Friday, 30 April 2010
The leadership television debates may be over, but the real fight is only just beginning. Brown, Clegg, Cameron - each is gunning for the popular vote.Yet these are not the political figures to grace the public eye. Elections have featured in literature for centuries, appearing particularly frequently in the Victorian era, at a time when the widening of the voting franchise was an emotive and contemporary issue. Here is a quiz on elections in literature
Irish novelist, John Boyne, was born in 1971. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, Boyne has joined an impressive list of literary alumni, including names such as Samuel Beckett, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker. Yet despite his more recent success, his career did not get off to the quickest start. Indeed, to pay his way, Boyne was forced to work at Waterstone's, only finding time to type up his drafts at night.
Beginning with his first short story 'The Entertainment Jar', which was shortlisted for the Hennessey Literary Award, Boyne has since enjoyed extensive recognition. The Irish Book Awards, The Qué Leer Award for Best International Novel of the Year, and The Orange Prize Readers Group Book of the Year, all appear on Boyne's résumé, yet perhaps more impressive is the 42 languages in which his books have been published. Selling over 5 million copies worldwide, and made into an award-winning film, Boyne's most famous work is the Holocaust narrative, 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas'.
Sunday, 25 April 2010
Author Alan Sillitoe died today at the age of 82. One of the 'Angry Young Men' of British fiction, he grew up in a poor household, 'whose four walls smelled of leaking gas, stale fat and layers of mouldering wallpaper'. Sillitoe worked for a short time as a RAF wireless operator in Malaya, yet after contracting tuberculosis, he began to write novels, publishing his first, 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning', in 1958. His most famous work, however is, perhaps ironically appropriate for the day of the London Marathon, 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner'. Praised by poet Ian McMillan to be 'a man who attempted to capture the majesty and drama of ordinary life', his son David said he hoped his father would be remembered for his contribution to literature.
Anna Sewell, an English novelist, died in 1878, at the age of 58. Born into a devoutly Quaker family, Sewell's mother was in her own right a successful children's author. In accordance with her parent's strict religious convictions, Sewell was, for the most part, educated at home. Yet only two years after entering school, a slip severely injured both her ankles and, largely due to mistreatment, Sewell remained lame for the rest of her life and unable to stand without a crutch.
Seeking to improve her health, Sewell visited the sunnier climes of several European spas and during her travels, met numerous writers and artists to whom she had previously never been exposed. It was then that she began her only published work, 'Black Beauty' - 'it's special aim being to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses'. Written between 1871 and 1877, Sewell was often so weak that she had to dictate large passages to her mother, and later wrote the work on slips of paper to be transcribed. Sewell sold the novel to the publisher Jarrolds for £40, and it became the 'sixth best-seller in the English language'.
Saturday, 24 April 2010
The past week's so-called 'ashpocalypse' from Iceland has, despite all is disadvantages, provided the perfect opportunity for the dicussion of similarly apocalyptic-minded literature. From the more factual 'Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded', to the fictional accounts, such as Cormac McCarthy's best-seller 'The Road', disaster novels cover the whole spectrum. Here is a podcast about the genre
English writer Daniel Defoe died in 1731, at the approximate age of 72. Born as just Daniel Foe, by the age of 7 he had witnessed the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London, as well as a Dutch fleet trying to destroy Chatham by sailing up the Thames. A marriage, eight children and imprisonment later, Defoe wrote his first notable publication, 'An Essay upon Projects', in 1697. Thus followed a succesion of politically orientated pamphlets, ranging from support of the monarchy, the then under fire William III, release of prisioners, and extermination of the Church.
Yet Defoe is undoubtedly better known, in the modern age, for his novels, including his most famous work, 'Robinson Crusoe'. Many stories have since been cited as inspiring the work, varying from Scottish castaway Alexander Selkirk, to a shipwrecked surgeon and a marooned Central American man. Seen to be an allegory on several levels, including a reflection on an increasingly imperialist Europe, the book has engendered numerous other novels, most notably John Wyss's 'The Swiss Family Robinson'. Defoe's famous works include 'Captain Singleton' and 'Moll Flanders'. He is known to have used at least 198 separate pen names during his literary career.
