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Marlowe, Christopher (1564-1593)  
page: 1  2  3  4  

The murder of the king by Lightborn, the sadistic assassin armed with a "red hote" poker (l.2479) who approaches Edward as intimately and solicitously as a lover, is not, however, simply retribution, as it might have been in a work by someone less committed than Marlowe to resisting his society's prejudices.

The unmistakably allegorical action meaningfully joins the opposed worlds of eroticism and political violence. It combines elements of sexual desire and violent "policy" and juxtaposes the world of erotic freedom represented by Edward's love for Gaveston with the cynical world of power politics symbolized by the union of Mortimer and Isabella, whose love "hatcheth death and hate" (l.1801).

The sodomitical murder is not merely gratuitous violence or simply a grotesque parody of homosexual lovemaking; still less is it the embodiment of a moralistic justice, as critics have alleged. Rather, the fatal rape at once exposes the brutality of a corrupt society that values power above all else, mocks the moralists who would justify a ruthless competition of wills with preachments, and reveals the suffering king as the bare, forked animal, unaccommodated man, an emblem of shared humanity.

Claude J. Summers

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literature >> Overview:  English Literature: Renaissance

Homosexuality is writ large in English Renaissance literature, but its inscription is only rarely direct and unambiguous.

literature >> Overview:  Pastoral

Both the elegiac and the romantic pastoral have been associated with homoerotic desire from their beginnings in classical literature to their echoes in contemporary literatures.

social sciences >> Overview:  United Kingdom I: The Middle Ages through the Nineteenth Century

The United Kingdom has a rich and vibrant legacy of queer cultural expression despite a long history of severe legal sanctions against male-male sexual acts and other manifestations of sexual and gender deviance.

literature >> Bruno, Giordano

Burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic Church, Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno has been seen as a martyr to religious intolerance; only recently has he also been recognized as a queer hero.

social sciences >> Edward II, King of England

Edward II, an early fourteenth-century king of England, formed intense relationships with his favorites, which ultimately cost him his throne and his life.

social sciences >> Henry III

Henry III, the last French king of the Valois dynasty, was widely accused of sodomy, but such charges were probably not true.

literature >> Shakespeare, William

As one of the key figures that western civilization has used to define itself, William Shakespeare stands in a complicated, fiercely contested relationship to homosexuality.

literature >> Theocritus

The ancient Greek poet Theocritus is the first great voice in the homoerotic pastoral tradition in Western literature.

literature >> Virgil

Virgil wrote approvingly of male love in many works, and his second eclogue became the most famous poem on that subject in Latin literature.


Boyette, Purvis. "Wanton Humour and Wanton Poets: Homosexuality in Marlowe's Edward II." Tulane Studies in English 12 (1977): 33-50.

Bredbeck, Gregory W. Sodomy and Interpretation: Marlowe to Milton. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991.

Downie, J. A. And J. T. Parnell, eds. Constructing Christopher Marlowe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Goldberg, Jonathan. Sodometries: Renaissance Texts, Modern Sexualities. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1992.

_____. "Sodomy and Society: The Case of Christopher Marlowe." Southwest Review 69 (1984): 371-378.

Kocher, Paul H. Christopher Marlowe: A Study of His Thought, Learning, and Character. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1946; New York: Russell & Russell, 1962.

Shepherd, Simon. Marlowe and the Politics of Elizabethan Theatre. New York: St. Martin's, 1986.

Smith, Bruce R. Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare's England: A Cultural Poetics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

Summers, Claude J. "Homosexuality and Renaissance Literature, or the Anxieties of Anachronism." South Central Review 9 (1992): 2-23.

_____. "Marlowe and Constructions of Renaissance Homosexuality." Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 21 (1994): 27-44.

_____. "Sex, Politics, and Self-Realization in Edward II." "A Poet and a Filthy Play-maker": New Essays on Christopher Marlowe. Kenneth Friedenreich, Roma Gill, and Constance B. Kuriyama, eds. New York: AMS, 1988. 221-240.

Woods, Gregory. "Body, Costume, and Desire in Christopher Marlowe." Homosexuality in Renaissance and Enlightenment England: Literary Representations in Historical Context. Claude J. Summers, ed. New York: Haworth, 1992. 69-84.


    Citation Information
    Author: Summers, Claude J.  
    Entry Title: Marlowe, Christopher  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated July 24, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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