the old raven hovers amorously over his recovered
bags, and sings above them as a lark does above
her young. Yet still it is the sense of power regained
which puts the sweetest drop into his cup of bliss:
O my girl,
My gold, my fortune, my felicity,
Strength to my soul, death to mine enemy!
Welcome the first beginner of my bliss.
* But Marlowe found means in another wav to
gratify in this play his own passion for power, his
pride in the display of the puissance of human will.
The opening scene, in which the Jew appears as
a great master in the art of money-getting, and
surrounded by the works of his hands, in which
he is proud, secure, and happy, is quickly succeeded
by others in which he is seen stripped of his wealth,
turned out of doors by Christian tyranny, and
exposed to common ignominy and insult. The
rest of the drama is occupied with the great game
which Barabas plays, first against his Christian
persecutors, afterwards against his own daughter
allied with them, and his dangerous tool Ithamore,
the cut-throat slave whom he has bought. His
hand is henceforth against every man, and every
man's hand against him. When he is hunted he
doubles on his pursuers, and for a while escapes;
any swine-eating dog that comes too close gets a
shrewd bite which stops his cry, and at last, when
brought to bay, and when his supreme design has
failed by counter-treachery, when fairly hunted
down, he turns fiercely on his opponents, is still
master of himself and of the situation, and rises
above those who watch his death by the grandeur
of his resolution.
It has not seemed necessary here to dwell upon
all that is worthless, and worse than worthless,
in Marlowe's plays â€” on the " midsummer madness "
of Tamburlame, the contemptible buffoonery of
Dr. Faustus, and the overloaded sensational atro-
cities of The yew of Malta. Such criticism every-
one but an Ancient Pistol does for himself. We all
recognise the fustian of Marlowe's style, and the
ill effects of the demands made upon him by
sixteenth-century playgoers for such harlequinade
as they could appreciate. A more important thing
to recognise is that up to the last Marlowe's great
powers were ripening, while his judgment was
becoming sane, and his taste purer. He was escaping,
as has been already said, from his " Sturm und
Drang " when he was lost to the world. Tambur-
lame was written at the age of twenty-two, Faustus
two or three years later. At such an age accom-
plishment is rare; we usually look for no more
than promise. If Shakespeare had died at the age
when Marlowe died we should have known little
of the capacity which lay within him of creating
a Macbeth, a Lear, an Othello,' a Cleopatra.
Marlowe has left us three great ideal figures of
Titanic strength and size. That we should say is
much. In one particular a most important advance
from Tamburlaine to Dr. Fanstus and the later
plays is discernible â€” in versification. His contem-
poraries appear to have been much impressed by
the greatness of his verse â€” Marlowe's " mighty
line"; and it was in the tirades of Tamburlaine
that blank verse was first heard upon a public stage
in England. But in this play the blank verse is
like a gorgeous robe of brocade, stiff with golden
embroidery; afterwards in his hands it becomes
pliable, and falls around the thought or feeling which
it covers in nobly significant lines.
Had Marlowe lived longer we may surmise,
with some degree of assurance, one, at least, of the
subjects which would have engaged his attention
â€” the lust of beauty and the power of beauty.
There is very little of amatory writing in any of
his plays except that written in conjunction with
Nash. Tender love-making of the idyllic or ro-
mantic kind Marlowe was little fitted to represent.
But we have the clearest evidence from scattered
passages that Marlowe had conceived the tyrannous
power of beauty in that transcendent way in which
he conceived other forms of power It is sufficient
to remind the reader of the scene in which Helena
rises before Faustus. And there is one passage in
Tamburlaine which in itself is quite enough to
show us that the passionate desire of beauty in its
most ideal form was not inexperienced by the poet:
What is beauty, saith my sufferings, then ?
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 combin'd 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.
If another passage in Tamhurla'ine:
Still climbing after knowledge infinite,
announced the poet's Paracelsus, does not this
more distinctly announce his never-created Aprile ?
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