Friday, 23 April 2010
In accordance with the Bard's birthday, the Globe Theatre sees its 'Kings and Rogues' season opener today. 'Macbeth', featuring among others, the recent star of 'A Streetcar Named Desire' Elliot Cowan, will be performed tonight, before it is joined by 'Henry VIII', 'Henry IV part 1' and 'Henry IV part 2' over the coming weeks. The Globe is world-renowned for its outstanding performances, and tickets for this season can still be purchased here
Well, of course, today could not go by without the mention of the great man himself; William Shakespeare was born in 1564. Born in Stratford-upon-Avon to a successful glove merchant, the playwright's actual birthdate is unknown, and is only assumed from his baptism, which tradition usually dictated happened three days after the birth. After marrying a preganant Anne Hathaway at 18, much of Shakespeare's life remains a mystery, until his reappearance on the London theatrical scene in 1592.
His subsequent career is so extensive that to summarise it is not to do it justice, however there are several aspects of his life which are worth mentioning specifically. A contemporary of playwrights such as Marlowe, Kyd and Fletcher, Shakespeare's works were performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men under the reign of Elizabeth I, later called the Kings Men under James I. Also an author of sonnets, Shakespeare's 36 plays were collated in the 1623 First Folio, and include some of the most famous tragedies, comedies and histories of all time. Indeed, Shakespeare's influence has spread not only throughout the field of literature, but through the English language itself. Here are some of his more recognisable creations.
Shakespeare, who also died on April 23rd, despite questions surrounding authorship, religion, and even appearance, is still undoubtedly one of the greatest ever writers in world literature.
Thursday, 22 April 2010
This week marks a century since American writer Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by pen name Mark Twain, died. Author of such novels as 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn', and 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer', Twain was called 'the father of American literature' by William Faulkner. Here is a quiz about him.
Vladimir Lenin, former leader of the Soviet Union, was born in 1870. A Russian revolutionary, Lenin headed the state in its initial years, between 1917 and 1924, and was also an accomplished political scientist, authoring numerous works on the subject. His extensive bibliography, a volume of 54,650 pages, comprises of pamphlets, articles and books, as well as correspondence with allies and friends world-wide. The most influential of Lenin's works, include, 'Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism', 'The State and Revolution' and '"Left-Wing" Communism: An infantile Disorder'. After his death, the USSR selectively censored his writings, removing any contradictions that existed between him, and his successor Stalin.
Wednesday, 21 April 2010
The longlist for the BBC's Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction has been announced. The 'unusual and eclectic' selection of books ranges from 'Alex's Adventures in Numberland', a attempt to demystify maths, to 'The Music Instinct', the brain's response to Lady Gaga and Bach. Judged by Evan Davis, the winner of the £20,000 prize will be announced at a ceremony in July.
English author Charlotte Bronte was born in 1816. At the age of eight, Bronte was sent with three of her sisters to a Clergy Daughter's school. She believed that its poor conditions, later refelcted in the depiction of as Lowood school in 'Jane Eyre', led to her permament ill-health and caused the death of her two eldest sisters. Once at home, she and her remaining siblings, began to write stories, and it was at the age of 17 that she wrote her first novella, 'The Green Dwarf'.
Bronte spent the next decade as a teacher, for the most part in Brussels, and used the experience as inspiration for 'The Professor' and 'Villette'. In 1946, she and her two sisters, Emily and Anne, published a collection of poetry under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Although only two copies were sold, they each went on to pursue their own individual literary careers with great posthumous success; indeed 'Jane Eyre' is now often hailed as having an important impact in feminist literature. Bronte married in 1854, yet, pregnant with her first child, she died in 1855, at the age of 38.
Tuesday, 20 April 2010
The shortlist for the Orange Prize for Fiction has been announced today. Leading the pack is Hilary Mantel, whose historical novel 'Wolf Hall' won the Booker Prize in 2009. The list is completed by two first timers, Rosie Allison and Attica Locke, two American authors, Lorrie Moore and Barbara Kingsolver, and Anglo-Trinidadian Monique Roffey.
