3/29/2019

Christopher Marlowe as the father of English Drama.


Christopher Marlowe has rightly been called the father of English drama. He is often regarded as the morning star of English drama. Because he marks the end of the first period in the history of drama and the beginning of the second over which he presides. His advent marks the end of Medieval drama and the birth of the great Renaissance drama. When Marlowe started writing drama, English drama was in a chaotic state. He rescued English drama from the clutch of Miracle and Morality plays. He also re-created the blank verse in a very delicate way. For this reason, he is often considered to be the creator of English blank verse. Now we shall try to assess Marlowe's contribution to the development of English drama. His contributions to English drama are discussed below.

Marlowe saved English drama:
At the beginning of the Renaissance Period, various species of drama were in vogue. Comedies, tragedies, farce, melodrama, interlude, chronicles, poetic and courtly plays and scholarly compositions on the model of Seneca, Plautus and Terence were all being staged with more or less success. Theatres were springing up. Acting had become one of the recognized professions. The people delighted in buffoonery and scenes of bloodshed while the scholars despised it. A powerful body of citizens looked upon the stage with disfavour. The prejudices of a literary class and the disfavour of conservative moralists were the major obstacles in the development
of the stage. From this peril, Marlowe saved English drama.

He introduced blank verse
The Mystery, Miracle and Morality plays still held their sway. Senecan models in tragedy were practised by the popular playwrights. The imitations of Plautus and Terence in comedy were also practised. There were the "University Wits" who were learned and scholarly playwrights. They insisted on form, decorum and
dignity even with the artificiality and rigidity. The common medium of expression was rhymed lines and stanzas of various sorts. Such
verses were lifeless and monotonous to a degree. They were scarcely suited to common speaking. Marlowe has freed them such complexity. He introduces blank verse with flexibility in the English dramatic writing. So he should properly be regarded as the father of the blank verse. But we should not forget that the first blank verse tragedy, Gorboduc was produced in 1562.

He is the
first to perceive the capacities for noble art inherent in the romantic
drama:
Marlowe is really the father of English drama. Because he is the
first to perceive the capacities for noble art inherent in the romantic
drama. He adapted it to high purpose by his practice. He saw that the
romantic drama, the drama of the people, had a great future before it.
So he devoted his energy to its perfection. Romantic drama resulted
from the fusion of most diverse elements. It was often confused and
incoherent. Marlowe brought order out of confusion. He worked by selection and exclusion on the material available to him. His success in this double process is the proof of his originality. His genius is
seen in the fact that he turns to the national romantic drama and not the classic. He turns to the popular instead of the literary type.

He introduced new type of hero:
Marlowe has given emphasis on tragedy and not upon the comedy. He provides heroic subjects which are related to his imagination. He represents the spirit of the Renaissance. His heroes are Tamburlaine, Dr. Faustus and Barabas who are the incarnation of
the Renaissance. He gives life and reality to these characters. They are not mere puppets pulled by a string by their creator. But they are endowed with astounding life and reality. Marlowe is the first English playwright to realise that tragic action must be reflected in character. He also adds to the conception of tragedy. According to him, tragedy is a distress resulting from some overwhelming weakness of strength in the character himself. In “Tamburlaine, the Great”, it is the lust of power. In “The Jew of Malta”, it is avarice. In “Doctor Faustus”, it is the lust of sovereign knowledge. Thus
Marlowe's tragic characters differ from that of the Middle Ages.

Use of Blank verse:
Blank verse is successfully handled by Christopher Marlowe in his plays. He gives the approval of his authority on the blank verse of the classical school. He puts aside the old rhyming lines of the romantic or native drama. He refines blank verse of the classical models. He makes it an instrument of hundred stops. He makes it rich with its infinite variety. Ben Jonson calls it as Marlow's “Mighty lines". The blank verse created and refined by Marlowe is
different from the old blank verse. Thus Marlowe has brought the
language of drama nearer to real life. He makes the instrument ready for Shakespeare who improves upon it later on. He is the greatest of
Shakespeare's predecessors. So there is a saying, "No Marlowe, no
Shakespeare." Apparently, it seems to be exaggerated. But the contribution of Marlowe in developing blank verse has made him the real father and the creator of English blank verse.
His Great Tragedies:
Marlowe has given a depth and inwardness to the crude tragedy of medieval times. In “Doctor Faustus”, he attempts to delineate the struggle within the mind of the chief figure. He dares to claim admiration even for the blood thirsty conqueror like Tamburlaine. It is a clear anticipation of Shakespeare's treatment of Richard and Macbeth. “Edward-II” by Marlowe is a distinct improvement upon the earliest historical play like King Johan. In this play the dramatist
tries to dramatize history by compression and telescoping. Edward-II is a successful attempt at poetic tragedy revolving round the
character, Edward.

His Changed conception of tragedy:
Marlowe has changed the conception of tragedy. He makes tragedy a matter of figures who struggle with the limitations of human life and suffer constantly as a result. He introduces inner conflict and frees tragedy from didacticism or moral lessons. Marlowe is a poet through and through. He is a poet of passion and pathos. The union of poetry and drama is one of the main glories of
Shakespeare. But such union is the achievement of Marlowe.

His Faults :
However, Marlowe is not a good dramatist. His plays lack unity. “Tamburlaine, the Great” and “Doctor Faustus” are a collection of unrelated scenes which loosely pin together. In “Edward-Il”, there is a break in the middle with a too abrupt shift in sympathies. Here we find interplay of character. In “Doctor Faustus”, Marlowe has given emphasis on only one character. His tragedies are one man show. The central character dominates the play. Marlowe can draw only one character and lacks the power of weaving a dramatic plot by the distribution of sympathies. He does not understand female characters. All his characters speak the same language. He cannot form nimble and pliable dialogue. But the dialogue is spiced with humour and interspersed with comic relief. Comic scenes hamper the plot construction of his plays.

Conclusion :
Considering the discussion above, we can say that Marlowe is a very popular dramatist and he is able to continue his popularity throughout the whole century. Even today he is regarded as the father of English drama and the morning star. He has modified blank verse and successfully used it in English drama. For the first time, he produces life-like characters. He first teaches the art of designing tragedies on a grand scale. Marlowe is able to display the unity of action unity of character and unity of interest. But the shortcomings
of his plays sometimes hamper the total construction of the play
“Doctor Faustus” has beginning and ending but no middle. The touch of a morality play is also evident in the play.

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