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Christopher Marlowe: A Renaissance Life

Overview

Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593) emerges in most accounts of his life by biographers and critics as a mysterious and sensational action figure, a hapless pawn of circumstance, or a pseudonymous cipher. Constance Brown Kuriyama's new biography reconstructs the eventful life of a radically innovative playwright who flourished briefly and died violently more than four hundred years ago, yet persists in the romantic imagination even today.

Many discoveries about Marlowe's life have ...

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Overview

Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593) emerges in most accounts of his life by biographers and critics as a mysterious and sensational action figure, a hapless pawn of circumstance, or a pseudonymous cipher. Constance Brown Kuriyama's new biography reconstructs the eventful life of a radically innovative playwright who flourished briefly and died violently more than four hundred years ago, yet persists in the romantic imagination even today.

Many discoveries about Marlowe's life have emerged over the past hundred years. The author here supplements these findings with new material, placing the dramatist and poet more precisely in his historical milieu. Kuriyama interprets Marlowe's acts of violence—inexplicable though they may seem—as logical consequences of the circumstances he faced. Experience and temperament both accounted for the characteristically brash way he moved through the world. The stringent constraints of Elizabethan society, which encouraged intense political and religious conflicts, had a great influence on Marlowe's thinking, while his ambitions were stirred by the period's unprecedented opportunities for talented individuals to rise in society.

The documentary evidence assembled by Kuriyama—and made available to readers—allows her to show how Marlowe was able to take advantage of Elizabethan social mobility. In the context of Elizabethan education, society, and culture, Marlowe becomes a fully human, three-dimensional figure.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"In this more speculative life of Marlowe, Kuriyama provides insightful details into English education, politics, and religion during the Renaissance."—Library Journal, May 2002

"Kuriyama has written a smart 'life' shot through with learning—a timely look at the most notorious early modern 'badboy' and his reputation."—Studies in English Literature, Spring 2003

"Although Kuriyama devotes plenty of space to the writer's posthumous progress, . . . the real value of her book lies in the prevailing skepticism with which she treats her subject: the documentary evidence and the conspiracy theories favored throughout the past century."—Michael Caines, Times Literary Supplement, 20 September 2002

"Double agents, barroom brawls, counterfeit coins, paid informants, hired henchmen, intelligence networks spanning foreign locales, and dashing gents sent on clandestine missions for Her Majesty's secret service—descriptions from the most recent James Bond film? No, just some of the disputed details from Constance Brown Kuriyama's new biography of Christopher Marlowe. . . . My own sense is that the actual 'facts' of the poet and playwright's life lie somewhere between the wild speculations of Marlowe's more imaginative biographer's and Kuriyama's necessary and important corrective to them."—Robert Sawyer, South Atlantic Review, Summer 2003

"Constance Brown Kuriyama's new book on Christopher Marlowe offers a refreshing counter to some of the more speculative and conspiracy-theory oriented works of literary biography on the young playwright. In her methodological introduction she presents a candid and honest overview of the demands and pitfalls of biographical writing and illustrates some of the dangers for Marlowe scholarship of valorizing a documentary-based approach without considering the immediate context of chosen primary materials. . . . Kuriyama's book is clearly presented with chapters structured around successive stages of Marlowe's personal development. . . . as a readable introduction to the playwright's life this book offers students a highly commendable combination of both primary and secondary material."—Matthew Woodcock, Sixteenth Century Journal

"Christopher Marlowe: A Renaissance Life is unlike any biography of Marlowe that I know. It is an indispensable sourcebook as well as a biography. Constance Brown Kuriyama's authoritative book includes documents that have never been reprinted before."—Maurice Charney, Rutgers University

"It is not easy to write a temperate biography of a young man reputed to be 'intemperate and of cruel hart,' but Constance Brown Kuriyama does just that. With cool reason and fresh research, she throws water onto the conspiratorial fire that today surrounds Marlowe's life and death, and in the process she makes a splash of her own. The Marlowe she constructs is a more complex and humane historical figure than the one we have inherited. At the center of her narrative is the shift that occurred late in Marlowe's life, a shift reflected in the diminution of his tragic heroes: recognizing that it was impossible to be the superman he had put on the stage, he became resentful, angry, and finally explosive."—Patrick Cheney, author of Marlowe's Counterfeit Profession: Ovid, Spenser, Counter-Nationhood

Publishers Weekly
When he died at the age of 29, Christopher Marlowe (1564-93) left behind numerous plays and poems as well as a tangled personal legacy of political and religious intrigue. Marlowe scholar Kuriyama offers a new biography that functions more like a reconstruction of the playwright's persona than a chronicle of his life. She contends that by focusing too much on the documents about events in Marlowe's life, previous biographies have failed to interpret these documents within the political and cultural context. In this more speculative life of Marlowe, Kuriyama provides insightful details into English education, politics, and religion during the Renaissance, but her preoccupation with challenging earlier Marlowe biographies narrows the book's appeal to the small circle of Renaissance and Marlowe scholars. Kuriyama concludes that we know so little about Marlowe from the evidence we have that we must invent our own portrait of him, but her workmanlike prose and scholarly approach does not allow for much invention. Appropriate for academic libraries only. Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Lancaster, PA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
When he died at the age of 29, Christopher Marlowe (1564-93) left behind numerous plays and poems as well as a tangled personal legacy of political and religious intrigue. Marlowe scholar Kuriyama offers a new biography that functions more like a reconstruction of the playwright's persona than a chronicle of his life. She contends that by focusing too much on the documents about events in Marlowe's life, previous biographies have failed to interpret these documents within the political and cultural context. In this more speculative life of Marlowe, Kuriyama provides insightful details into English education, politics, and religion during the Renaissance, but her preoccupation with challenging earlier Marlowe biographies narrows the book's appeal to the small circle of Renaissance and Marlowe scholars. Kuriyama concludes that we know so little about Marlowe from the evidence we have that we must invent our own portrait of him, but her workmanlike prose and scholarly approach does not allow for much invention. Appropriate for academic libraries only. Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Lancaster, PA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801476884
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 7/15/2010
  • Pages: 280
  • Sales rank: 749,143
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Acknowledgments xi

Chronology xiii

Abbreviations xxi

Introduction 1

1 A Canterbury Tale 9

2 Fetching Gentry from the University 40

3 Commencing M.A.: Acquaintances, Friends, and Connections 53

4 A Poet's Life in London 74

5 Lord Strange and Thomas Walsingham 96

6 Fortune Turns Base 106

7 A Trim Reckoning 120

8 The Dead Shepherd 142

9 Marlowe Lost and Found 163

Appendix: Transcriptions and Translations of Selected Documents 173

References 241

Index 251

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