The World of Christopher Marlowe [NOOK Book]


"The World of Christopher Marlowe is the story of the troubled genius, raised in the stench and poverty of Canterbury's abattoirs, who revolutionized English drama and poetry, challenging and scandalizing English society before he was murdered in his prime. David Riggs, a prizewinning Elizabethan scholar, evokes the atmosphere and texture of Marlowe's life in Elizabethan England, from his birth (in 1564, the same year as Shakespeare's) to his ties to the London underworld and his triumphs on the stage." "Ben Jonson celebrated Marlowe's "mighty
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The World of Christopher Marlowe

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"The World of Christopher Marlowe is the story of the troubled genius, raised in the stench and poverty of Canterbury's abattoirs, who revolutionized English drama and poetry, challenging and scandalizing English society before he was murdered in his prime. David Riggs, a prizewinning Elizabethan scholar, evokes the atmosphere and texture of Marlowe's life in Elizabethan England, from his birth (in 1564, the same year as Shakespeare's) to his ties to the London underworld and his triumphs on the stage." "Ben Jonson celebrated Marlowe's "mighty line," which brought lightness and musicality to English verse. Though he was the greatest dramatist the English had ever known, Marlowe lived on the margins of London life, among prostitutes and thieves, and attracted a new class of theatergoers with a repertory that spoke to their most urgent concerns - class conflict, erotic desire, religious dissent." "Among the scenes of conflict and intrigue that inspired him, Marlowe would find his way into the spy rings that dominated the Elizabethan state, and their influence would loom over his life and work from the time he left Cambridge University. His undercover missions brought him into contact with Roman Catholic conspirators who were plotting to kill the queen, while his private deliberations led him to an idea even more threatening to the monarchy - atheism. No one knows to this day whether his murder was the act of a sovereign power or the result of a tavern brawl." In a period of eight years, Christopher Marlowe's masterpieces, Dr. Faustus, Tamburlaine the Great, and The Jew of Malta, transformed the Elizabethan stage into a place of astonishing creativity. Shakespeare mourned his passing: "Dear shepherd, now I find thy saw of might/Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight."
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Riggs (Ben Jonson: A Life), an English professor at Stanford University, traces the life of Elizabethan poet, playwright and spy Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), placing him in the context of the institutions that both fostered his keen intellect and reinforced his awareness of his lowly class origins (his father was a shoemaker). Riggs suggests that Marlowe, Shakespeare's great contemporary, author of Tamburlaine and Dr. Faustus, may have sought to overcome those origins through his unusual and dangerous career path. Working in the New Historicist vein most recently mined by Stephen Greenblatt in Will in the World, Riggs evokes the pedagogical preoccupations of Marlowe's school and university education, revealing layers of intricate detail in Marlowe's formation as a literary artist: his study and translation of Ovid, his innovations in blank verse, and the substance and reception of all of his plays and poetry. While downplaying Marlowe's disputed sexuality, Riggs pays careful attention to the homoerotic and homophobic aspects of his plays, most notably Edward II, considering each in its contemporary moral and political setting. Riggs concludes with fresh insights into the mysterious circumstances of Marlowe's violent death. This study balances close literary readings with lucidly presented historical context to give us a portrait of a brilliant but volatile enigma who shunned convention in favor of risk and marginality. 50 b&w illus. Agent, Michael Carlisle. (Jan. 5) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Riggs (English, Stanford Univ.), whose previous work includes the authoritative Ben Jonson: A Life, has drawn together a marvelous biography of the talented and notoriously combative poet, playwright, and spy. As with Marlowe's contemporary Shakespeare, very little is known about the day-to-day details of his short life. We know, in part, that Marlowe received an M.A. from Cambridge, was briefly jailed for his role in the murder of an innkeeper, was then ordered by a court to cease threatening two members of the local constabulary, and that his life was cut short at the age of 29 after being stabbed in the brain by a drinking companion. Riggs successfully deals with the dearth of specific details of Marlowe's life by placing known events in the context of Elizabethan society and institutions. For example, he does a masterful job of discussing the 16th century's grueling higher education system with its focus on dialectic and rhetoric and the influence it had on Marlowe's thought and writing. If this sounds a bit dry, it is a testament to Riggs's skill as a writer that the book doesn't come across that way. These sections are every bit as lively as the author's discussions of espionage, counterfeiting, and court intrigue. This truly impressive work of scholarship, with 50 black-and-white illustrations, is enthusiastically recommended to academic and public libraries.-William D. Walsh, Georgia State Univ., Atlanta Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Highly satisfying biography of the first great English playwright, who was also a "landmark figure in the history of atheism and sedition. "Because there is virtually no firsthand evidence about the beliefs or actions of Christopher Marlowe (1564-93), Riggs (English/Stanford; Ben Jonson, not reviewed) turns to the culture and time that created him. He does so with authority and vigor, recapturing the climate of religious flux and common disaster, not just in England but across Europe, that surrounded Marlowe's youth. Riggs traces his subject's passage from "poor boy on scholarship" (at the King's School and Cambridge) to a dodgy adult life juggling "the tripartite roles of wayward scholar, secret agent and innovative poet-playwright." Into the historical matrix he weaves Marlowe's intellectual daring, his affection for every form of subversion, and his levitating touch on his homeland's literature and drama as he "captured the lofty sound of Virgil's epic verse in lines of English poetry." Riggs devotes a good, and fascinating, amount of time to considering the possibility that Marlowe was a double agent in the employ of European powers seeking to destabilize English rule, but he gives equal measure to the writer who addressed poverty, class conflict, eroticism, and dissent. "The criminal element in his story, far from being accidental, was intrinsic to his life and art," declares the author, finding in Marlowe's work veiled expressions of the skeptical and libertine ideas that came part and parcel with his classical education. Riggs takes gorgeous lines like "I'll fire thy crazed buildings and enforce / Thy papal towers to kiss the lowly ground" (from King Edward II) and explains wherethey came from, how they shaped a whole new literary and social framework, and why they damned Marlowe in the eyes of some contemporaries as a godless blasphemer. Limning a life described by its protagonist as "infinite riches in a little room," Riggs explodes the walls of that room in a book that rivals the richness of Marlowe's masterpieces. (50 b&w illustrations)Agent: Katinka Matson/Brockman
From the Publisher

"Full-blooded biography . . . We are drawn deep into the sordid realm in which Marlowe fashioned his life and met his violent death."
-Stephen Greenblatt, Cogan University Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University, author of Hamlet in Purgatory

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466862340
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/7/2014
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 1,165,408
  • File size: 8 MB

Meet the Author

David Riggs is a professor of English at Stanford University. His previous books include Ben Jonson: A Life. He lectures regularly at leading universities in the United States and Great Britain, and has written articles for The Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies and Shakespeare Quarterly, among others. He lives in Stanford, California.

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