0115 966 7955 Today's Opening Times 10:00 - 20:00 (BST)

Doctor Faustus And The Lutheran Aesthetic Religion Essay

Published:

Disclaimer: This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers. You can view samples of our professional work here.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.

(187) In Renaissance Tragedy there is always generally a concluding death-scene, the blooding ending a certainty to happen. The 16th century was a time of growing scepticism about the Christian afterlife and an urgent need for present self-realization. Finding a brave death would satisfy a lasting fame and tragedy offering comfort to a secular world.

(188) Doctor Faustus is one of the tragedies of the time with such secular tendencies, the doctor rejecting the Heaven connects it to Luther's renewal of the mystery in afterlife, making death the more inscrutable in its cycles of despair and faith which is inherent in Christian experience. There is a set of formal technique stressing such affinity between the two with the play's ambivalence towards Calvinistic predestination and Faustus' recurrent mood-swings as a Lutheran response to inaccessibility of death. Lutheran's scepticism regards the possibility of containing philosophical speculation on afterlife in stable pieces of doctrine which for Faustus and Luther ends up in a restless ecstasy of mind.

(189) The Calvinist background makes Faustus' choice compelled in fear of God's punishment and yet being unable to repent and the inevitable otherness of the deity and the predestination of human action. Faustus has studied in Wittenberg where both Luther and Calvin taught and his tragic force stems from the destruction of an individual will by the arbitrary power of the Calvinist God.

(190) Presently the general view takes Faustus' motivation in a balance perspective of both voluntarist and determinist readings. The actual restlessness within the play dangles between the extremes. Faustus is a sceptic; his mind proceeds by the dialectic of doubt and desire to fill the void in his understanding through new dogmatic position while he establishes a balance between competing doctrines. His dissatisfaction with stasis is hardly adequate for his agonized unrepenance in God's face of wrath.

(191) II. The opening scene shows Faustus struggling to know what it cannot. All kinds of knowledge are tossed aside as woefully unsatisfying when he rejects such systems of knowledge. He is acting on a decision he has long considered. His mood abruptly shifts on theology and its central teaching: "We must die an everlasting death" followed by a sudden feeling of discouragement. The inevitability of death is not banished with confidence and that's why he turns to magic. At first it's only his interest in black arts which is to resolve his death anxiety allowing him to behave with cynical abandon. Yet the continuing obsession with death manifests in his talks with Mephistopheles the debates leaving him unwilling to accept the replies he is given. He tacitly admits the existence of Hell insisting to find a fixed location and final determination however to no avail. He finds Hell both present and removed, present in the existence of devils and absent in him not yet dead.

(192) Faustus can apprehend but not comprehend what he's confronted with, so he resolves it using his intellectual denial. He is continually encounters Hell by devils and becomes hopeless in such endless revolution, so he decides to be rid of the awareness of hell even though escaping the thought is impossible. He breaks the cycle starting to think about a wife, an earthly object. His scepticism manifests itself in the restless struggle which is rooted in his uncertainty about the supernatural that cannot be comprehended through his earthly vantage. It's a perspective ever beyond his own and also to some extent within Christian theology from Augustine to Calvin and when the basic elements of the afterlife is beyond one's grasp, repentance becomes almost impossible.

(193) III. Such was Luther's teaching: confrontation with mortality as a fundamental source of religious experience and his anxieties about death were the basis for his entire theology. According to Heidelberg "we by nature love our will more than the will of God." We even hate him and Luther supposes that our nature pushes us to avoid the otherness of death, yet our relation to God demands that we embrace it. We can never be freed from what we are. We are always left wrestling with our imagination. Luther's scepticism about coherence of human perspective is confusing and his belief in God seems dubious.

(194) Generally the basis for the ideas of inwardness, plainness, and self-sufficiency are associated with Protestant thought.

(195) Eucharist to him is real bread and real wine, where Christ's flesh and blood are present while the formers remain still present. He insisted on the real presence of the Godhead as the meeting of two different perspectives: the object of faith, and faith in itself. The first is outside the heart, presented to our eyes, in the blood and wine; and the second in internal not externalized.

(196) Luther's theology perceives an epistemological than an ontological difference between the earthly and the divine arguing that the single substance of the Eucharist is at once Christ and bread. The communion is therefore uncertain and destabilising and Luther's ecstasy cannot last permanently for the claim of an unencountered future. To him too much faith is the sign of sinful pride, a comfort which terrifies conscience and the despairing rejection of the divine will struggling with renewed efforts at faith.

(197) Eucharist produces a state of incomplete satisfaction as an endless struggle to resolve a feeling of double vision, a mode of representation generating a specific psychological condition. In Luther, it is said that "even in our destruction ... God is present with us, and in our death Christ our King liveth."

(198) Luther speaking about death comes to life and comments on the horror of being trampled by death, the cycle of hope and despair Faustus is caught in. His views were not accepted by the Calvinist and the Anglican Church, yet his views on death were circulating in England.

(199) Marlowe spent 3 years studying Protestant theology at Cambridge, and Faustus struggled with this uncertainty. His supernatural perspectives generate an awareness of a denied satisfaction attempting to deny the existence of this greater perspective. His final soliloquy is in the same dialectic pattern longing for the "perpetual day" and meanwhile his soul to be "dissolved in elements," desiring to make the afterlife and extension of his earthly perspective and also escaping it entirely. There are baffling reasons for Faustus to keep to his pact. He asks for a description of hell while the answer he receives is dissatisfying. So he shifts the subject to having a wife substituting his questions with a feminized spirit. Mephistopheles' explanation of astrology is "freshmen's supposition" and the book of spells seem incomplete to him and he takes a tour to Rome instead of Hell.

