Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Christopher Marlowe and The School of Night

Anonymous portrait believed to be of Christopher Marlowe, 1585. Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

Last week I went to a LAMDA student production of The School of Night by Peter Whelan, an edgy, dark play about Christopher Marlowe and his rivalry with William Shakespeare. The play was full of fascinating character studies and the acting was excellent, even remarkable, which I've come to expect from LAMDA student productions (and not just because I work there.)

"There are two realms we can live in...one of power, the other of poetry. You can't live in both! The poets must always stand against the powerful...otherwise truth would die!" exclaims Marlowe in The School of Night. At a later point Marlowe says that he wants to achieve a republic of poetry and power, but he never seems quite clear whether he wants to do this by means scientific, occult, or literary. I felt the play did capture something of Marlowe's complex nature and of the intense, violent atmosphere of the times. When I studied Shakespeare and Marlowe in school, I remember feeling that reading or seeing Shakespeare was like watching the most powerful, immersive cinema imaginable - a three-dimensional cinema of all five senses, of the intellect and the spirit. Marlowe, by contrast, had a kind of hard, incandescent brilliance.

Here you can read an excerpt from Hero and Leander: "It lies not in our power to love or hate". Hero and Leander makes an appearance in The School of Night.

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