Legendary Elizabethan dramatist and poet Christopher Marlow (1564 – 1593) was a contemporary of Will Shakespeare, and his life was shrouded in controversy. Whether Marlow was the “roguish rake” many critics claim is beside the point: this missive isn’t about authorial criticism. Though Marlow didn’t create it, he is known as the “father of English blank verse,” and he was a poetic genius. His work had a tremendous influence on Shakespeare’s work. See one of Marlow’s many online biographies posted on Encyclopedia Britannica.
This post is, rather, all about adaptation. “Come live with me and be my love” is the first line of Marlow’s “pastoral” lyric titled “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.” The poem has been adapted in many ways over the years: around 1846, William Sterndale Bennett set the lyrics to a four-part madrigal; in 1995 the poem was adapted for the lyrics of a 1930s-style swing song in the 1995 motion picture Richard III, by Will Shakespeare (performed by singer Stacey Kent). The poem has even been adapted as a polka.
But this is my favorite adaptation, performed by the wonderful American singer Stacey Kent. The video includes music and scenes from the 1995 production of Shakespeare’s Richard III. The video is 5:42 minutes long, and the singing (Marlow’s lyrical poem) picks up at 2:15. It is a fantastic example of Renaissance art beautifully adapted for us moderns. I hope you enjoy this YouTube version.