Kyd and Marlowe’s Revolution: from Surrey’s Aeneid to Marlowe’s Tamburlaine


  • Marina Tarlinskaja Department of Linguistics, University of Washington



English iambic pentameter, Surrey, Kyd, Marlowe, versification style


The Early New English iambic pentameter was re-created by Wyatt and Surrey in the first half of the 16th c. Surrey introduced blank iambic pentameter into English poetry, and the first English tragedy, Gorboduc, was written in this versification form. Early New English playwrights were feeling their way into the iambic meter, and wrote “by the foot”: the mean stressing on even syllables reached 90 percent, while on the odd syllables it fell to 5 percent. The authors of first new English tragedies were members of the parliament or the gentlemen of the City Inns, and they wrote for the aristocratic audience and the Court. Their subject matter and their characters matched the verse form: they were stiff and stilted.

Marlowe and Kyd represented a new generation of playwrights who wrote for the commercial stage patronized by commoners. Marlowe and Kyd created different sets of plots and personages and a different versification style. Marlowe’s Tamburlaine and Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy had a powerful impact on generations of English playwrights, from Shakespeare to Shirley. The particulars of the Earlier New English versification style compared to later Elizabethan dramaturgy are discussed in the presentation.


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