religious matters had been
for some time known to his fellows. Greene, in
his Groatsivorth of JFit, appeals to Marlowe with
evident sincerity, as one who, with himself, had
said, ' like the foole in his heart, There is no

146



CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE

God,' to ' now give glorie unto his greatnesse.'
He warns him, addressing him as a friend, not
to follow his example in deferring ' till this last
point of extremitie ; for little knowest thou
how in the end thou shalt be visited.' These
words were ' offensively taken ' by Marlowe, for
profession of atheism was an offence punishable
by death. In the year 1589 a clergyman named
Kett had been executed for heresy, which did
not merit so strong a name. Chettle, dissociating
himself from Marlowe probably on this ground,
simply expresses regret that he had been the
means of making the charge public {ante, p. 103).
A charge of this kind made against one so
beloved as Marlowe would not have been readily
accepted if it were not well founded. The con-
temporary notices of Marlowe's fall are written
more in sorrow than in anger. In a poem in
manuscript written in 1600, signed S.M., quoted
by Halli well- Phillips in his Life of Shakespeare,
the writer speaks of ' Kynde Kit Marloe.' The
' biting satirist ' Nash in the epistle to the
reader prefixed to the second edition of Christes
Teares over Jerusalem writes of ' poore deceased
Kit Marlowe.' He was still called ' Kit ' when
his success as a poet seemed to call for a more
respectful address. So thought Heywood when,
in his Hier archie of the Blessed, (1635), he wrote

H7



SHAKESPEARE AND HIS FELLOWS

Mario renowned for his rare art and wit
Could ne'er attain beyond the name of Kit,
Although his Hero and Leander did
Merit addition rather.

He was ' Kit ' to Izaak Walton when, years
afterwards, he wrote lovingly of a ditty fitted for
a voice like the note of a nightingale : ' twas
that smooth song, which was made by Kit.
Marlow now at least fifty years ago ; and the
Milk-maid's mother sung an answer to it, which
was made by Walter Raleigh in his younger days.
They were old fashioned poetry, but choicely
good. I think much better than the strong lines
that are now in fashion in this critical age.'

Marlowe was happy in his buskin'd Muse —
Alas, unhappy in his life and end.

Thus in sorrow wrote the author of The Returne
from Pernassus, and Peele, shortly after the
death of Marlowe, thus gave expression to his
admiration and regret :

Unhappy in thine end
Marley, the Muses' darling, for thy verse,
Fit to write passions for the souls below
If any wretched souls in passion speak.*

Greene's dying appeal to the ' famous gracer
of Tragedians ' to abandon his atheism was
prompted by affection for a friend. Drayton,

• Prologue to Honour of the Garter, 1593.
I48



CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE

the friend of Shakespeare, bestowed on him
worthy praise when he wrote —

Marlowe, bathed in the Thespian springs,
Had in him those brave translunary things
That the first poets had ; his raptures were
All air and fire, which made his verses clear ;
For that fine madness still he did retain
Which rightly should possess a poet's brain.

But the noblest tribute of affectionate regard
to the memory of Marlowe was that paid by
Shakespeare. It has been noted that he was
moved by the tragedy of Spenser, ' late deceased
in beggary,' to depart from his wont, and to
introduce into one of his plays a reference to an
event of the day. The pitiful death of a still
nearer friend, his master, led him to break
silence, and he wrote these words :

Dead Shepherd, now I find thy saw of might
Who ever loved that loved not at first sight ? *

The line quoted by Shakespeare occurs in
Hero and Leander. There is an unmistakable
note of affectionate regret in these words.
' Shepherd ' was in those days a not unusual
word to denote a poet. Cynthia's Shepherds in
Colin Clouts were the poets by whom Elizabeth
was surrounded. But there was a special signifi-
cance in the word ' Shepherd ' as applied by

* As Ton Like It, III. v. 82.
149



SHAKESPEARE AND HIS FELLOWS

Shakespeare to Marlowe. Dramatists were often
known among their friends by the name of one
of their characters, and we know that Marlowe
was known to his friends as Tamburlaine, the
Shepherd King, the hero of the drama by which
he was best known.

