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Marlowe's Counterfeit Profession

Marlowe's Counterfeit Profession: Ovid, Spenser, Counter-Nationhood

  • Book Info
    Marlowe's Counterfeit Profession
    Book Description:

    Cheney argues that Marlowe organizes his canon around an "Ovidian" career model, or cursus, which turns from amatory poetry to tragedy to epic. The first comprehensive reading of the Marlowe canon in over a generation.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7706-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Texts and Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction: Marlowe’s Ovidian Career, Spenser, and the Writing of Counter-Nationhood
    (pp. 3-28)

    In this study, I attempt a comprehensive reading of the Marlowe canon.¹ The occasion for my rereading is the discovery of an interlock of three issues, largely neglected in Marlowe studies, that I shall argue preoccupied their author a good deal: the idea of a literary career; the practice of professional rivalry; and the writing of nationhood. TheTamburlaineepigraph above, which comes from the prologue to the only work of Marlowe’s printed in his lifetime, succinctly interlocks these issues in a way that is programmatic for the following study.

    In this prologue, the playwright announces a career turn from...

  6. Part I: Sea-Bank Myrtle Sprays:: Amatory Poetry

    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 29-30)

      Marlowe contributes to Western poetics by inscribing an Ovidian career model of counter-Spenserian nationhood in late sixteenth-century England.

      Marlowe’s Ovidian model, like other career models available at this time, is genre-based. In general, it moves from an apprentice phase of lower or youthful genres to a master phase of higher or mature genres. In particular, it unfolds its two-phase progression via a three-genre structure that moves from amatory poetry to tragedy and epic. Rather than solidifying this progressive structure through typology, however, the Ovidiancursusrenders the structure playfully fluid – non-progressive and non-typological: it sets up a sacred generic...

    • 1 Ovid’s Counter-Virgilian Cursus in the Amores
      (pp. 31-48)

      TheAmoresis a complex document in and of itself, but two additional features of Ovid’s ostensibly inaugural collection of love elegies make discussion of it even more problematic: its perplexing publishing history and its paradoxical relation to Ovid’s subsequent poetry. The publishing history is perplexing because Ovid opens by revealing that the text he is presenting is a second edition, because the first edition is not extant, and because we cannot identify the composition or publication dates of either edition.¹ The relation of the second edition to Ovid’s subsequent poetry is paradoxical because Ovid combines in a single volume...

    • 2 Marlowe’s New Renaissance Ovid: ‘Area maior’ in Ovid’s Elegies
      (pp. 49-67)

      Marlowe’s inscription of the OvidiancursusinOvid’s Elegiesis significant initially because it is the very first by any writer out of the Latin into any vernacular language. In fact, it is remarkable to discover that Marlowe is the first Western poet in any language to make Ovid’s career patternliterallyhis own. This he achieves by virtue of translating the only poem in the Ovidian canon that inscribes a projected career pattern. For this quite technical reason, Marlowe alone among his contemporaries – English or Continental – deserves the first garland asOvidianus poeta

      TheAmoresis unique...

    • 3 Career Rivalry, Counter-Nationhood, and Philomela in ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’
      (pp. 68-88)

      Marlowe’s lovely pastoral lyric, ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love,’ occupies a special place in the canon of English poetry. Ever since Izaak Walton referred to ‘that smooth song which was made by Kit Marlow, now at least fifty years ago,’ critics have eulogized ‘The Passionate Shepherd’ as ‘one of the most beautiful lyrics in English literature.’¹ In accord with such a famous poem, critics have long emphasized a wide array of topics: the complex history of the manuscript; the problem of dating the poem; the maze of classical and Renaissance sources from which Marlowe drew; his recurrent use of...

  7. Part II: Sceptres and High Buskins:: Tragedy

    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 89-98)

      Marlowe also contributes to Western poetics by situating the genre of tragedy dead in the centre of his counter-Spenserian, Ovidiancursus: amatory poetry-tragedy-epic.

      By centralizing ‘Ovidian tragedy,’ Marlowe lays claim to the first garland in the Western literary competition for the title ofOvidianus poeta. As we saw in chapter 1, in theAmoresOvid had advertised himself as a tragedian, but paradoxically he had failed to produce a substantial body of ‘Ovidian tragedy.’ As far as a Renaissance tragedian could be concerned, Ovid had failed to produce any visible tragedy whatsoever. Ovid may have created the form, but he...

    • 4 Dido, Queen of Carthage and the Coining of ‘“Eliza”’
      (pp. 99-114)

      In this passage, Marlowe evokes ‘Eliza’ as a cult name for England’s Queen. In establishing an analogy between Queen Elizabeth and Queen Dido, he localizes not just a politics of the queen, but a poetics of the queen. For one poet in particular had made the name ‘Eliza’ famous in his 1579Shepheardes Calender: ‘fayre Eliza, Queene of shepheardes all’ (Aprill34). InDido, Marlowe writes his sovereign through with an inscription that ‘re[-]sounds’ an inscription of a professional rival. ‘“Eliza”’ is not simply Elizabeth, but Spenser’s Elizabeth – a fictive, not a real queen.¹ As the passage indicates, Marlowe...

    • 5 ‘Thondring words of threate’: Spenser in Tamburlaine, Parts 1 and 2
      (pp. 115-135)

      The phrase ‘thondring words of threate’ does not come from Marlowe, theTamhurlaineplays, or Marlowe’s dramatic experiments in tragedy; it comes from Spenser,The Shepheardes Calender, and Spenser’s poetic representation of tragedy in his pastoral. By situating the Marlovian tragedy ofTamhurlainewithin Spenser’sOctobereclogue, we may find an important but neglected origin of Marlowe’s project: Spenser’s mapping of Renaissance ideas of a literary career.

