Intentions

This is the Full Monty version of our original proposal, which we were compelled to reduce to 75 words.

Seminar #9: Marlowe and Shakespeare

Sarah K. Scott, Mount St. Mary’s University;
M. L. Stapleton, Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne

The venerable critical tradition that links the two authors is informed by a familiar narrative that stresses the significance of their mutual birth year, their apprenticeship in the public theater, and the intertwined concepts of their symbiotic influence and ensuing rivalry, with the survivor serving as the winner. Several notable books and articles have both advanced this literary mythology and interrogated its validity: in the mid-twentieth century, F. P. Wilson (1953), Nicholas Brooke (1961), and Harold F. Brooks (1968); in the last two decades, Thomas Cartelli, James Shapiro (1991), and Robert A. Logan (2007). Shakespeare studies have undoubtedly affected, and in some variations, even determined the reception of Marlowe. The objective of our seminar would be to ask our participants to speculate whether this was truly inevitable, and, if so, if this is a desirable outcome. Also, how have Marlowe studies shaped and framed the dramaturgical and poetical reception of Shakespeare?

We would especially welcome essays that address the following questions or topics as themes in the course of more specific analysis of the relationship between the two writers.  Why has the idea persisted that it is important to promulgate the idea of value, either that Shakespeare is superior or its imprecise corollary, that Marlowe is his equal? If the “survivor” was indeed perceived the “winner,” does this mean that Marlowe necessarily suffered by comparison, or is this merely another metamorphosis in the myth? Is the renewed interest in Marlowe, one that champions him as a major author with an identifiable opus that can be read “intratextually,” merely a reaction to the theory of Shakespearean superiority?  In spite of clear evidence of Shakespeare’s collaboration with Middleton and Fletcher, there is probably no early modern author whom we associate with him more than Marlowe. Why has this speculative connection endured, and the more evidentiary one not developed more? Is it worthwhile any longer to examine the relationship between similar texts, such as The Jew of Malta and The Merchant of Venice? (In his Shakespeare Bulletin review of Theater for a New Audience’s 2007 production, Michael Basile writes that there was little, if any, “inkling of a rationale for presenting these two plays in repertory.”) And, finally, why has it seemed not just important but essential for many to seek, as Logan has put it so well, “uncomplicated explanations” for the idea of influence, or fail to heed his caveat that such study is indeed a process and not an end in itself?