Tamburlaine Part I by Christopher Marlowe (1587)

‘I that am termed the scourge and wrath of God, The only fear and terror of the world…’ Full title of the first printed edition, 1590 Tamburlaine the Great. Who, from a Scythian Shephearde, by his rare and woonderfull Conquests, became a most puissant and mightye Monarque. And (for his tyranny, and terrour in Warre) […]

Selected Poems by John Dryden edited by Donald Thomas (1993)

John Dryden was the most successful poet, playwright, critic, translator and man of letters of his time, that time being roughly the late-1660s through to his death in 1700. Early life Dryden was born into a Puritan family in Northamptonshire in 1631. He was sent to the prestigious Westminster private school in 1645, the year […]

Zero History by William Gibson (2010)

Zero History is a 400-page novel about has-been rock stars and pretentious advertising executives in search of a reclusive designer of ‘really cool’ jeans and jackets. It is mind-bogglingly shallow, pretentious and boring. Zero History is the third novel in William Gibson’s so-called ‘Blue Ant trilogy’, itself the third of Gibson’s three trilogies of novels. […]

Worstward Ho by Samuel Beckett (1983)

Try again. Fail again. Fail better. Worstward Ho is a short piece of prose published by Samuel Beckett towards the end of his life. The title is a parody of the adventure novel Westward Ho! by Victorian novelist, Charles Kingsley, which itself is a reference to the Elizabethan play Westward Ho! by Thomas Dekker and […]

Murphy by Samuel Beckett (1938)

‘Unless you want me to call a policewoman,’ said Murphy, ‘cease your clumsy genustuprations.’ (Murphy page 56) This is Beckett’s first published novel. I expected it to be an improvement on his first published book, the collection of linked short stories, More Pricks Than Kicks, but the essential feel, the worldview and style are very much […]

The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe (1589)

‘But I perceive there is no love on earth, Pity in Jews, nor piety in Turks…’ (Abigail, after learning her father conspired to get her true love murdered) Provenance First recorded performance: 26 February 1592, by Lord Strange’s acting company. First published: 1592. Earliest extant edition, 1633. This was published to coincide with a revival […]

Dido, Queen of Carthage by Christopher Marlowe (1587)

Information about Marlowe’s plays is patchy. Dido is generally thought to be Marlowe’s first play but it is anyone’s guess when it was written, sometime between 1587 when Marlowe arrived in London from Cambridge and 1594 when it was published. The Marlowe scholar Roma Gill thinks it was probably written before Marlowe left Cambridge in 1587. […]

Christopher Marlowe (1564 – 93)

Christopher Marlowe was one of the original bad boy rebels. He lived fast, died young (aged 29) and left a beautiful corpus of exhilarating plays and sensuous poetry. Marlowe’s half dozen plays are the first to use blank verse, demonstrating its power and flexibility, and so can be said to have established the entire format […]

Bartholomew Fair by Ben Jonson (1614)

Bartholomew Fair is a very long comic play set in London’s huge and sprawling Bartholomew Fair. The fair had been held every year on 24 August since the 12th century in the precincts of the Priory at West Smithfield, outside the Aldersgate, and by Jonson’s day had grown into a massive, teeming festival of entertainment, […]

The Alchemist by Ben Jonson (1610)

The Alchemist is a plague play. Not only was it written in 1610, when the London theatres were closed (yet again) for (yet another) outbreak of plague, but the plot itself derives from that fact. The master of the house, Lovewit, has (like everyone else who can afford it) fled London and is waiting at […]