Christopher Marlowe and the Failure to Unify  book cover
1st Edition

Christopher Marlowe and the Failure to Unify

ISBN 9780367880255
Published December 12, 2019 by Routledge
172 Pages

USD $48.95

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Book Description

In this sustained full length study of Marlowe's plays, Andrew Duxfield argues that Marlovian drama exhibits a marked interest in unity and unification, and that in doing so it engages with a discourse of anxiety over social discord that was prominent in the 1580s and 1590s. In combination with the ambiguity of the plays, he suggests, this focus produces a tension that both heightens dramatic effect and facilitates a cynical response to contemporary evocations of and pleas for unity. This book has three main aims. Firstly, it establishes that Marlowe’s tragedies exhibit a profound interest in the process of reduction and the ideal of unity. Duxfield shows this interest to manifest itself in different ways in each of the plays. Secondly, it identifies this interest in unity and unification as an engagement in a cultural discourse that was particularly prevalent in England during Marlowe’s writing career; during the late 1580s and early 1590s heightened inter-confessional tension, the threat and reality of foreign invasion and public puritan dissent in the form of the Marprelate controversy provoked considerable public anxiety about social discord. Thirdly, the book considers the plays’ focus on unity in relation to their marked ambiguity; throughout all of the plays, unifying ideals and reductive processes are consistently subject to renegotiation with, or undercut entirely by, the complexity and ambiguity of the dramas in which they feature. Duxfield’s focus on unity as a theme throughout the plays provides a new lens through which to examine the place of Marlowe’s work in its cultural moment.

Table of Contents


1 Building a Statelier Troy: Dido, Queen of Carthage

2 Reduced to a Map: Tamburlaine the Great, Parts One and Two

3 "Resolve me of all ambiguities": Doctor Faustus

4 Individual and Multitude: The Jew of Malta and The Massacre at Paris

5 True Contraties: Edward II


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Andrew Duxfield is Lecturer in English Literature at Coventry University, UK.


"Christopher Marlowe and the Failure to Unify represents an original, well researched thesis investigating overlooked historical and critical sources. Undergraduates, academics, and interested readers will find in Duxfield’s book invaluable and entertaining insights into Marlowe’s plays."

- Frank Swannack, University of Salford, UK

"Duxfield’s argument that the plays of Christopher Marlowe show a tendency towards and an ultimate subversion of unity remains strong throughout the monograph and in his extensive coverage of the entirety of Marlowe’s dramatic works. While drawing on past scholarship in order to situate the thesis, Duxfield’s argument remains strong and clear throughout, and adds a fresh texture to the scholarly conversation on Marlowe’s plays."

- Hayley Coble, University of Minnesota, USA

"This is a significant and welcome addition to the canon of key critical interventions on the work of Christopher Marlowe."

- Adam Hansen review: English, 66:252 (2017), pp. 88–91