Fragments of the poetry of Marlowe, and
reminiscences of his work, are to be found here
and there throughout the writings of Shake-
speare. Sir Hugh Evans trolled snatches from
the smooth song beloved by Izaak Walton,

''Pless my soul, how full of chollors I am,
and trempling of mind,' says Sir Hugh Evans,
and he relieves his mind by singing

To shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sings madrigals ;
There will we make our peds of roses,
And a thousand fragrant posies,
To shallow —

Mercy on me ! I have a great dispositions to cry
[sings]

Melodious birds sing madrigals —
When as I sat in Pabylon —
And a thousand vagram posies.
To shallow, &c*

When Helen was presented to Doctor Faustus
by Mephistophilcs, in obedience to his demand, he
exclaims —

• Merry JFivesf III. i. II.

150



CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE

Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Iliam ?

These matchless lines were present to the mind of
Shakespeare when he wrote of Helen

Why, she is a pearl
Whose price hath launch'd above a thousand ships.*

And there is an echo of the music when the
Countess's call for Helena, by the name of Helen,
provokes the clown's song —

Was this fair face the cause, quoth she,
Why the Grecians sacked Troy ? f

and a fainter echo, when Richard, beholding his
features in a glass, exclaims —

Was this face the face
That every day under his household roof
Did keep ten thousand men ? was this the face
That, like the sun, did make beholders wink ? J

The greatness of Marlowe's influence on the
work and character of Shakespeare cannot be
measured by quotations from their works, or by
a consideration of the extent to which they may
have worked in collaboration. There is no more
interesting chapter in the history of literature
than that which tells of the work done by Shake-

* Troilus and Cressida, II. ii. 81.

t All's Well, I. in. 75.

% King Richard II., IV. i. 281.

151



SHAKESPEARE AND HIS FELLOWS

spcarc in disciplcship to Marlowe. To what
extent they worked together is uncertain, and to
discuss the question would transcend the purpose
with which these pages have been written. It
may be profitably studied with Sir Sidney Lee
in his Life of Shakespeare and with Dr. Brandcs
in William Shakespeare, a Critical Study. It is
sufficient here to note that collaboration, to the
extent which is admitted by all critics, involves
personal relations between the workers, and an
intimacy which may be expected to exert an
influence on character and opinions other than
those which are merely literary.

The abiding influence of Marlowe on the
work of Shakespeare, and his strongest claim to
our gratitude, is due to his discovery that the
resources of the English language were equal to
the creation of a mighty line, an unrhymed
measure, comparable in strength and beauty to
the finest metres of Greece or Rome, and adapted
alike to the uses of the noblest tragic and epic
poetry.

' When Christopher Marlowe came up to
London from Cambridge, a boy in years, a man
in genius, and a god in ambition, he found the
stage, which he was born to transfigure and
re-create by the might and masterdom of his
genius, encumbered with a litter of rude rhyming

152



CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE

farces and tragedies which the first wave of his
imperial hand swept so utterly out of sight and
hearing that hardly by piecing together such
fragments of that buried rubbish as it is now
possible to unearth can we rebuild in imagination
so much of the rough and crumbling wall that
fell before the trumpet-blast of Tamburlaine,
as may give us some conception of the rabble of
dynasty of rhymers whom he overthrew — of the
citadel of dramatic barbarism which was stormed
and sacked at the first charge of the young
conqueror who came to lead English audiences
and to deliver English poetry

From jigging veins of rhyming mother-wits
And such conceits as clownage keeps in pay,'*

The trumpet-blast was blown in the prologue
to Tamburlaine from which these lines are taken.
Of this play, Swinburne writes : ' It is the first
poem ever written in English blank verse, as
distinguished from mere rhymeless decasyllables ;
and it contains one of the noblest passages,
perhaps indeed the noblest, in the literature of
the world ever written by one of the greatest
masters of poetry in loving praise of the glorious
delights and sublime submission to the ever-
lasting limits of his art ' : "j"

* A Study of Shakespeare.
f Encyclopedia Britannica.

