Tragedy and Trauma in the Plays of Christopher Marlowe  book cover
1st Edition

Tragedy and Trauma in the Plays of Christopher Marlowe

ISBN 9780367880156
Published December 12, 2019 by Routledge
202 Pages

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Book Description

Contending that criticism of Marlowe’s plays has been limited by humanist conceptions of tragedy, this book engages with trauma theory, especially psychoanalytic trauma theory, to offer a fresh critical perspective within which to make sense of the tension in Marlowe’s plays between the tragic and the traumatic. The author argues that tragedies are trauma narratives, narratives of wounding; however, in Marlowe’s plays, a traumatic aesthetics disrupts the closure that tragedy seeks to enact. Martin’s fresh reading of Massacre at Paris, which is often dismissed by critics as a bad tragedy, presents the play as deliberately breaking the conventions of the tragic genre in order to enact a traumatic aesthetics that pulls its audience into one of the early modern period’s most notorious collective traumatic events, the massacre of French Huguenots in Paris in 1572. The chapters on Marlowe’s six other plays similarly argue that throughout Marlowe’s drama tragedy is held in tension with-and disrupted by-the aesthetics of trauma.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Tragedy and Trauma

1 Trauma, Faith, and Epic History in Dido, Queen of Carthage

2 Trauma and Tragedy in Tamburlaine the Great Part One

3 Tamburlaine the Great Part Two and the Refusal of Tragedy

4 Tragedy and Psychopathology in The Jew of Malta

5 Pain, History, and Theater in Edward II

6 The Traumatic Realism of The Massacre at Paris

7 Doctor Faustus and the Fundamental Fantasy

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Mathew R. Martin is Professor of English Language and Literature at Brock University, Canada. He is author of Between Theatre and Philosophy: Skepticism in the Major City Comedies of Ben Jonson and Thomas Middleton (2001), co-editor of Staging Pain, 1580-1800 (Ashgate, 2009), and author of articles on Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson, Middleton, and Ford. He has also edited Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, Edward the Second, The Jew of Malta, and Tamburlaine the Great Part One and Part Two for Broadview Editions.


'The chapters treat individual plays and are insightful and convincing throughout, but of particular interest are Martin's interpretations of Dido, Queene of Carthage and The Massacre at Paris, the two least-studied of Marlowe's plays...Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.' - B. E. Brandt, South Dakota State University, CHOICE


"Martin offers challenging readings that rethink Marlowe’s plays. His pervasive use of psychoanalysis should also renew the importance of this literary tool. Tragedy and Trauma in the Plays of Christopher Marlowe will appeal to undergraduates and academics studying these disciplines."Frank Swannack, University of Salford, UK