Established 15 years ago, The Orange Prize exists to recognise 'excellence, originality and accessibility' in women's writing, and indeed, this year's competitors 'achieve the near impossible of combining literary merit with sheer readability'. Each shortlisted author will read extracts from their work, before the winner of the £30,000 prize is announced on June 9th.
Edgar Allen Poe's short story 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue' was published in 1841. Claimed to be the first detective story, Poe was paid $56 for the work, an unusually high sum, seeing as 'The Raven' fetched only $9. Forerunners of detective fiction had included Voltaire's 'Zadig' and E.T.A. Hoffmann's 'Das Fräulein von Scuderi', yet Poe's work is widely credited as establishing the genre.
The story follows protagonist Dupin and his 'exercise of ingenuity in detecting a murderer', as he examines the brutal killing of two women in Paris. Said by many to have 'changed the history of world literature', the work has since inspired characters such as Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, and Agatha Christie's Poirot.
Monday, 19 April 2010
The Royal Shakespeare Company's latest production, 'Antony and Cleopatra' has had to be delayed, after a prop firearm 'seriously' injured the lead actor. Darrell D'Silva has 'shown great grit in returning to the show so quickly' after he returned to work with his arm in a sling, having undergone surgery on his hand. Having 'restaged much of the show to accommodate a one-armed Antony', the play's press night has been postponed from April 20th until May 10th.
English author Daphne du Maurier died in 1989, at the age of 81. She had a number of prominent literary connections from birth. Cousin of the Llewelyn Davies boys, who later proved inspiration for J.M Barrie's 'Peter Pan', her grandfather, George du Maurier was an author and 'Punch' cartoonist. Thus it was no surprise that surrounded by such creativity, both she, and her older sister Angela, became succesful writers.
Yet, as often seems to come with highly artistic minds in the public eye, du Maurier is cited as having a temperamental personality. Seen by many as somewhat of a recluse, she had a frosty relationship with her children, and had a marriage whose difficulties were exacerbated by numerous affairs, with both men and women. Yet du Maurier was of course best known for her writing, and her most famous works include, 'Rebecca', 'Jamaica Inn' and 'The Birds', all of which were made into films directed by Alfred Hitchcock, the former winning the 1941 Best Picture Oscar.
Sunday, 18 April 2010
The Easter holidays may have finished, but people are still sitting stranded all over the world, as volcano ash from Iceland wreaks havoc with British airspace. The dramatic effects of these natural phenomena have naturally leant themselves to works of both fact and fiction, and so here is a quiz about volcanoes in literature.
English dramatist Thomas Middleton was born in 1580. Considered amongst th greatest of Jacobean playwrights, alongside contemporaries Ben Jonson and John Fletcher, Middleton began his literary career by writing topical pamphlets, such as 'Penniless Parliament of Threadbare Poets'. At the same time, records courtesy of Philip Henslowe, show Middleton writing for 'The Admiral's Men', and unlike Shakespeare, he probably remained a free-lance playwright, able to write for whichever company provided the most money.
His early dramatic career was marred by controversy, as his friendship with fellow playwright Thomas Dekker started a long-running grudge with Ben Jonson, that found its way into several of Jonson's works, including 'The Staple of News'. Yet it was after 1603, the year in which the plague closed the theatres, that Middleton saw his most prolific writing era. Spanning a range of genre, such as tragedy, city comedy and history, Middleton's best known works include 'The Revenger's Tragedy', 'A Chaste Maid in Cheapside', and 'The Changeling'. Middleton also is said to have collaborated with Shakespeare on 'Timon of Athens', and revised both 'Macbeth' and 'Measure for Measure'.
Saturday, 17 April 2010
The American Library Association has revealed its Top Ten list of the Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2009. Despite society's supposed advancement, several familiar names crop up. 'The Catcher in the Rye' sits at number 6, cited for sexually explicit and offensive language, and Alice Wlaker's 'The Color Purple', reprimanded for the same, comes in at 9. Another classic, Harper Lee's 'To Kill a Mockingbird', is higher at 4, yet is instead challenged for racism.
