Christopher Marlowe was an English poet, playwright, and translator of the 16th-century Elizabethan era. He was one of the leading tragic playwrights of his time. The writing of Shakespeare has been dramatically influenced by Marlowe. Shakespeare and Marlowe were born in the same year. However, the early tragic death of Marlowe raised Shakespeare to become the well-known writer of his time. The plays of Marlowe are known for their use of outsmarting protagonists and blank verse.

In May 1583, a warrant of arrest was issued against Marlow. The actual reason is not known. However, it is assumed that in the warrant, he was accused of being writing a blasphemous manuscript. On 20th May, he was presented before the court for questioning. In history, there is no record of Christopher Marlowe attending the Privy Council and then being commanded to attend the council each day afterward. After ten days, he was killed by stabbing by Ingram Frizer in a brawl. It remains unknown whether the brawl was associated with his arrest or not.

A Short Biography of Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe was born on 6th February 1580 in Canterbury. His father was an influential citizen in the community and wealthy shoemaker. Marlowe attended King’s School in Canterbury. In 1580, he went to Corpus Christi College on the scholarship given by Archbishop Parker. The scholarship was awarded for six years only to those students who intend to study for a career in the church. From this, it seems that Marlowe had intentions to go to the church. However, in the college records, he appears as a dialectic student. 

In 1584, Marlowe received his degree in B.A. After three years, he completed his M.A. degree. Except for the second year in which he was absent for long years, the academic career of Marlowe was conventional. He has certain trouble in getting his M.A. degree. The college holds his degree because of certain rumors that Marlowe has decided to join an English Catholic in France. However, when the Queen’s Privy Council wrote a letter assuring the Marlowe character to the administration of the university and also asserted his service to her majesty.

During these days, Marlowe also performed services to the government. These services include acting as a spy in the assistance of Sir Francis Walsingham and transporting dispatches abroad. However, there is no direct evidence of his service to the queen.

Marlowe shifted to London after receiving his M.A. degree from the university. In London, he became a part of an outstanding group of young men that include Kyd, Nashe, and Rawley. In 1587, his play Tamburlaine the Great had been performed on the stage. When the play was first performed, Marlowe was only twenty-three years old. He had already established his reputation as the young dramatist with the success of his first play.

In the remaining years of his life, Marlowe lived in the theatrical district of Shoreditch, London. During that time, he traveled a lot for the service of government and would come back to this place. Thomas Kyd was his roommate for a time. Thomas Kyd is the writer of the very famous Elizabethan play, The Spanish Tragedy. Later, Thomas Kyd comments on Christopher Marlowe that he had a very cruel heart and violent temper. 

Marlowe got imprisoned in 1589 for being a part of the fight in the son of Holborn innkeeper, William Bradley got killed. A friend of Marlowe named Watson had actually killed Bradley. Marlowe was soon released on bail, and a warning was given to keep the peace.  

In 1592, Marlowe again became involved in the action of the court. He was called to the court for attacking two constables in the district of Shoreditch.  The policemen claimed to be in treatment because of Marlowe’s threats. He was released with the fine.

In 1593, In May 1583, a warrant of arrest was issued against Marlow. The actual reason is not known. However, it is assumed that in the warrant, he was accused of being writing a blasphemous manuscript. Thomas Kyd was found to have the possessions of certain heretical papers and was arrested. He denied his possession of the papers and said that they belong to Christopher Marlowe. 

On 20th May, he was presented before the court for questioning. In history, there is no record of Christopher Marlowe attending the Privy Council and then being commanded to attend the council each day afterward. After ten days, he was killed by stabbing by Ingram Frizer in a brawl. It remains unknown whether the brawl was associated with his arrest or not.

Though the life and literary career of Christopher Marlowe as a dramatist were very short, he achieved a significant position in English literature only through the four dramas he wrote. Other than Tamburlaine the Great, he wrote Dr. Faustus, The Jew of Malta, and Edward II. Besides these four dramas, he also translated Amores by Ovid and Pharsalia by Lucan. He also wrote a few poems. Among these poems, “Hero and Leander” and “The Massacre of Paris” are his favorite ones. 

Christopher Marlowe’s Writing Style

Christopher Marlowe is one of the leading dramatists of the 16th Century Elizabethan period. Marlowe is considered as an indirect rival of William Shakespeare. Had Marlowe not died at such a young age, there would be two outstanding dramatists in the Elizabethan era. 

It is also said that if there were no Marlowe, there would be no Shakespeare. The writing style that William Shakespeare used in his plays was borrowed from Christopher Marlowe. In the very short span of his life, Marlowe had written dramas that are still considered as one of the best dramas of the English literature. Marlowe was a genius who completed his education by the scholarship provided by the university.

At a very young age, his name was added to the greatest dramatists. Dr. Faustus, Tamburlaine, and the Jew of Malta are among his prominent plays. Because of the influencing style of Tamburlaine, the play went highly successful on stage. Marlowe, then, also wrote the second part of the drama. Some of the main characteristics of the writing style of Marlowe are the following.

Pioneer of Blank Verse

The technique of blank verse is pioneered by Christopher Marlowe. Though this technique had been free in the writing style by his successors, even after his death, he was the one who created a new style in the shape of blank verse. The technique of blank verse became prominent in his time. The prominent and well-known writer, including Shakespeare, employed Marlowe’s technique of blank verse in their works.

Marlowe’s play, Dr. Faustus, is the best example in which Marlowe employed the poetic concept of blank verse. The credit of poetic excellence is gained by Christopher Marlowe as he invented the new style of blank verse in poetry, which is used by the writers to present date.

Moreover, the tragedies written before Marlowe could not succeed in theatre as they were translations from the Italian language. Marlowe not only created but also structured the new style of writing tragic plays. His use of lyrical fitness, short dialogues, and the presence of actions made his tragedies very successful.

