No. 18: Christopher Marlowe (not) at 40

marloweA number of posts in this series have looked upon authors in their 40th as either just beginning their career, or safely in the midst of it, but just as often we can see 40 as an elusive, unobtainable age, and such is certainly the case for Christopher Marlowe who died in 1593 aged just 29; yet he still maintained a presence on the stage in his 40th year, with the first publication of his most famous play Doctor Faustus eleven years after his death. Yet Marlowe’s early death has also been the making of his reputation, with fans and critics alike bewailing the absence of further plays and regularly arguing that had he lived, be it 40 or older, it might have been him, and not Shakespeare, who we study today. Continue reading “No. 18: Christopher Marlowe (not) at 40”

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No. 10: Thomas Middleton at 40

Middleton

Thomas Middleton was a Renaissance playwright successful enough in his own lifetime, then cast like so many of his contemporaries under the critical shadow of Shakespeare, but now enjoying increasingly greater prominence in academic discussion; admittedly this is in part thanks to what we now recognise as his revision of a number of Shakespeare plays, but moreover due to recent work by OUP in collecting his complete works for the first time that has allowed us to truly grasp the full range of his dramatic power. Thanks to this, we can now get a better sense of his professional progress, and assess his position at the age of 40. Continue reading “No. 10: Thomas Middleton at 40”

No. 9: John Milton at 40

John Milton

John Milton (1608-1674) will forever be remembered first and foremost for Paradise Lost, and as such is frequently packaged as the romantic, blind poet bequeathing us with his epic poetry. Step back to his 40s though and we are faced with a far more troubling Milton – posterboy for the Roundheads and lapdog to Oliver Cromwell. In the words of 1066 and all that, he was less ‘wrong but wromantic’ at this age, and more ‘right but repulsive’. Continue reading “No. 9: John Milton at 40”

No. 3: William Shakespeare at 40

 

 

Chandos Shakespeare

In 1604, at the age of forty, William Shakespeare was a well-known and wealthy man, owning property in Stratford and London, and performing before the Royal Court. By this age he had already written some of his most famous works including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar and The Merchant of Venice. This rise to success had irked others along the way, including the playwright Robert Greene, who had named him an ‘upstart crow’. Greene appears bitter when he stated that: Continue reading “No. 3: William Shakespeare at 40”

No. 2: Aphra Behn at 40

Aphra Behn

A discussion of Aphra Behn at 40 immediately hits into trouble given that we have yet to agree exactly when she was born. Aphra Behn, born Johnson (we think), may have been the daughter of a Leuitenant General, or instead the daughter of a barber in Kent. While the debate continues to rage over that, we think – think – that whoever her father was, she was born around 1640. This would put her 40th birthday in 1680, and a good year for her at that. Continue reading “No. 2: Aphra Behn at 40”