The Power of Human Nature in the Works of Christopher Marlowe

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Ian Parker

ENGL 165

Marlowe Essay

The Power of Human Nature in the Works of Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe was one of the first poets to give rise to the age of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama. A contemporary of other famous playwrights William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, Marlowe's work is of a similar poetic brilliance. His subject matter and themes however, are often more challenging and complex than those found in the works of other playwrights of his era. Marlowe's plays and non-dramatic poetry have a subversive quality that is difficult to define. Marlowe's motivations are often unclear, as regardless of how deeply one looks into his works, it is difficult to tell how seriously he takes his subversion. With most characters and themes found in his work, there seems to be both a socially acceptable and a more dangerous explanation for what he wants the reader to understand. Some critics see his work as being an attempt to argue against and undermine the social order of the time, while others argue that the amount of subversion is vastly overstated.

In Marlowe's plays, there are many different parties that he pokes fun at., most importantly the major institutions of social control such as government and organized religion. He also attempts to argue against ideas prevalent in society which do not necessarily come from these institutions, such as marriage, the denouncement of promiscuous sex, and perhaps homophobia. He achieves these arguments through his characters, and does not leave the feeling of a heavy-handed authorial message being put forth. While this makes it somewhat unclear exactly how strong Marlowe's personal stance against these issues was, there exists a very strong connection between the arguments, from which a personal ethos for Marlowe can be understood.

Marlowe's attacks on various institutions, especially government and...