Christopher Marlowe, playwright, poet, rapscallion, and William Shakespeare's more dastardly contemporary (as well as his biggest influence), should be high on the list of people whose DNA we ought to sniff out for cloning purposes. Or, we could invent time travel to rescue him from getting fatally stabbed in the head over a restaurant bill, since finding his unmarked grave might prove difficult. I'm not picky!
In any event, here are the most compelling reasons, according to history and Elizabethan rumor, that we need Marlowe now more than ever.
Sure, Shakespeare and Milton used blank verse, but Marlowe fully exploited it before anybody else working in his language — not bad for the son of a shoemaker. What's blank verse? Oh, just a metrical, unrhymed style that encompasses about 75% of all English poetry ever. Without his commitment to the form, you wouldn't have Alfred Tennyson. (You're welcome.) There's no denying that today's publishing world could really use another injection of sheer talent from this guy. Maybe he'd find a way to rally diehard book nerds to read on tablets or provide a viable alternative to Sleep No More.
Almost all of Marlowe's plays were published posthumously, so he didn't have to worry about pulling any punches. Although the Faustian legend of a Satanic pact often ended with repentance and salvation before God, as in Goethe's later version, Marlowe's Doctor Faustus concludes (spoiler alert!) with the protagonist carried to hell by demons for extensive mutilation. He allowed for a wider scope of tragic drama than his peers, and his outsized characters, doomed by their own ambition, still have a peculiar resonance.
Off the top of your head, how many bestselling authors do you think have been recruited as spies by the CIA? (Don't say Norman Mailer.) Marlowe evidently served in a government intelligence role. A few conspiracy theorists even think his odd death — facilitated by a brawl with a con man named Ingram Frizer — could have been connected to his spying career. How, exactly? Well, Francis Walsingham, the spy pioneer responsible for the modern understanding of the term, might have believed Marlowe to be not a double agent, but a triple agent, working for the Catholic Church.
In addition, Marlowe was once arrested in the Netherlands for counterfeiting coins, so he'd probably be great at mining cryptocurrencies. Considering how much he got done in his 29 years of life, he'd have conquered the world by 40.
Any other Elizabethan 450-somethings we should resurrect?
Image by Michael Erazo-Kase
Miles Klee is a reporter for The Daily Dot and author of the novel Ivyland, a finalist in the 2013 Tournament of Books. His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Lapham's Quarterly, BlackBook, The Awl, Salon, The Village Voice, The New York Observer and elsewhere.