Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Marlowe and the Greeks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


School/Research organisations


Marlowe's combination of lyric violence with a spirit of irony and scepticism has always seemed somewhat paradoxical, but we may find an explanation for it in his debt to Greek. Greek language learning developed in England from the early 1500s onwards and was particularly strong at Cambridge under Sir John Cheke in the 1540s, when many of the teachers of the future generation of Elizabethan writers were trained. In the case of Marlowe, what Joseph Hall was to label ‘pure iambics’ can be seen to have Greek origins, and the plays in which these are first deployed (the two parts of Tamburlaine) almost certainly take Xenophon's Cyrpopaiedia as one of their models. But the ironic Marlowe is also evident in Tamburlaine, and the model here is not Xenophon but Lucian, whom Gabriel Harvey records as being a vogue author with Cambridge students in 1580, the year that Marlowe matriculated. Lucian also impacts on Doctor Faustus, and this becomes more evident if we read the famous line on Helen of Troy from the Dialogues of the Dead in the context of another passage from ‘The Judgement of the Goddesses’ from Dialogues of the Gods.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-218
JournalRenaissance Studies
Issue number2
Early online date28 Nov 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2013

    Research areas

  • Lucian, Marlowe, Xenephon

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Erasmus in English, 1523-1584

    Rhodes, N. P. P., Davis, A. L., Kendal, G. M. & Archer, H., 2021, (In preparation) MHRA.

    Research output: Book/ReportScholarly edition

  2. Before we sleep: Macbeth and the curtain lecture

    Rhodes, N., 30 Nov 2019, (Accepted/In press) In : Shakespeare Survey. 73

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Punctuation as rhetorical notation? From colon to semicolon

    Rhodes, N., 2019, In : Huntington Library Quarterly. 82, 1, p. 87-106

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Common: the development of literary culture in sixteenth-century England

    Rhodes, N. P. P., 26 Apr 2018, Oxford: Oxford University Press. 345 p.

    Research output: Book/ReportBook

  5. Translation

    Rhodes, N. P. P., 2018, Editing Early Modern Texts: A Handbook. Phillips, H. & Williams, C. B. (eds.). Ashgate

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Related by journal

ID: 13067536