Christopher Marlowe's Poems

Christopher Marlowe's Poems Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Q: The work Marlowe translated, Amores by the Classical Latin poet Ovid, is a series of a highly stylized form of elegy particular to Ovid's era. Does Ovid's style and meaning translate to Marlowe's time? What, if anything, did Marlowe add to Amores, to make it his own?

    A: Ovid's style in Latin is unreproducible in Marlowe's Elizabethan English, but Marlowe keeps much of Ovid's meter and preserves the alternately playful, mocking, and serious tones that Ovid used. Marlowe occasionally mistranslated, and misunderstood some obscure Classical customs, but he kept the essential spirit of the piece and did not attempt to convert Amores into a piece of typically Elizabethan poetry.

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    Q: Discuss Marlowe's ideas about love and sexuality. Does Marlowe's presumed homosexuality (and it is by no means certain) color his writing about romantic love in his poems? Does Marlowe's choice of classical lovers in his poems (Hero and Leander, Corinna and her lover) show his feelings about sexual relationships between men and women?

    A: Marlowe's portrayals of romantic love are extremely complicated, and often shown to point out flaws within the mores of the day. Both couples, Hero and Leander and Corinna and her lover, conduct love affairs of an unconventional kind, and Marlowe enjoys looking at expressions of physical love that are irregular or outside the norm.

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    Q: What is the point of the love affair between Corinna and the poet? Was this a romantic love in the tradition of European courtly (idealized) love, or was it something different?

    A: Ovid's story of the married Corinna and her lover is entirely Roman in its outlook. It is realistic and cynical on a level that would not be often duplicated in poetry again until well into the Renaissance. This is not the kind of love sung about by the troubadours in Europe, or contained in the later Arthurian legends of courtly love. Both lovers are portrayed as somewhat selfish, and are moved more by passion and self-interest than what might be termed "love".

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    Q: What was Lucan's poem about? How does that relate to Elizabethan England?

    A: Lucan's First Book is about the Civil War in Rome. England had in past years had civil unrest, so the subject would have been of interest to contemporary English readers.

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    Q: Why does Corinna not divorce her husband? Is this important to the story?

    A: Corinna is portrayed as something of a social climber, so it is possible that she enjoyed the status that her rich husband gave her. He was not so rich, however, to prevent her from asking her lover for money. Corinna is portrayed as false and duplicitous throughout Amores, so it is not surprising that she would not mind remaining an adulteress.

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    Q: What kind of poem is an epyllion? How is Hero and Leander an epic?

    A: An epyllion is a short epic poem. The fact that Hero and Leander are legendary figures, and that the gods are involved in their tragic story, makes the poem like the longer epic poems (such as the Iliad and the Aeneid).

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    Q: What does iambic pentameter contribute to the poem of Lucan translated by Marlowe?

    A: Iambic pentameter, among other things, is very like common speech. It is adaptable to both grand speeches by great leaders, or to casual speech between people. This flexible meter makes the poem adaptable to many kinds of speakers and emotions.

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    Q: What was the main obstacle to Hero and Leander? Was it the strictures of their society, or was it their own youth and innocence?

    A: Hero and Leander were products of their society, but the main obstacle to them getting together was their own internal difficulties. Hero is so convinced that her chastity is her most important asset that, though she loves Leander, she is loathe to give it up. Leander's extreme innocence in sexual matters delays the consummation of their relationship. The external forces keeping them apart are much weaker than their own internal struggles.

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    Q: What was the reason Caesar hesitated crossing the Rubicon? Was it justified?

    A: Crossing into Italy with his army was an act of aggression on Rome. The simple act of fording the river was tantamount to committing treason. The deliberation, therefore, before moving south was necessary, for the attack on Rome was decided by that act.

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    Q: What does the form of "The Passionate Shepherd To His Love" contribute to the tone of the poem? Is this pastoral poem traditional or iconoclastic?

    A: "The Passionate Shepherd" is a very traditional pastoral poem, with no irony and a simple celebration of the joys of nature. It is similar to the first practitioner of pastoral poetry, Theocritis's work, and has been admired as one of the best examples of this poetic form.