Those who can make you believe absurdities, will make you commit atrocitie —Voltaire

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Kit Marlowe-My Kind Of Heretic



Marlowe had a reputation for atheism. Following Marlowe's arrest on a charge of atheism in 1593, Baines submitted to the authorities a "note containing the opinion of one Christopher Marly concerning his damnable judgment of religion, and scorn of God's word". Baines attributes to Marlowe ideas such as, "Christ was a bastard and his mother dishonest [unchaste]", "the woman of Samaria and her sister were whores and that Christ knew them dishonestly" and, "St John the Evangelist was bedfellow to Christ and leaned always in his bosom" (cf. John 13:23-25) and "that he used him as the sinners of Sodom". He also claims that Marlowe had Catholic sympathies. Other passages are merely sceptical in tone: "he persuades men to atheism, willing them not to be afraid of bugbears and hobgoblins". Similar statements were made by Thomas Kyd after his imprisonment and possible torture ; both Kyd and Baines connect Marlowe with the mathematician Thomas Harriot and Walter Raleigh's circle. Another document claims that Marlowe had read an "atheist lecture" before Raleigh. Baines ends his "note" with the ominous statement: "I think all men in Christianity ought to endeavour that the mouth of so dangerous a member may be stopped".

Some critics believe that Marlowe sought to disseminate these views in his work and that he identified with his rebellious and iconoclastic protagonists. However, plays had to be approved by the Master of the Revels before they could be performed, and the censorship of publications was under the control of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Presumably these authorities did not consider any of Marlowe's works to be unacceptable .

Some general quotes:
  • I count religion but a childish toy, and hold there is no sin but innocence.
  • Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed In one self place, for where we are is hell, And where hell is there must we ever be.
  • I'm armed with more than complete steel, - The justice of my quarrel.
  • Money can't buy love, but it improves your bargaining position.
  • What are kings, when regiment is gone, but perfect shadows in a sunshine day?
  • Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?
  • Jigging veins of rhyming mother wits.
  • I am Envy. I cannot read and therefore wish all books burned.
Marlowe at his best:

Lament For Zenocrate
Black is the beauty of the brightest day,
The golden belle of heaven's eternal fire,
That danced with glory on the silver waves,
Now wants the fuel that inflamed his beams:
And all with faintness and for foul disgrace,
He binds his temples with a frowning cloud,
Ready to darken earth with endless night:
Zenocrate that gave him light and life,
Whose eyes shot fire from their ivory bowers,
And tempered every soul with lively heat,
Now by the malice of the angry skies,
Whose jealousy admits no second mate,
Draws in the comfort of her latest breath
All dazzled with the hellish mists of death.
Now walk the angels on the walls of heaven,
As sentinels to warn th'immortal souls,
To entertain divine Zenocrate.
Apollo, Cynthia, and the ceaseless lamps
That gently looked upon this loathsome earth,
Shine downwards now no more, but deck the heavens
To entertain divine Zenocrate.
The crystal springs whose taste illuminates
Refined eyes with an eternal sight,
Like tried silver runs through Paradise
To entertain divine Zenocrate.
The Cherubins and holy Seraphins
That sing and play before the King of Kings,
Use all their voices and their instruments
To entertain divine Zenocrate.
And in this sweet and curious harmony,
The God that tunes this music to our souls,
Holds out his hand in highest majesty
To entertain divine Zenocrate.
Then let some holy trance convey my thoughts,
Up to the palace of th'imperial heaven:
That this my life may be as short to me
As are the days of sweet Zenocrate.

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