Perhaps a more surprising entry, is Stephenie Meyer's teenage phenomenon 'Twilight', which, at number 5, is decried for both sexually explicit language and its religious viewpoint. Top of the pile, is ' ttyl', a book written entirely in text language, whose long list of 'offences' includes nudity, drugs and unsuitable language for the intended age group, although, as many commenters have since pointed out, surely letting your child read a book entirely in text language in the first place, negates any possible complaints. Top of the Most Challenged Books of the Decade (2000-2009) is J.K. Rowling's 'Harry Potter' series.
Geoffrey Chaucer supposedly told 'TheCanterbury Tales' for the first time, at the court of King Richard II in 1397. Chaucer scholars have also identified this date, in 1387, as the start of the book's pilgramage to Canterbury. Considered Chaucer's magnum opus, the work is a collection of stories told by a group of pilgrims as they journey from Southwark to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. It is written in Middle English, and widely credited for popularising the use of the English vernacular in literature, as opposed to French or Latin.
Including such tales as that of the Knight, Miller and Cook, Chaucer deftly explores the context of the 14th century, especially the religious turmoil that was propelling the Catholic Church into the Great Schism. Although suggested only to have been distributed to close friends in his lifetime, Chaucer's tales have since exploded in popularity. Now considered one of the greatest worksin English literature, 'The Canterbury Tales' has also seen a number of translations and adaptations, such as Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale', and Peter Ackroyd's recent retelling.
Friday, 16 April 2010
Daniel Radcliffe is set to make his Broadway musical debut in a 2011 revival of 'How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying'. First seen on Broadway in 1961, the show had a second revival in 1995 starring Matthew Broderick, but has since remained untouched. Yet despite the scarcity of its performances, the play was highly successful. Indeed it is only one of six musicals to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, which it did in 1962. It will be only the second New York stage role for the Harry Potter actor, having starred in 'Equus' in 2008. Radcliffe, who is currently filming the final instalment of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows', will begin his role in spring.
Homeric hero Odysseus is calculated to have returned home from the Trojan War. King of Ithaca, Odysseus, or 'Ulysses' in Latin, was one of the Greek warriors charged with bringing the abducted Helen back to her husband. Thus follows the legendary 10 year long Trojan War as recorded in 'The Illiad'; a war through which names such as Agamemnon, Achilles and Hector, as well as of course the Trojan horse, have all achieved hero status.
Yet 'The Odyssey', the second of Homer's epic poem, charts Odysseus' return home to his island home and wife Penelope; an adventure that takes a further 10 years and recounts stories of captivity, storms, sirens and the cyclops Polyphemus. Upon his return, Odysseus enters the household as a beggar and discovers his wife is already being courted by a number of suitors. Yet when a competition is organised, to string Odysseus' bow and shoot it through a dozen axe heads, Odysseus alone is able to, his disguise is lifted and the pair are reunited. Probably composed near the end of the 8th century BC, the works are fundamental to the Western canon. The dactylic hexameter used has since been closely replicated in other classical poetry, notably Virgil and Ovid.
Thursday, 15 April 2010
The British Library has acquired a rare copy of Ted Hughes's journal. 'St. Botolph's Review', established by the Poet Laureate with friends at Cambridge University in 1956, is often cited as launching his career, and features some of his earliest works. The particular copy, stained and containing several handwritten notes by Hughes, is one of only three in UK public institutions and was obtained from his widow Carol. Curator Helen Broderick said; 'I hope [this will] lead to further research into his life and development as a poet and writer'.
American author Henry James was born in 1843. The son of a great 19th century American intellectual, James spent much of his youth travelling to Europe, as he had tutors in Geneva, London, Paris, Bologna and Bonn. Such a prestigious education gained him a place at Harvard Law School, but he soon decided he preferred the study of literature, and quit.
James read a large volume of international literature, indulging in English, American, French, German and Russian works, and indeed several of his own early works, including 'The Portrait of a Lady', were based around the themes of travelling and expatriation. James himself gained British citizenship in 1915, as a protest to America's refusal to enter the First World War. During his own lifetime, James received only a limited readership, and indeed faced later criticism, notably from E.M. Forster, for a squemishness in his treatment of controversial issues. Yet now recognised as a literary great, James's most famous works include 'The Turn of the Screw' and 'The Wings of the Dove', as well as several novellas. James died in 1916, at the age of 72.
