(1564-1593) English playwright and, apparently, secret agent. The success of Marlowe's historical tragedy Tamburlaine the Great (performed 1587; 1590) helped establish the Elizabethan theatre and made his name. All his plays are pseudohistorical, few containing any strong fantasy elements. Dido, Queen of Carthage (1594) with Thomas Nashe (1567-1601) draws upon Virgil's Aeneid. His most famous play, though, is fantasy – The Tragicall History of Doctor Faustus (performed ?1589; 1604). CM closely followed Historia von D. Johann Fausten (1587 chap) by Johann Spies (d1607) (> Faust).
The conjecture over CM's life, death and possible role in writing Shakespeare's plays make him a colourful character in historical novels; he appears also in Strange Devices of the Sun and Moon (1993) by Lisa Goldstein – where his secret-agent activities force him into adventures at court – and in various other fantasies. [MA]