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Christopher Marlowe (February 26, 1564 - May 30, 1593)

Christopher Marlowe represents homoerotic situations and incidents in his plays and poems more frequently and more variously that any other major English Renaissance writer. His personal tastes are best expressed by his famous epigram: "All they that love not tobacco and boys are fools."

Born in Canterbury in the same year as Shakespeare, Marlowe was his most significant predecessor as an English playwright who was also a great poet. The son of a cobbler who earned a scholarship to Cambridge, where he received a B.A. in 1584 and an M.A. in 1587, Marlowe pursued a course of study that was designed to culminate in holy orders, yet the most profound result of his education may have been his love of classical literature, especially Ovid, whom he was to translate and whose comic ironies and worldly sophistication were to influence him greatly.

A writer deeply immersed in both religion and classics, Marlowe reflects in his work the tension between Christian culture's condemnation and classical culture's acceptance of homoerotics.

He was probably an agent in the Elizabethan spy network run by Sir Francis Walsingham, yet he was frequently in trouble with authorities. In 1593, he was accused by Elizabeth's Privy Council of heresy and blasphemy, but before he could answer the indictment he was murdered in a tavern in Deptford.

Marlowe's famous lyric beginning "Come live with me, and be my love" is a brilliant recital of the pastoral delights with which Corydon attempts to woo Alexis in Virgil's homoerotic second eclogue. Marlowe's seductive poem economically imagines an idyllic, self-contained golden age far removed from the demands and constraints of Elizabethan society.

Yet what is most striking about it as an adaptation of the second eclogue is not that it contains homoerotic innuendoes but, quite to the contrary, that it suppresses the unapologetic homoeroticism of its source. By failing to specify the gender of the passionate shepherd's love, Marlowe may hint at the possibility of homosexual bliss, and thereby query the dominant assumptions of his society, but he never makes that teasing hint concrete or explicit.

The poem is not entitled "Corydon to Alexis." In fact, the nonspecificity of its most common title, "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love," leaves open the door for the explicit heterosexualizing of Ralegh's "Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd." Marlowe's suppression of the overt homosexuality of Virgil's text testifies to the restraints of Elizabethan society.

The depictions of homoeroticism in Marlowe's plays include Henry III's obsession with his minions in The Massacre at Paris and the startling scene that opens Dido, Queen of Carthage, in which Jupiter is discovered "dandling Ganimed upon his knee" (s.d.), as well as other less clear-cut scenes and characterizations in the Tamburlaine plays and Doctor Faustus, and most prominently, the full exploration of homosexual love in Edward II.

What these dramatic depictions share are Marlowe's characteristic association of eroticism with issues of power and his equally characteristic resistance to his society's attitudes toward homoerotics.

Citation Information
Author: Summers, Claude J.
Entry Title: Marlowe, Christopher
General Editor: Claude J. Summers
Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture
Publication Date: 2002
Date Last Updated July 24, 2006
Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/marlowe_c.html
Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL 60607
Today's Date May 30, 2013
Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.
Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates

Further Readings:

The Life & Complete Works Of Christopher Marlowe
Publisher: Red Herring (December 30, 2010)
Amazon Kindle: The Life & Complete Works Of Christopher Marlowe

Described by Tennyson as the 'Morning Star' of Elizabethan drama, Christopher Marlowe is considered one of the greatest playwrights in the English language. This book gathers together all the crucial information needed for a study into the life of Marlowe, including a detailed timeline, a biographical profile, an extensive list of all Marlowe's personal associates, and a collection of all the key primary documents relating to Marlowe's dramatic life and death (e.g., The Privy Council Note To Cambridge Authorities, The Dutch Church Libel, The Baines Note, & much more).

Optimized for navigation as an eBook, with a table of contents linked to every section, this book also features a complete collection of Marlowe's plays and poetry.

PLAYS INCLUDED:
- Dido, Queen of Carthage
- Tamburlaine The Great, Part One
- Tamburlaine The Great, Part Two
- The Jew Of Malta
- Doctor Faustus (from the Quarto of 1604, and from the Quarto of 1616)
- Edward the Second
- The Massacre at Paris

POETRY INCLUDED:
- Hero and Leander
- Ovid's Elegies (translation)
- Lucan's Pharsalia (translation)
- The Passionate Shepherd To His Love
- Fragment
- Dialogue In Verse

BONUS FEATURE:
- An exclusive excerpt of M. G. Scarsbrook's novel THE MARLOWE CONSPIRACY, an historical thriller featuring Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare teaming-up to expose a high level government conspiracy.

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Tags: author: christopher marlowe, gay 100, gay classics, literary heritage, queers in history
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