The writing style of Christopher Marlowe has been commented by Schelling. He says that Marlowe provides passion and poetry to English drama. The most important gift he gave to tragedies is poetry. Moreover, he says that William Shakespeare would not become Shakespeare if there were no Marlowe.

Reform of Theme and Language

When the first play of Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine, was staged, it announced the revolt against the conventional theme and language of his time. In the prologues of the plays, Marlowe proclaims his bold reforms

“From jigging veins of rhyming mother-wits,

 And such conceits as clownage keeps in pay,

We’ll lead you to the stately tents of war,

Where you shall hear the Scythian Tamburlaine

Threatening the world with high astounding terms.”

In simple language, these reforms are made in subject matter and versification. In language, he introduced the form of blank verse. Whereas in subject matter, Marlowe replaced the themes displaying weak sentiment, by the name of comedy with the themes of high feelings and bursting passion.

Marlowe’s Tragedies

The tragedies written by Christopher Marlowe have a separate fan base. Marlowe did not adhere to the rules set by Aristotle in tragedies and redefined the style and form of tragedies. He underrated the three unities of time, place, and action. He showed that these unities are not important for the plays. He abandoned the notion of space and time in tragedies.


Marlowe focused on the inner conflict of characters than the outer conflict. Even though his characters, like other tragic characters, had flaws, their conflict is not with the world of gods but with their inner self. For example, in the play, Dr. Faustus, the ambitions of Dr. Faustus, to gain unlimited knowledge, power, and luxuries of life are the main reason for his downfall. Similarly, in the play Tamburlaine the Great, the ambitions of Timur to gain power caused his fate doomed forever.

Just like this, Marlowe’s characters struggle against their own evil of the mind. It is also regarded that Marlow lacks ethics and illustrates his characters that go against God. However, like Milton, Marlowe has maintained the balance between literature and religion. Dr. Faustus is the best example of the balance between literature and religion.

Minor Characters

The protagonists of Marlow have unique heroic qualities. The minor characters appear to be insignificant before the main characters. For the development of the plot of tragedies, the protagonists of the play are sufficient.

Role of Fate

In his tragedies, Marlowe has ignored the role of fate. For instance, if his characters suffer downfall or destruction, it is because of their own actions and tragic flaw, fate has nothing to do with it.

Elements of Renaissance

In the play of Christopher Marlowe, the elements of the renaissance are abundant. Marlowe is known as the poet of the Renaissance period. If his plays are read thoroughly, it appears that it is greatly influenced by renaissance. Development in life and revival of learning were the features of renaissance in England and Italy. Christopher Marlowe also added these features in his dramas. His play, Dr. Faustus contains a lot of elements of renaissance. For example, in order to satisfy his lust for power and knowledge, Dr. Faustus takes aid from black magic.

Ambitiousness and admiration of beauty is another element of the renaissance. Dr. Faustus was a highly ambitious scholar and this over ambitiousness caused his downfall. Likewise, Dr. Faustus also has a lust for beauty. The appearance of Helen of Troy in Dr. Faustus is the best illustration of this element of renaissance. Such examples of renaissance can be found in every play of Marlowe. With these examples, one can say that Christopher Marlowe was the writer of renaissance 

The Tone of Marlowe’s Plays

The tragedies of Christopher Marlowe are highly serious in tone. His plays lack humor. In the original play of Dr. Faustus, there were no comical elements. It was added subsequently. Marlowe only stuck to tragedies.


There is a remarkable disproportion in the dialogues of Marlowe’s plays. Marlowe was highly influenced by well-turned echoing phrases, and the high-flown and deep sounding verses made him blind to the artistic need of the dialogue. He only assigns high-flown dialogues to the main characters of the play. The minor characters are often seen as uttering dialogues in the swaggering manner of the main character.

Absence of Women

Christopher Marlow often overlooks the characterization of female characters in his plays. There is hardly any female character in his plays. Though Marlowe chases beauty, he ignores to develop the female characters. Marlowe is always preoccupied with the development of his main character, which is male. 

For example, in Tamburlaine, Zenocrate is the shadowy part of the play. Though her beauty is celebrated, there is nothing that shows her character and her personality. Similarly, Abigail, in the Jew of Malta, always remains in the background of the play. In Dr. Faustus, Helen appears only as a vision.

One-man Show

Christopher Marlowe’s plays revolve around a single protagonist. There is one main plot. There aren’t any subplots in the drama. The main plot is about the tragedy of the main character. His main tragedies Dr. Faustus, Jew of Malta, Tamburlaine, even chronicle play of Edward II, are a one-man show.


To conclude, the unique characteristics of Christopher do not degrade him; however, he marks his writing style different from the common writers of his time. He is also in the list of university wits that restructured the Elizabethan theatre, and therefore increased the interest of people for watching plays.

Marlowe is considered as not the writer of his own age but the writer of every age. He embodies universality in his plays. Because of his contribution to the English drama, he will be remembered as a significant figure throughout. His plays are full of morality. Though he was considered as an atheist, he plays highly theologically. His unique contribution was the addition of blank verse and action in the plays. He reformed the entire form of tragedy through his plays.

His writing is also influenced by renaissance. Marlowe has a great influence on many writers, including Shakespeare. The writing style of many writers resembles that of Marlowe’s. Instead of showing the conflict of characters with the external world and gods, Marlowe portrays his characters having inner conflict: the conflict inside the mind and heart. 

In every play of Marlowe, the protagonist has a conflict with his innersole. Though the plays of Marlowe are less in number, it is worth more than the abundance of plays produced by many writers that have no real significance. Lastly, Marlowe will always be remembered for his poetic excellence in his plays and poetry.

Works Of Christopher Marlowe