Derek William Mario Marlowe (21 May 1938 – 14 November 1996) was an English playwright, novelist, screenwriter and painter. He was born in Perivale, Middlesex, and grew up in Greenford. He attended Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in Holland Park, and later went to Queen Mary College at the University of London.
His early works were largely inspired by the works of his childhood heroes, Marlowe and Milton. He began to write poetry in his teens, and his first published poem was written at St. Lucia in 1950.
He studied French, Latin and Spanish in college, and he also worked as a secretary. He wrote nine novels, a number of which were adapted for the screen, and he also wrote several scripts for television.
Marlowe wrote numerous plays for the theatre and was regarded as one of the greatest dramatists of his time, though his works were not widely circulated. He is credited with the invention of blank verse, a genre of drama that is now considered to be the ancestor of Shakespeare’s own style.
Atheist, blasphemer and government critic, Marlowe was arrested and imprisoned a number of times. The 1589 arrest for murder of William Bradley was one of the most notorious in history, and the 1593 death of Christopher Marlowe is a matter of dispute. Accusations of atheism and the belief that Marlowe killed his friend Eleanor Bull are believed to have played an important part in his downfall.
During his lifetime Marlowe was accused of many crimes, including fraud, larceny, counterfeiting gold coins and murder. He was acquitted on the basis of self-defense, and he was pardoned by Queen Elizabeth I.
His work was highly influential on the formation of English tragedy and history plays. His blank verse, and the villain-heroes he created, influenced Shakespeare’s own writing.
When he was at Cambridge, Marlowe tried to obtain a master of arts degree, but the university authorities refused him permission. He was aided by the Queen’s Privy Council, who intervened on his behalf.
He also fought a legal battle over the possession of a manuscript that denied the divinity of Christ. He was eventually acquitted of all charges, and was given a pardon by the Queen in 1615.
After graduating from Cambridge, Marlowe spent three years working at a bookbinder’s shop in the city of London. He wrote two novels while working there.
In 1960 he adapted Leonid Andreyev’s The Seven Who Were Hanged for the stage. He also adapted Maxim Gorki’s The Lower Depths for the stage in 1962.
His 1975 supernatural novel Nightshade was inspired by his trips to Haiti, where he was taken around by Joli Coeur, a black dwarf dandy who escorted him everywhere.
Marlowe had a strong interest in the history of Africa, and in the culture and politics of the Caribbean. He was also a prolific poet, with over 200 poems in print.
He died on 14 November 1996, aged 87. He is survived by his wife, Joanna Walcott, and his children.