The Marlowe Society

Marlowe's Education

Marlowe's Education

3. Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

At Corpus Christi he spent time in self-set tasks of Latin translations from Lucan's De Bello Civili into English blank verse and Ovid's Amores into rhyming couplets, such as he used later in Hero and Leander. In this we see him honing his poetic skills to emerge as England's greatest poet-dramatist, the virtual creator of Shakespearean blank verse drama, for he also began to write his first plays, probably from the age of eighteen.

Marlowe's first full-length play (now lost) is believed to be The True History of George Scanderbeg based on the life of a heroic Christian Prince of Albania, Prince Castrioto, who was abducted as a child by the conquering Turks and renamed Scanderbeg. He developed outstanding prowess at arms and became a favourite of the Turkish emperor who gave him charge of his armies. Learning of his true origin he converted to Christianity and fled to his own country, freeing it from Turkish rule and leading his people in victorious opposition to the Turkish enemy. He was a man of pristine valour who taught his soldiers to respect women, forbidding them to rape their victims in war.

Marlowe gained his BA in 1584 to become 'Dominus' Marlowe, and gained his MA – a coveted status symbol in Elizabethan times – in 1587, when he left Cambridge after six and a half years of study with the intention of taking holy orders and entering the Anglican Church, as required by his scholarship. However he left this path to enter the Queen's service as a trusted government agent.

At Cambridge he is thought by some historians to have written the lyrical drama Dido, Queen of Carthage based on Virgil's epic poem, in addition to his Tamburlaine the Great with which he was to take London's theatre world by storm! Its premier marked the birth of Shakespearean drama.

Marlowe had been writing poetry and performing plays ever since his King's School days. His education fashioned him to become the innovative genius who first conceived and created Shakespearean blank verse drama. This is why Tennyson hailed him as "The Morning Star" of the great dramatic flowering of Elizabethan England.

The Old Court at Corpus Christi, Cambridge, containing the Plaque commemorating both Marlowe and John Fletcher as students.

The north side of the Old Court at Corpus Christi, Cambridge dates from the 14th century, and has a plaque commemorating both Marlowe and fellow dramatist John Fletcher as students.