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Christopher Marlowe 1564 - 1593

English dramatist and poet. He wrote six plays including his best-known work, The Tragical History of Dr Faustus (1589). He translated some of Ovid's Amores and Book One of Lucan's Pharsilia (1593). His original poetry includes Hero and Leander (1593), a mythological narrative, and The Passionate Shepherd to His Love. The latter, a pastoral lyric, inspired many fine replies such as Sir Walter Ralegh's The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd and John Donne's The Bait. He was the first great Elizabethan dramatist and his work set the stage for Shakespeare whom he influenced considerably.


The son of a shoemaker, Marlowe was born two months before Shakespeare. A great wit and a precocious talent, he won scholarships first into King's School, Canterbury, and later into Corpus College, Cambridge where he received his Batchelor of Arts degree in 1583 and his Master of Arts in 1587. He joined a company of actors called the Admiral's Men who brought his first great play, Tamburlaine the Great (1587), to the stage. Its success inspired him to follow up with Part Two of the play a year later. He joined the secret diplomatic service whilst continuing to write such great plays as Dr Faustus and The Jew of Malta. His plays dealt with the corruption of power (as in Tamburlaine), of knowledge (as in Faustus), and of money (as in the Jew). When a plague caused London theatres to close in 1592, he went and lived with a patron, Thomas Walsingham, under whose brother he had worked as a secret agent. He was suspected of atheistic and blasphemous writings and was still being investigated by the London privy council when he died. He had been gambling at backgammon in a Deptford tavern with three other men when one of them stabbed him fatally after a quarrel. He was twenty-nine.

Available Poems
The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

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