- The Cambridge Companion to Christopher Marlowe
Patrick Cheney has put together a collection of seventeen essays for the latest Cambridge Companion that anyone interested in Renaissance drama and poetry, not just Marlovians, will consider an important indicator of the contemporary variety of critical perspectives on early modern writers. In an introductory chapter, "Marlowe in the Twenty-First Century," Cheney sets forth the rationale behind the groupings of the essays that follow and evenhandedly assesses the achievement of "arguably the most enigmatic genius of the English literary Renaissance" (1). Specifically, Cheney details "the notion of Marlovian firstness" (18) as a principle that Marlowe not only promulgated in his writings but practiced through innovations in style, content, and form, much in the same way that he made violence a strong part of the substance of his works and, simultaneously, lived a life of violence.
The next five essays deal with what we might expect to find in such a volume and by those eminently qualified to write about such topics: David Riggs on "Marlowe's Life," Laurie E. Maguire on "Marlovian Texts and Authorship," Russ McDonald on "Marlowe and Style," and, invoking cultural contexts, Paul Whitfield White on "Marlowe and the Politics of Religion" and James P. Bednarz on "Marlowe and the English Literary Scene." Expectations apart, there is little that is threadbare about the treatment of these topics as one readily sees in, say, Maguire's affirmation of stylometrics (despite likely skepticism about moving stylometrics into the mainstream of Marlowe textual studies without its having been subject to a general critical appraisal), McDonald's focus on "the transgressive and conventional" (56) in Marlowe's style, and Bednarz's speculation about the relationship between Hero and Leander and Venus and Adonis.
The next group of six essays treats single works, with the exception of Georgia E. Brown's admirably original piece on "Marlowe's Poems and Classicism," which includes discussions of "On the Death of Sir Roger Manwood" and Ovid's Elegies, and Sara Munson Deats's "Dido, Queen of Carthage and The Massacre at Paris" which, in noting that these two plays flank Marlowe's dramatic output, draws a suggestive parallel between them as interrogative dramas. Mark Thornton Burnett examines the many evidences of subversiveness in the two Tamburlaine plays. Focusing on social, religious, and economic forms of fellowship, Julia Reinhard [End Page 731] Lupton takes on "the Jewish question" (144) in The Jew of Malta. Thomas Cartelli looks at Edward II to understand how and why Marlowe characterizes the passions of the play's several characters as he does. In a discussion of Doctor Faustus, Thomas Healy "seeks to re-examine the modern preoccupation with Faustus as metaphysical tragedy by thinking about it in the cultural milieu from which it first arose" (174); in doing so, he takes into account the many difficulties arising from the differences in the "A" and "B" texts. As with the preceding essays, one finds the perspectives as well as the conclusions of these essays wide-ranging and thought provoking.
The final section of the volume consists of five chapters that give us a taste of the directions in which Marlovian scholarship is moving. In "Tragedy, Patronage, and Power," Richard Wilson sets Marlowe's penchant for tragedy in a complex context of representation, patronage, and power. This is followed by Garrett A. Sullivan, Jr.'s "Geography and Identity in Marlowe" which, as its title indicates, takes a fresh look at the link between both the old and new geographies of the sixteenth century and the portrayal of Marlowe's major dramatic figures. Kate Chedgzoy's "Marlowe's Men and Women: Gender and Sexuality" analyzes both orderly unions and disorderly passions in an effort to explain their social and political involvements. In two chiefly informative essays, Lois Potter discusses "Marlowe in Theatre and Film" and Lisa Hopkins surveys "Marlowe's Reception and Influence." The volume concludes...