Christopher Marlowe's Contribution to English Drama
Christopher Marlowe’sContribution to English Drama Christopher Marlowe as a dramatist. Discuss marked characteristics of his works. email@example.com www.dilipbarad.com
Introduction• Marlowe saw clearly enough that the Romantic drama was suited to the needs of the nation, and that therefore no other form of drama could express so well its abundant, concrete life.• But he saw also that for the Romantic drama to be a thing of beauty as well as a force, the medium of blank verse must be chosen.
What did he do?He initiated change in:• Subject matter• Character• Blank Verse• Unity to the drama
Subject Matter of the play• He raised he subject matter of the drama to a higher level.• He provided big heroic subjects that appealed to the imagination. Tamburlaine – a world conqueror; Faust in pursuit of universal knowledge; Barabas with fabulous dreams of wealth; Edward II with his mingling nobility and worthless sounding that heights and depths of human nature.• His subjects were: the insatiable spirit of adventure; the master passions of love and hate; ideals of beauty; the greatness and littleness of human life.
Characterization• He gave life and reality to his characters.• They were no longer puppets pulled by a string; but living and breathing realities.• One can feel the fierce exaltation of the conqueror, Tamburlaine; the vibrant passion and rapturous longing of Faust; the fierce selfishness of his Barabas.
Blank Verse• He took the blank verse of the classical school, hard and unflinching as a rock, and struck it with his rod till the waters of human emotion gushed forth.• The old rhyming lines of Romantic drama he put aside; blank verse had little grip, when he took it in hand, but he fathomed its immense possibilities, and saw how it could be made the expression of the finest wit or the most delicate fancy.
Unity• He gave a unity to the drama, hitherto lacking.• Plays before has been formless: a succession of isolated scenes often with no proper connecting link.• And although, compared with Shakespeare, the work of Marlowe seems often turgid and unwieldy, yet it shows quite sufficient promise to show us the extent of Shakespeare’s indebtedness.
Thus, his contribution can be summed up as…• He glorified the matter of the drama – by his sweep of imagination. (vide stories)• He vitalized the manner and matter of the drama – by his energizing power (vide characterization).• He refined verse form and made it suitable for English stage. (vide Verse).• He gave coherence to the drama. (vide Structure)
Marlowe’s work has three marked characteristics:• Its pictorial quality• Its ecstatic quality• Its vitalizing energy
Pictorial Quality * Marlowe has been called the father of English Dramatic Poetry; just as Defoe is termed as the Father of English Fiction, and Chaucer the Father of English Narrative Poetry. – Marlowe with his instinct for selecting those scenes that best impress the imagination and those similes that strike home most effectively made of the drama a thing of beauty.• The pictorial quality is no mere visualizing of a dreamer’s fancy; it shows the inspiration of that spirit of adventure which was in the air.
Ecstatic Quality – This is well exemplified in the speech of Faustus:• “Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss. (Kisses her).• Her lips suck forth my soul! See, where it flies?• Come Helen, come give me my soul again –• Here will I dwell, for Heaven is in these lips:• And all is dross that is not Helen!” – It is indeed fire that burns through his verse and gives it glow and radiance, mellowing the harsh crudities and coarse outlines:• “Had I as many souls as there be stars –• I’d give them all for Mephistophilis.”
Vitalising Energy – His discarding the classical convention for the romantic is the culminating proof of his original and artistic instinct. He saw clearly that his vitalising energy was better suited to Romantic drama. This vitalising energy redeemed the ‘Tamburlaine’ from absurdity, and gave a beauty and lifting power to the Faust legend.• He is not content with vague description, but actualizes his subject - as in the pageant of the Seven Deadly Sins in ‘Faustus’. Many a medieval poet had sung of them, Marlowe gives them life and reality.
Conclusion…• A cursory examination of Marlowe’s work might incline the reader to think that his nature was highly passionate.• Of Passion, however, in the primal, full-blooded sense of the word, there is really little in Marlowe’s writings. He is rather excitable and ecstatic, moved to exuberant expression by certain appeals to the imagination, such as the appeal of beauty; but not profoundly emotional as were Shakespeare, or Beaumont and Fletcher, or Webster.• He never suggests the man of the world, the student of human nature; always the wistful visionary; living in a world of his own, a world of beauty and wonder.