Christopher Marlowe as a Dramatist

Christopher Marlowe as a Dramatist

Marlowe was one of the most important dramatists of the Elizabethan era. He is indirectly rival to William Shakespeare. In fact, it is said and believed that he influenced many later playwrights, one of the most famous playwrights among them is William Shakespeare. Every play that Christopher Marlowe wrote speaks about the skill that he had in creating successful characters as a dramatist. Critics believe that if he did not die at a very young age, we would have two brilliant dramatists in the Elizabethan era; William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlow.

No Marlowe, No Shakespeare

It is said that “No Marlowe, no Shakespeare”. William Shakespeare borrowed an impressive writing style from Christopher Marlowe. In a very short life span, Marlowe wrote dramas that are worth mentioning even in this era. Students of literature need to watch them in order to realise the exceptional intellectuality of Christopher Marlowe as a dramatist. He was a genius, who had completed his study on a university scholarship. The secrete behind his death has not been disclosed but he, at a very young age, added his name to the list of great dramatists. 

Schelling’s remarks about Christopher Marlowe are worth mentioning:

“Marlowe gave the drama passion and poetry and poetry was his most precious gift. Shakespeare would not have been Shakespeare had Marlowe never written or lived. He might not have been altogether the Shakespeare we know.”

Schelling – Christopher Marlowe as a dramatist

Thus, he also believed that if Shakespeare is Shakespeare then credit goes to Christopher Marlowe.

A Successful Tragedian

He was a tragedian, who focused mainly on tragedies. In most of his plays, the protagonist faces his downfall because of his own ambitions. He hardly relied on fate and chances to portray his characters’ downfall. Some of his prominent plays, in which he shows catharsis of piety and fear and sketches historical characters are: 

  • Tamburlaine
  • Dr Faustus
  • Jew of Malta.

Tamburlaine was so successful that its second part was also written because of the influencing style of the writer. Besides, the dramatist Christopher Marlowe characterised protagonists of the lays in such a way that he bestows them the qualities of an epic hero. In front of the main characters, minor characters have no value. His heroes are enough for the development of his plot as well as the story of the play. He entirely ignored the role of fate in the downfall of his characters. If any character faces his destruction, then fate is not responsible for it but it is an action of the character, which destroys him.

Pioneer of Blank Verse

Christopher Marlowe is the pioneer of the technique of blank verse. His successors continued using his technique of writing even after his death. In fact, his writing style was resume in the shape of William Shakespeare’s plays. Many are best in using blank verse after his death and surpassed him but it can never be underestimated that he was the one, who created a new writing style in form of blank verse. 

In Marlowe’s era, the technique became prominent and mostly the writers relied on blank verses to portray a tale in form of a play. 

Dr Faustus as a tragic hero is an example of the usage of the beautiful poetic concept of blank verse. Among all the plays of Christopher Marlowe, it is the most freestyle poetic play. Thus, it should be called a successful play with blank verse.

Dramatists Before Christopher Marlowe

English tragedies, before Marlowe, were not so successful. One of the reasons behind it was that the writers used to copy tales from the Italian language, so much so, that the whole work was translated into the English language. Christopher Marlowe renovated and structured a new style of writing tragedies due to which we still remember him as the most liked dramatist. 

The chief ingredients of Christopher Marlowe’s successful plays are; 

  • Short dialogues
  • Lyrical fineness
  • Presence of actions.
  • Detailed characterization
  • No role of fate
  • Blank verse
  • Elements of Renissance

Rejected Aristotlean Tragedy

The tragedies of Christopher Marlowe have their own scope. He had redefined tragedy and did not stick to the rules of Aristotle. He undervalued three so-called unities. Marlowe proved that unities are not necessary for any kind of tragedy. Frequently, he removed the concept of the unity of time and space in his plays.

Inner Conflicts in Marlowe’s Plays

In ancient Greece tragedies, humans used to fight with gods, then the trend changed and the fight between humans and the world was started in tragedies. The dramatist Christopher Marlowe again changed the custom; he proved that the real fight is between man and his innersole. In every play, the hero fights a battle with his mind. 

He reduced the outer conflict and increased the inner one. Although his heroes had flaws yet their war was not with the gods or the world but with their innersoles. 

The play Dr Faustus is worth mentioning in this regard. Dr Faustus’s ambitions to gain power, knowledge and luxuries of life are responsible for his downfall. Most of the time his war is not with the outer world but with his inner self. The concept of a good angle and a bad angle portrays Dr Faustus’ mental sketch. It is also the case with Timur in Tamburlaine. His ambition to gain power doomed his fate. In this way, most of the characters of Christopher Marlowe fought with their own evil minds.

Misconceptions about Christopher Marlowe

It was also famous that Marlowe is an atheist. People used to believe that Marlowe is among those persons who do not believe in the existence of gods; hence, he can write against God. Dr Faustus is a piece of evidence that acquitted him from these charades. In this play, he tried his best to balance religion and literature as John Milton did in Paradise Lost. 

Elements of Renaissance

Renaissance elements can be found in the plays of Christopher Marlow. He is a poet of the period of the renaissance. If we thoroughly read his plays, we can prove that he was directly hit by the renaissance. Revival of learning was the key factor of the renaissance. The development could be seen in every field of life, therefore, the dramatist Christopher Marlowe could not stop himself to add renaissance elements to his dramas. 

Dr Faustus is full of ingredients of the renaissance. For instance, Dr Faustus have a lust for knowledge and power. He chooses black magic to fulfil his lusts. He also has a lust for beauty. Helen of Troy, from Greece, is its representation. All these components are elements of the renaissance. Thus, the marks of the renaissance can be found in all the plays. Hence, it can be adjudged that Marlowe was the writer of the renaissance.

Pure Tragedies by Dramatist Christopher Marlowe

Marlowe’s tragedies are highly serious. There is no humour in his plays. Comical elements in Dr Faustus were subsequently added. In the original play, they were not available. Christopher Marlowe sticks to the only primary purpose of tragedy i.e. teaching morality through catharsis. Moreover, he often ignores adding female characters in his plays. We seldom find any female character in his dramas. He pursuits beauty but ignores the characterization of female characters. 

Focus on Single Plot

Apart from this, he only has the main plot in his plays. We cannot find any subplots in his dramas. These characteristics of Christopher Marlowe, do not degrade him but it is his writing style, which makes him different from common writers. He is among the list of university wits, who reformed the theatre of the Elizabethan period and increased the interest of people in watching plays.


At last but not least, Christopher Marlowe was a great dramatist. He was not the writer of his own era but a universal writer for every period. He is remembered today and will be remembered in future because of his contribution to English drama. Marlowe adds morality in his plays. His plays are theological though he was considered an atheist. He added actions and blank verses in plays. He renewed the form of tragedy. The impact of the renaissance is also part of Christopher Marlowe’s writing. He influenced many writers. Marlowe’s plays are less in number but more in value and will be remembered because of his poetic excellence.