Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Josephine A. Roberts


My subject is the relationship between rhetoric and the range of possible reaction to Marlowe's protagonists in his five major plays--Tamburlaine I and II, Doctor Faustus, The Jew of Malta, and Edward II. In a very broad sense, I conceive of the rhetoric of each play in terms of opposing rhetorical forces, amplification and irony, and attempt to account for the relative intensity of amplification and irony in each play as I study the rhetoric of the protagonist. One strategy, amplification, entails the investment of a major character with logical arguments from invention, effective arrangement of ideas from disposition, and specific devices from elocution that create a degree of identification with that character. The force of irony is enhanced through a different use of these three parts of rhetoric--the arguments are dyslogistic, the elements of arrangement act to undercut, and the devices check or even undermine identification with the protagonist. Many critics have pointed out how Marlowe's rhetoric departs from the "astounding terms" of Tamburlaine that the playwright employed at the beginning of his dramatic career. I follow the stylistic changes in Marlowe's rhetoric and find correspondences between those changes and the increasingly complex portrayal of the central figure. To this end, I analyze the central figures of each play in terms of that character's logos, pathos, and ethos and attempt to ascertain the degree of identification that the audience may attach to a given protagonist. In a play-by-play analysis, I analyze the debate over subversion, a perennial issue in Marlowe studies. Fortunately, the elements of classical rhetoric that Marlowe's plays already possess provide easy access to this complex issue, so the application of rhetorical analysis to these plays exists as an excellent method to answer the abiding question of whether the subversion itself is contained.