Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 36.djvu/195

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Marlowe 189 Marlowe

Thorpe, in his dedication of the 'Lucan,' spoke of him with some point as 'that pure elementall wit.' According to the 'Returne from Pernassus' (ed. Mocray, p. 86),

Marlowe was happy in his buskined muse,
Alas, unhappy in his life and end.
Pitty it is that wit so ill should dwell,
Wit lent from heauen, but vice sent from hell,
Our Theater hath lost, Pluto hath got,
A tragick penman for a driery plot.

The finest encomium bestowed on him is by Drayton, in his 'Epistle ... of Poets and Poesy,' 1627. It runs (the first word means 'unsophisticated;' another reading is 'Next'):--

Neat Marlowe bathèd in the Thespian springs,
Had in him those brave translunary things
That the first poets had; his raptures were
All air and fire, which made his verses clear;
For that fine madness still he did retain
Which rightly should possess a poet's brain.

Heywood, in his ' Hierarchie of the Blessed Angels,' 1635 (bk. iv.), wrote less effectively:--

Marlo, renown'd for his rare art and wit.
Could ne'er attain beyond the name of Kit.
Although his Hero and Leander did
Merit addition rather.

Ben Jonson, in his verses to Shakespeare's memory, describes how Shakespeare excelled Marlowe's 'mighty line,' But the most substantial proof of Marlowe's greatness was the homage paid him by Shakespeare. In 'As you like it' (iii. 5, 80) Shakespeare, quoting from Marlowe's 'Hero and Leander,' apostrophised Marlowe In the lines,

Dead shepherd, now I find thy saw of might,
'Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?'

This passage, coupled with the inferences already drawn respecting the two men's joint responsibility for Parts II. and III. of 'Henry VI' justifies the theory that they were personally acquainted. But the powerful influence exerted by Marlowe on Shakespeare's literary work is more interesting than their private relations with each other. All the blank verse in Shakespeare's early plays bears the stamp of Marlowe's inspiration. In 'Richard II' and the 'Merchant of Venice ' Shakespeare chose subjects of which Marlowe had already treated in 'Edward II' and the 'Jew of Malta,' and although the younger dramatist was more efficient in the handling of his plots than the elder, Shakespeare's direct indebtedness to Marlowe in either piece is unmistakable. 'Richard III,' again, is closely modelled on Marlowe. 'But for him,' says Mr. Swinburne, 'this play could never have been written.' In its fiery passion, singleness of purpose, and abundance of inflated rhetoric it resembles 'Tamburlaine' (cf. Swinburne, Study of Shakespeare, pp. 43-4). Shakespeare was conscious of the elder dramatist's extravagances, and at times parodied them, as in Pistol or in the players in 'Hamlet.' But his endeavours to emulate Marlowe's great qualities proves his keen appreciation of them.

Marlowe's plays retained a certain popularity, mainly on account of their extravagances, for many years after his death. 'Tamburlaine' or the 'Jew of Malta' often figured in the programmes of provincial companies in Charles I's time (cf. Gayton, Festivous Notes on Don Quitole, 1654, p. 271). But his place in English literary history was ill appreciated between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. Charles Lamb and Hazlitt first perceived the high merits of his 'Faustus' and 'Edward II,' and Hallam, a very sober-minded critic, finally detected the wide interval which separated him from all the other predecessors of Shakespeare. His reputation has of late years been steadily growing at home and abroad. In the opinion of his most recent critics, Mr. A.C. Swinburne and John Addington Symonds [q. v.], he must rank with the great poets of the world. On comparatively rare occasions did he do full justice to himself; he lacked humour; he treated female character ineffectively; while his early death prevented his powers from reaching full maturity. But the genius which enabled him in his youth to portray man's intensest yearnings for the impossible — for limitless power in the case of Tamburlaine, for limitless knowledge in that of Faustus, and for limitless wealth in that of Barabas — would have assuredly rendered him in middle age a formidable rival to the greatest of all tragic poets.

A complete edition of Marlowe's works, published by Pickering, with a life of the author by G. Robinson, appeared in 3 vols. in 1626. A copy, with copious manuscript notes by J. Broughton, is in the British Museum. Dyce's edition was first issued in 1850 (3 vols.), that by Lieutenant-colonel Cunningham in 1871, and that by Mr. A. H. Bullen (3 vols.) in 1885. A selection of his poetry was issued in the 'Canterbury Poets,' 1885, ed. P. E. Pinkerion, and five plays, ed. H. Havelock Ellis, in ' Mermaid Series' in 1887. A French translation by F. Rabbe, with an introduction by J. Richepin, was published, 2 vols. Paris, 1885. A German translation appears in F. M. Bodenstedt's