1691 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Christopher Marlowe

Gerard Langbaine, in Account of the English Dramatick Poets (1691) 342-45.



An Author that was Cotemporary with the Incomparable Shakespear, and One who trod the Stage with Applause both from Queen Elizabeth, and King James. Nor was he accounted a less Excellent Poet by the Judicious Johnson: and Heywood his Fellow Actor, stiles him, the Best of Poets. In what esteem he was in his time may be gathered from part of a Copy of Verses writ in that Age, call'd a Censure of the Poets, where he is thus Characteriz'd.

Next Marlow bathed in the Thespian Springs,
Had in him those brave Sublunary things,
That your 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.

His Genius inclin'd him wholly to Tragedy, and he has obliged the world with Seven Plays of this kind, of his own Composure, besides One, in which he join'd with Nash, call'd Dido Queen of Carthage, which I never saw. Of the others take the following Account.

Dr. Faustus his Tragical History, printed 4to. Lond. 1661. There is an old Edition which I never saw, but this is printed with new Additions of several Scenes. The Plot, or the Foundation of this Play, may be read in several Authors, as Camerarei Hor. Subcisiv. Cent. 1. Wierus de Praestigiis Daemonum, Lib. 2. Cap. 4. Lonicerus, &c.

Edward the Second, a Tragedy printed 4to. Lond. — I know not the Date, or the Stage where this Play was acted, thro' the defect of my Title-page. For the Plot consult the Historians, that have writ on those Times, as Ranulphus Higden, Walsingham, Math. Westminster. Especially those that have more particularly writ his Life, as Thomas de la More. Sr. Fr. Hubert, &c.

Jew of Malta, a Tragedy play'd before the King and Queen, in her Majesties Theatre, at Whitehall, and by her Majesties Servants at the Cock-pit, printed 4to. Lond. 1633. (after the Author's Decease) and dedicated (by Mr. Thomas Heywood the Publisher) To his Worthy Friend Mr. Thomas Hammon of Gray's-Inn. This Play was in much esteem, in those days the Jew's Part being play'd by Mr. Edward Allen, that Ornament both to Black-friars Stage, and to his Profession; to the One on Account of of his excellent Action, to the Other of his exemplary Piety in founding Dulwich Hospital in Surrey. What Opinion Mr. Heywood had of the Author and Actor, may be seen by the beginning of his Prologue spoke at the Cock-pit.

We know not how our Play may pass this Stage,
But by the best of Poets in that Age
The Malta Jew had being, and was made:
And He, then by the best of Actors play'd:
In Hero and Leander, one did gain
A lasting Memory: in Tamberlain,
This Jew, with others many: th' other wan
The Attribute of peerless; being a Man
Whom we may rank with (doing no one wrong)
Proteus for Shapes, and Roscius for a Tongue.

Lust's Dominion, or The Lascivious Queen a Tragedy publisht by Mr. Kirkman 8vo. Lond. 1661. and dedicated to his worthily honour'd Friend William Carpenter Esquire. This Play was alter'd by Mrs. Behn, and acted under the Title of Abdelazer, or The Moor's Revenge.

Massacre of Paris, with the Death of the Duke of Guise; a Tragedy, play'd by the Right Honourable the Lord Admiral's Servants, printed octavo Lond. — This Play is not divided into Acts; it begins with that fatal Marriage between the King of Navarre and Marguerite de Valois, Sister to King Charles the Ninth, the Occasion of the Massacre; and ends with the Death of Henry the Third of France. For the Plot, see the Writers of those times, in the Reigns of these two Kings, Ch. IX. and Henry III. Thuanus, Davila, Pierre Matthieu, Dupleix, Mezeray, &c.

Tamburlain the Great, or The Scythian Shepherd, a Tragedy in two parts; sundry times acted by the Lord Admiral's Servants, printed in an old Black-Letter octavo Lond. 1593. Had I not Mr. Heywood's Word for it, in the fore-mention'd Prologue, I should not believe this Play to be his; it being true, what an ingenious Author said, That whoever was the Author, he might ev'n keep it to himself, secure from Plagiary. For the Story, see those that have writ his Life in particular, as Pietro Perondini, M. St. Sanctyon, Du Bec, &c. and those that have treated of the Affairs of Turks and Tartars in general, in the Reigns of Bajazet and Tamerlane, as Laonicus, Chalcocondylas, Pet. Bizarus, Knolles, &c.

He writ besides a Poem, call'd Hero and Leander; "Whose mighty Lines" (says One) Mr. Benjamin Johnson, "a Man sensible enough of his own Abilities, was often heard to say, that they were Examples sitler for Admiration, than Paralel." This Poem being left imperfect by our our Author, who (according to Mr. Philips) "In some riotous Fray, came to an untimely and violent End;" it was finished by Mr. Chapman, and printed octavo Lond. 1606.