Marlowe's anatomy of desire

Author:
Shepard, Alan Clarke, Department of English, University of Virginia
Advisor:
Kirsch, Arthur, Department of English, University of Virginia
Abstract:

Klaus Theweleit's analysis of the cultural artifacts of the Freikorps, German fascists between the first and second world wars, provides a theoretical frame for this study of the nature of desire in Marlowe's major plays.

I demonstrate that Marlowe's characters always experience desire as an historically- and culturally- determined force, and that his plays interrogate the various languages of desire by which society constitutes and reconstitutes itself. Marlowe's inquiries have a faustian sweep: marriage, platonic friendship, capitalism, asceticism, witchcraft and Catholicism all come under his scrutiny.

The playwright exposes these languages as insidiously destructive. Although they promise a character the satisfaction of desire through obedience, in fact they provide no exit from the dialectic of law and desire: they never forfeit their control over the individual who submits: instead, they reproduce their own power by inculcating in the characters fantasies that prove to be self-destructive.

In the bleak Marlovian world, there is only one escape from the repression of culture--the path of the soldier-male (as Theweleit calls fascists), whose genocidal efforts destroy culture itself. In Marlowe's vision, one either kills civilization, a la Tamburlaine, or one submits, as do all Marlowe's other characters. Soldier-males survive. The others pay with their lives.

This study maps out Marlowe's bleak vision, from Tamburlaine, through Edward II and The Jew of Malta, to Doctor Faustus.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

Degree:
PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Keywords:
Marlowe, Christopher, 1564-1593, Criticism and interpretation, Desire in literature
Language:
English
Rights:
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date:
1990