      LikeDido, theTamburlaineplays have their uniqueness in the Marlowe canon: they are the only works published during the author’s lifetime (1590; first staged 1587–8). Consequently, critics believe that the text...

    • 6 Machiavelli and the Play of Policy in The Jew of Malta
      (pp. 136-156)

      In the second triad, or ‘plays of policy,’ Marlowe appears to turn, at least in part, away from Spenser and Ovid towards ‘Machiavelli’ in order to flesh out the genre of tragedy. Una M. Ellis-Fermor’s title forThe Jew of Malta,Edward II, andThe Massacre at Paris, ‘the plays of policy,’ identifies a conceptual common denominator in three quite different plays – the concept of ‘policy’ – and an archival common denominator in ‘those methods and principles which, to Marlowe and his contemporaries, went under the name of Machiavellianism’(88). Such a grouping participates in a certain straining of the...

    • 7 ‘Italian masques by night’: Machiavellian Policy and Ovidian Play in Edward II
      (pp. 157-174)

      From the perspective of the present study, the dramatic poles ofEdward IIbecome two similar theatrical representations. In the opening scene, Gaveston plans to stage ‘Italian masques by night’ in order to ‘best please his majesty’ (I.i. 5 4, 70); and, in the penultimate scene, Mortimer commissions the henchman Lightborn to stage an ‘Italian’ rape by night in order to best kill his majesty (V.v).¹ Both the opening and the closing ‘Italian masque’ are at once Machiavellian and Ovidian, the synthesis of policy and play, as both Gaveston and Mortimer are adept in the ‘arts’ of bothItalian plotters....

    • 8 ‘Actors in this massacre’: The Massacre at Paris and the Orphic Guise of Metatheatre
      (pp. 175-189)

      Of all Marlowe’s plays, onlyThe Massacre at Parislacks a prologue or prologue-like opening. Four of the seven plays (Tamburlaine, Parts 1 and 2,The Jew of Malta, andDoctor Faustus) have formal prologues, while the remaining two (Dido,Queen of CarthageandEdward II) have scenes that are prologue-like in their self-reflexive commentary on the action (the Jupiter/Ganymede scene and the Gaveston soliloquy). Marlowe’s prologues and prologue-like openings supply us with what little information we possess about Marlowe’s sense of his project. Occasionally, these openings help us understand how he authors a play within the Ovidian pattern of...

    • 9 Un-script(ur)ing Christian Tragedy: Ovidian Love, Magic, and Glory in Doctor Faustus
      (pp. 190-220)

      Marlowe here ‘announces his intention of turning away from the heroic and political themes that had occupied his attention’ in previous plays (Bevington and Rasmussen, eds.,Doctor Faustus106). Today, however, we cannot tell at what point in his ‘career’ (Bevington and Rasmussen 1) Marlowe is making this dramatic turn. Yet everything the present study needs to say aboutDoctor Faustusdepends on a clarification precisely of this announced careermeta.

      The problem we face is large indeed, because the play we know as ‘Doctor Faustus’ is plagued by three sets of technical ‘doubling.’ First, the play exists in two...

  8. Part III: Trumpets and Drums:: Epic

    • [PART III Introduction]
      (pp. 221-226)

      Finally, Marlowe contributes to Western poetics by situating the genre of epic in the oscillating pattern of his counter-Spenserian, Ovidiancursus.

      In 1592–3, Marlowe seizes an institutional opportunity, afforded when the theatres close because of plague, to complement his work in tragedy with new work in epic. As if he knew the end were coming, he begins fully to circumscribe the Ovidianmetato thearea maior.

      The institutional evidence of thismetaappears in the Stationers’ Register, which, on 28 September 1593, almost exactly four months after Marlowe’s death, entersLucan’s First BookandHero and Leanderinto...

    • 10 Counter-Epic of Empire: Lucan’s First Book
      (pp. 227-237)

      In translating the first book of Lucan’sPharsalia, Marlowe constructs Elizabethan England’s first – and last – counter-epic of empire in order to attack and resist the great Virgilian epic of empire,The Faerie Queene.

      The historical significance ofLucan’s First Bookhas long escaped critics, but it is not hard to understand why. Only within the last few decades have classicists launched a Lucan revival, and only within the last few years have Renaissance scholars joined in. Perhaps few readers would share the exuberance of Statius, who judged Lucan superior to Virgil as Rome’s true poet of epic (Silvae...

    • 11 Marlowe, Chapman, and the Rewriting of Spenser’s England in Hero and Leander
      (pp. 238-258)

      Recent criticism onHero and Leanderraises a challenge for the present study. Is it possible that Marlowe the epicist is the product not of Marlowe but of George Chapman?

      The question exists because, as withDoctor Faustus, we possess two texts ofHero and Leander, both published in 1598. The first was published early in the year by Edward Blount, who printed Marlowe’s name on the title page and supplied a dedication to Marlowe’s patron at the time of his death, Sir Thomas Walsingham. This text, which survives in only one copy, is printed without the division into ‘sestiads’...

  9. Afterword: Counterfeiting the Profession
    (pp. 259-264)

    In 1678, Milton’s nephew, Edward Phillips, introduces the critical lens that the present study, in its broadest scope, seeks to reconstruct:

    Christopher Marlow, a kind of second Shakesphear (whose contemporary he was) not only because like him he rose from an actor to be a maker of plays, though inferior both in fame, and merit; but also because in his begun poem of “Hero and Leander,” he seems to have a resemblance of that clean, and unsophisticated Wit. (Phillips,Theatrum Poetarum Anglicanorum, rpt. in MacLure, ed.,Marlowe51)

    Less than a century after Marlowe’s death, commentators are viewing his canon...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 265-344)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 345-378)
  12. Index
    (pp. 379-402)