153



SHAKESPEARE AND HIS FELLOWS

If all the pens that ever poets held
Had fed the feeling of their masters' thoughts,
And every sweetness that inspired their hearts,
Their minds, and muses on admired themes ;
If all the heavenly quintessence they still
From their immortal flowers of poesy,
Wherein, as in a mirror, we perceive
The highest reaches of a human wit ;
If these had made one poem's period,
And all combined in beauty's worthiness,
Yet should there hover in their restless heads
One thought, one grace, one wonder, at the least
Which into words no virtue can digest.*

Tamburlaine has many and obvious faults. In
some parts it descends to the level of mere
bombast. | But of the character of Tamburlaine,
the Shepherd King, we may say, as Goethe said
of Doctor Faustus, ' How grandly it is all
planned ! ' and in many passages, in this his
earliest drama, we find Marlowe's mighty line at
its best.

It was no part of Marlowe's design to banish
rhyme from lyrical or descriptive poetry. It had

• First part, V. i. 161.

f For example, in Tamburlaine's address to the captured Kings :
' Holla, ye pampered jades of Asia.'
Shakespeare's love of Marlowe did not restrain him from joining in
the chorus of laughter which this line evoked, for Pistol speaks of
pack-horses

' and hollow pampered jades of Asia
Which cannot go but thirty mile a-day.'

2 Hen. IV.y II. iv. 177.

154



CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE

no place in the measure which he created for
tragedy or epic poetry. He was indeed a master
of rhyme, as unrivalled as of blank verse. His
Passionate Pilgrim contains the lyric beloved by
Izaak Walton and by Sir Hugh Evans, and a
fragment of descriptive poetry of extraordinary
beauty. Of these, writes one who has brought to
perfection the charm of rhyme : ' One of the
most faultless lyrics, and one of the loveliest
fragments in the whole range of descriptive and
fanciful poetry would have secured a place for
Marlowe among the memorable men of his epoch,
even if his plays had perished with himself. His
Passionate Pilgrim remains ever since unrivalled
in its way — a way of pure fancy and radiant
melody without break or lapse ' ; and of Hero
and Leander Swinburne writes : ' It is doubtful
whether the heroic couplet has ever been more
finely handled.'

Shakespeare, in discipleship to Marlowe, aban-
doned the use of rhyming couplets which is to be
found in his earlier plays, and he also followed
the example of his master in retaining the melody
of rhyme in his lyrics, of which, perhaps the
most beautiful are those in his latest plays.

When Swinburne's glorious description of the
advent of Marlowe has been reduced to pedestrian
prose, it tells of the coming into the life of

155



SHAKESPEARE AND HIS FELLOWS

Shakespeare of a personality by which it was
profoundly affected. The manner in which his
work as an artist was affected was the infusion
into it of the spirit of the classical Renaissance,
or of the New Learning, as it was more accurately
termed in its relation to England. The outward
and visible sign of the infusion of this new spirit
was the gradual abandonment by Shakespeare
of rhyme in the composition of his plays. The
story of Shakespeare's conversion from rhyme
to blank verse can best be studied in the glowing
pages of Swinburne.* Shakespeare * was natu-
rally addicted to rhyme. . . . But in his very
first plays, comic or tragic or historic, we can
see the collision and conflict of the two influences ;
his evil angel rhyme, yielding step by step to the
strong advance of that better genius who came
to lead him into the loftier path of Marlowe.'
Rhyme in King Richard 11. and Romeo and Juliet,
' struggles for awhile to keep its footing, but
now more visibly in vain. The rhymed scenes
in these plays are too plainly the survivals of a
ruder and feebler stage of work. ... In two
scenes we may say that the whole heart or spirit
of Romeo and Juliet is summed up and distilled
into perfect and pure expression ; and these two
are written in blank verse of equable and blamc-

• A Study of Shakespeare.


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