Friday, January 28, 2011

A post about Marlowe

A recent comment at Detectives Beyond Borders alluded to Colin Dexter's novel The Wench Is Dead, and a bit of research revealed that title's source in this passage from Christopher Marlowe's c. 1590 play The Jew of Malta:

FRIAR BARNARDINE. Thou hast committed—

BARABAS. Fornication: but that was in another country;
And besides, the wench is dead.
Leaving aside for the moment knotty questions of anti-Semitism (Marlowe may not have been that great a friend to Christians and their clerical representatives, either), the passage is a stunning evocation of callousness with ample hints of practical evil. Its chilling concision would not be out of place in the harder-boiled Black Mask stories or even in, I don't know, Derek Raymond or Bill James.

This makes it one of the fresher, rawer entries in that long roster of literature of the past that draws from the same well as the best crime fiction. (Find more such examples at DBB; scroll down after clicking. Read a free e-text version of The Jew of Malta.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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2 Comments:

Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

I recall (correctly, I hope) that Marlowe's main occupation was that of a spy. He comes by his knowledge of snoopery and criminal matters professionally. And, of course, he was murdered in a low dive.

January 28, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I recall, too, that he was a spy, though I had not heard it was his main occupation.

He comes by his knowledge of snoopery and criminal matters professionally. And, of course, he was murdered in a low dive.

He liked the research as much as the writing.

January 28, 2011  

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