Term Paper, 2009, 14 Pages
Many things are said about Christopher Marlowe, a playwright who died at the age of 29 in a pub in Deptford mysteriously. People say he used to be a spy for the British government and an atheist whose death was “God’s justice on a sinner” 1 . ”A blasphemer who had “denied God and his son Christ … affirming our Saviour to be but a deceiver […] and the holy Bible but vain and idle stories”. 2 The question whether there is any truth in these accusations cannot be answered, but although we do not know whether Marlowe was an atheist, it is for sure that Marlowe got in touch with religion quite intensive. Born in Canterbury, “a cathedral town whose archbishop was Primate of the Church of England” 3 Marlowe might have been being taught the catechism and the articles of the faith at a very young age. 4 As a student at the Corpus Christi College, he qualified for one of the three scholarships which were offered by Mathew Parker, the Archbishop of Canterbury. 5 There he “would have been expected to embark on a career in the church” 6 , but as we know today, he didn’t. He got raised up during the “religiously ecstatic period of the English Reformation” 7 which lasted in the 16 th century and split the Christians into several reformated groups. This tension can especially be noticed in some of his plays with “obvious religious themes as the damnation of a soul (Doctor Faustus), the scourge of God (Tamburlaine), and the controversy between Protestants and Catholics (The Massacre at Paris).” 8 Quotes from his plays show his “widespread interest in the Bible (including the publication of the Bishops’ Bible, Tomson’s Geneva New Testament, and the Rheims New Testament)” 9 as lots of them are taken out directly from biblical passages or show allusions to them. Doctor Faustus, the play about a scholar who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for 24 years of power and magic, is one of Marlowe’s plays which alludes a lot to Christianity and Protestantism during his time. This term paper shall point out how Christopher Marlowe dealt with the topic of Christianity in Dr. Faustus. As it is clear, that a play that deals with God and the devil cannot leave Christian theology out, particular notes shall be written about the matters of the negative approach towards Christianity, the subject of repentance and the issue how the purgatory is being demonstrated in the play.
1 Stevie Simkin, Marlowe: A preface to Marlowe (Harlow: Longman, 2000) 20.
2 Simkin 11.
3 Simkin 14.
4 Cf. Simkin 2.
5 Cf. Simkin 14.
6 Simkin 14.
7 Richard M. Cornelius, Christopher Marlowe’s Use of the Bible (New York: Lang, 1984) 1.
8 Cornelius 1.
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