Wednesday, 14 April 2010
The shortlist for the Desmond Elliott Prize has been announced. The award, set up in 2007 in honour of publisher and literary agent Desmond Elliott, honours debut novels published in the UK.The list includes advertising guru David Abbott for 'The Upright Piano Player', and acclaimed poet Jacob Polley for 'Talk of the Town'. Judging chair Elizabeth Buchan said of the nominees, 'this is a truly eclectic list which ranges over time and cultures and reflects the passion and integrity of the writers..it is thrilling to see such a high standard, such diversity and such colour'. The winner of the £10,000 award will be announced on June 23rd.
Noah Webster's 'An American Dictionary of the English Language', was first published in 1828. A Yale-educated lawyer, Webster had an avid interest in language and education, teaching in order to pay his university fees. From his experiences, Webster came to the conclusion that elementary education was extremely unsatisfactory, especially in its reliance on English textbooks. So he decided to publish his own volume, consisting of a speller, grammar and reader. The speller in particular, known as the 'blue-backed speller' was immensly popular, sparking the national spelling bees and selling over 100 million copies.
Denouncing the 'clamour of pedantry' that surrounded English grammar and pronunciation, and beleiving the spelling rules to be unecessarily complex, he wrote a dictionary comprising over 10,000 'Americanisms'. Including the replacement of 'colour' with 'color' and 'center' with 'centre', the dictionary originally only sold 2,500 copies, forcing Webster to mortgage his own house to publish a second edition. Yet the dictionary found more permament success, and indeed still exists today in the form of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Tuesday, 13 April 2010
The recipient of the Pulitzer Prizes has been announced. Broadway musical 'Next to Normal', charting a woman's struggle with mental illness, and praised for 'expanding the scope of subject matter for musicals', has been awarded the prize for drama. Paul Harding's debut novel 'Tinker' was surprise winner of the best fiction category. The Pulitzers, handed out since the 1917 for journalistic excellence, were also awarded in classical music, biography, history and poetry. The prizes themselves, will be presented at a lunch next month.
Irish poet Seamus Heaney was born in 1939. Born himself in Northern Ireland, Heaney believes his background to contain significant tension, containg both the Ireland of the cattle-herding Gaelic past and the Ulster of the Industrial Revolution. It was whilst studying English language and literature at university, that Heaney red Ted Hughes' 'Lupercal', and, in his words, 'suddenly, the matter of contemporary poetry was the material of my own life'. Subsequently, Heaney was introduced to the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh and then joined the Belfast group of young poets, publishing his first collection, 'Eleven Poems', at the age of 26.
Thus has followed a highly succesful literary career, spotted with numerous teaching posts, including the Professor of Poetry at Oxford University. He has written 11 main collections, the last of which won the T.S. Eliot Prize, as well as two plays and several popular translations. Much of his work has, at times, a distinctly nationalistic feel, and Heaney himself even objected at being included in the 1982 'Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry'. Yet surely his crowning achievement was being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995, for 'works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past'.
Monday, 12 April 2010
The shortlist for the most lucrative literary prize has been announced. Contenders for the €100,000, (£87,600), Impac Literary Award, are nominated by 163 libraries across the world, and books in any language are eligible. Three British writers are on the eight man shortlist, including author Zoe Heller, whose previous works include 'Notes on a Scandal'. Other nationalities represented are Germany, the Netherlands, France and America. The winner of the award, chosen by a five person panel, will be announced on June 17th.
Gustave Flaubert's 'Madame Bovary' was published in 1857. The novel had first been serialised in 'La Revue de Paris' the previous winter, sparking obscenity charges and resulting in a trial in January 1857. The plot follows Emma Bovary, as she embarks on numerous adulterous affairs to escape the triviality of life.
As so often occurs with banned literature, the case only increased the interest surrounding the novel, and following ita acquittal in February, the book went on to become a bestseller. Yet despite its success, five years of writing, and a label of one of the most influential novels of all time, the work only made Flaubert about 800 francs. Indeed a 2007 poll of contemporary authors, found 'Madame Bovary' to be the second greatest novel ever written, second only to Tolstoy's 'Anna Karenina'.
