Christopher Marlowe

On this date in 1564, Christopher ("Kit") Marlowe was born. The poet and dramatist, who authored "Tamburlaine" (c. 1587) and "Tragedy of Dr. Faustus" (c. 1588), is considered the greatest English dramatist before Shakespeare. Educated at Cambridge, Marlowe worked as an actor and dramatist. One of Marlowe's enduring poems is the "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love" ("Come live with me and be my love. . .")

Marlowe, with Sir Walter Raleigh and others, established the first Rationalist group in English history, according to freethought historian Joseph McCabe. Marlowe was derided as an "atheist" by several contemporary political enemies. His character Faustus concludes "hell's a fable," and his villain-hero Tamburlaine burns the Koran and challenges Mohammed to "work a miracle." The Privy Council had decided to prosecute Marlowe for heresy, accusing him of writing a document denying the divinity of Christ, a few weeks before his death in a barroom brawl. There has been endless speculation over Marlowe's short life and violent death at age 29. D. 1593.

“[H]e counts religion but a childish toy,
And holds there is no sin but ignorance.”

—Christopher Marlowe, "Jew of Malta" (c. 1589)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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