Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Josephine A. Roberts


Christopher Marlowe created Renaissance drama as we think of it today. Marlowe's princely protagonists are studied here not as sovereigns responsible for the general well-being of their subjects, but as ambitious characters who use power to control their personal environment. Seen from this viewpoint, the dramatic function of the central characters is either to develop a new stance toward the idea of public authority or to refashion an old one. Instead of attending to governance, they attempt to encompass all existence within themselves: Tamburlaine the world conqueror; Edward and Dido, public rulers whose private relationships transform their public positions; the Guise and his hypocrisy of public religion and private vengeance; Barabas and the uses of power and wealth in The Jew of Malta; Faustus, whose supernatural aspirations contain both hell and (he thinks) heaven in its scope. In creating a new politics (and new politicians), Marlowe's texts fuse private life and governing structures by personifying those structures. The ruler becomes the representative political "man" looking for a way to integrate the facets of his character into a holistic human existence. The failure of central authority in these plays to be entirely orthodox or successfully hegemonic suggests that an inclusive politics of power could increase the ability of the characters to succeed by making their aspirations cooperative instead of competitive. Marlowe's drama emphasizes self-actualization (one could even say self-dramatization) without explicit moral judgments. The work of three twentieth-century political thinkers provides the theoretical coherence for this view of politics as a possible means to self-actualization or humanization: Hannah Arendt, Michel Foucault, and Roberto Mangabeira Unger. Arendt surveys the deterioration of the Greek idea of the polis into a separation of the public and private realms of existence. Foucault's investigations support a view of the moral neutrality of power. Unger argues that domination is the one form of human action which does not increase human actualization. Because Marlovian protagonists are unconventional figures, ambitious for power, they offer various challenges to the traditional structure of authority.