Book #7: Lisa Hopkins, Christopher Marlowe: Renaissance Dramatist
She had me when, after a catalogue of Kit's alleged sins of atheism and sodomy, she remarked:
Nevertheless, attempts to argue for an orthodox Marlowe are essentially as desperate as arguments for a heterosexual one. Personally, the thing I most deplore is the fondness for tobacco, but there doesn't seem much point in trying to argue that away, either: this was a man who rebelled, who thought for himself, and who liked to shock.
All in all, I think this is a pretty nice overview of the state of Marlowe criticism, though (like almost all the Marlowe criticism I'm familiar with) it neglects two points that seem painfully obvious to me. One is that "The Passionate Shepherd" is a veiled political commentary. (It's Marlowe. He deconstructed and subverted. It was his way.)
The other is that Marlowe's female characters may be disempowered, but they are always, it seems to me, presented with a peculiar sympathy in their disempowerment. Hopkins acknowledges something that most critics of Marlowe dismiss, which is that his women are almost universally the only decent people in his plays (and they die of it, but then the men die of being indecent people). However, she falls for what I think is the trap of seeing Isabella in Edward II as a totally unsympathetic character, and I have never understood how that works.
How can you fail to see authorial empathy--if not sympathy--for the character who speaks her first intention with these lines?
Unto the forest, gentle Mortimer,
To live in grief and baleful discontent;
For now, my lord, the king regards me not,
But dotes upon the love of Gaveston.
He claps his cheeks, and hangs about his neck,
Smiles in his face, and whispers in his ears ;
And when I come he frowns, as who should say,
' Go whither thou wilt, seeing I have Gaveston.'
However, those quibbles aside, I am pleased that Hopkins acknowledge and takes as one of her primary arguments one of the things I love about Marlowe, which is that he is unique among Elizabethan dramatists is consistently placing the outsiders in his world-picture (the Jew, the Scythian warlord, the African queen, the Frenchman, the necromancer, the homosexual) in a subject position, and I give her mad props for saying that.