Sunday, 11 April 2010
Alan Bennett's latest play will be broadcast live across screens in the UK and Europe. 'The Habit of Art', currently showing at the National Theatre, is Bennett's first play since 'The History Boys' in 2004, and depicts an imaginary meeting between poet W.H. Auden and Benjamin Britten. Actor Richard Griffiths stars in the leading role; a role originally filled by Michael Gambon, before he was forced to withdraw through ill-health. The April 22nd performance will also be shown around the world as soon as possible.
American novelist Kurt Vonnegut died in 2007, at the age of 84. Born to fifth generation German-American parents, his family founded the Vonnegut Hardware Company in Indianapolis. Vonnegut was accepted into Cornell University in 1940 and, despite majoring in chemistry, became associate editor for the student newspaper. While there, Vonnegut enlisted in the U.S. Army and so started an experience which profoundly affected him and his writings.
Chosen as the leader of the PoWs, due to his ability to speak some German, Vonnegut suffered what he called 'carnage unfathomable' in an attack which inspired novel 'Slaughterhouse-Five'. Awarded a Purple Heart on his return for a 'ludicrously negligible wound', Vonnegut spent the next few years in a variety of jobs, including working for 'Sports Illustrated' and the University of Iowa. It was during this time that Vonnegut began his writing career; a career that spawned such famous works as 'Cat's Cradle', 'Breakfast of Champions' and 'Mother Night'. Honorary president of the American Humanist Association, he is considered one of the most influential American writers of the 20th century.
Saturday, 10 April 2010
'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife'. So begins Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice'. 'Call me Ishmael'. Another famous opening, yet this time Melville's 'Moby Dick'. A first line can define a book before its even started, it can make you want to carry on reading or put the book back on the shelf. Yet surely they are only truly great if you can remember the book from which they came, and so here is a quiz to test your knowledge.
F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby' was published in 1925. Despite its modern recognisability, 'The Great Gatsby' was never intended to be the novel's title. 'Gatsby; Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires', 'Trimalchio in West Egg', 'Under the Red, White, and Blue' and 'Gold-Hatted Gatsby' were all cited as alternatives preferred by Fitzgerald. Indeed it was his wife, among others, who persuaded him to chose the one we now know; a title Fitzgerald himself described as, 'only fair, rather bad than good'.
Although it gained positive reviews, the book did not have the commercial success of Fitzgerald's previous works, and was even pointed to as evidence of his failings. Yet the book saw a revival, partly sparked by distribution of 150,000 copies to the American military in World War Two. This critique of the American Dream, is now thought of as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century.
Friday, 9 April 2010
A rare first edition of Rudyard Kipling's 'The Jungle Book' has been discovered. Found in National Trust's Wimpole Hall, whilst cataloguing their collection of over 10,000 books, this edition has been labelled as 'very special'.Yet what marks this particular copy out, is the handwritten note to young daughter Josephine, who died at the age of six. The inscription reads: 'This book belongs to Josephine Kipling for whom it was written by her father, May 1894'. The book will now be on display at Wimpole Hall, which was the residence of Kipling's eldest daughter Elsie.
Timur the Lame, or 'Tamerlane' is said to have been born in 1336. The highly controversial Mongol leader, spent a successful lifetime conquering much of Western and Central Asia, founding both the Timurid empire and dynasty. Such a life seems to have all the facets of an enthralling drama, and indeed he was the inspiration for Christopher Marlowe's 'Tamburlaine the Great'.
Written in either 1587 or 1588, the play signifies the beginning of Elizabethan drama's golden age, demonstrating for perhaps the first time, the potential of blank verse in drama.Although arguably superseded by the late-Elizabethan and Jacobean tragedies, it is easy to see its influence in the works of Shakespeare, especially in the 'Henry' sequence. The play explores humanity and its potential in the face of power and so is often seen as having atheist overtones - a criticism often levelled at Marlowe himself. Performed by the Admiral's Men, the play gave famous renaissance actor Edward Alleyn his signature role.