(200) Faustus denied satisfactions for his earthly boundaries are offered to him through Lutheran readings. Anyhow he knows that "everlasting death" awaits him and is confronted with the unchangeability of death and thus starts his pattern of avoidance the fact. The pact promises escape from this helpless awareness offering mortality by forging his damnation. Faustus abolishes the perspective existing beyond his own turning godly power to his own or rendering God irrelevant by determining his exact condition of death. In "misery loves company" Faustus pays more attention to 'company' than 'misery' feeling tormented by his condition.

(201) Misery is nothing new to him, but he seeks company and the fellowship with the devil bridges the gap in awareness with which he is burdened. But he sees that the view beyond his is not different than his own vantage-point for devil's condition is available to those humans who are in hell. No matter what the perspective the result would be an escape from the feeling of being caught on one side of the double perspective. Faustus is ironically caught in his own perspective for what the devil shows him is the re-exposition of his own view and there is no frame to validate the demon's responses. So he keeps twisted back and forth between doubt and certainty with sudden cry of terror without being afraid of dying.

(202) He has incessant change of voice referring to himself in first person and his meditations are dialogic dramatized in actual shifts of voice between confidence and doubt.

V. Sense of doubleness finally takes Faustus to the extreme of avoidance distracting his mind from revolutions to magical tricks played on the Pope, a pompous knight, and a horse-dealer. These pranks show the adolescent turns in the doctor.

(203) His serious and satiric behaviours are both other attempts at avoidance. Unable to get satisfied intellectually he is reduced to practicing magic and mindless games to escape the revolutions of his thoughts. He feels trapped in the double perspective and thus tries to leave it off asking for a wife. Hell is characterized to him as a place for permanent dispute while he is aware of the limits of his understanding and that's why he turns back to earthly diversions to find peace in earthly companionship which is doomed all the same.

(204) "Bell, Book, and Candle" as a parody of Catholicism is also one of Faustus' own condition of being caught in endless loop of his thoughts. His interactions with the devils re-enacts the pattern of avoidance that Luther call the fundamental condition of mortality. The pact is an emblem of human state either coming from studies of divinity or concourse with devils. We are left with the knowledge that there exist a knowledge beyond our own, and the more we struggle to establish a satisfactory relation, the more avoid the inevitable limits of our human condition. That's why Faustus never abandons his pact: to rid himself of it would be meaningless unless freed from humanity.

VI. Faustus needs to see past his humanness to find peace of mind always in the beyond.

(205) Marlowe fuses two distinct methods of representation, psychological depictions of hell and human suffering, and painted devils making threats of physical torture. Renaissance concern for subtleties of human experiences juxtaposed with medieval emphasis on the stratified order of values. This is an intentional parody which is less sophisticated than Faustus' agonized description of his mental strife. At the end of Act II, Lucifer tries to quiet Faustus' metaphysical doubts providing Seven Deadly Sins. Faustus finds something satisfying in this allegory of hell more than the psychological description of hell.

(206) Luther was traditionally an opponent of allegory believing that the true meaning of the scripture was lying in its literal sense, and his rejection was help both by the Catholic Church and Reform Protestants. The question regards the betterment of one particular allegory to another. Luther lashed out the Catholic church for ignoring the grammatical sense of the Eucharist.

(207) Luther insisted upon the literal sense. For him there was never real distinction between the word of God and its earthly sign, they are simply two different ways of looking at the same thing. There is no way of moving from sign to signified and the dual function of the sign is to bring the observer into the real presence of God while at the same time manifesting the infinite gulf of perception that exists between God and mankind. Faustus' need to escape unknowing is answered by hell depicted as the collection of earthly forms, knowing that afterlife can be understood in earthly terms and momentarily relieving him from the doubleness. But according to Luther such moments of forced resolution are not truly satisfying. Although Faustus turns to allegory, he remains aware that it doesn't actually bridge the gap. In the allegorical pageant, the certainty quickly turns to doubt, an inscrutability not dislodging his desire to know. The clarity of understanding is quickly rejected as being naive and Faustus' struggle leads him to an isolating despair, the cycle of faith and doubt, alternating between allegorical clarity and psychological complexity never to resolve. We are not even sure in the end the doctor will be back with another performance.

VII. Dryden suggested that death can sometimes be the stuff of comedy, yet remaining a source of tragic experience all the same.

(209) In Faustus there is a sense of doubt and anxiety on death as an incomprehensible phenomenon that logic is not able to soothe. Faustus struggles endlessly against his unknowing, the struggle which indicates nothing but the incompleteness that makes human existence tragic.

Theology of Marlowe's The Jew of Malta

(214) After Faustus, this play is the most ironic one of his works. Jewishness is seen as a moral condition, and Jewish choice was the rejection of Christ, rejecting the treasure in Heaven for the one on the earth. Jesus tells the Jews "you are of your father the Devil" introducing them as the Antichrist.

(215) Yet, the modern anti-Semitism of today cannot be applied to the times of Elizabeth and the image of the Jew at the time was more of a theological necessity than a living person based on his historical image in the Old Testament. According to Medieval law, sexual relations between a Christian and a Jew were met with the penalty of death by fire. The reason is taken as the denial of Christianity rather than racial issues. Shakespeare's Shylock and Marlowe's Barabas were more of a Medieval image as a word of general abuse bequeathed to the renaissance. Elizabethan England was a country "bare of racial Jews" and the whole frame rejected racial thinking.

(216) The Anglican service was praying for all Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Heretics. According to Hunter, the Jew who falls into the cauldron is the very one in the first Act with no reduction of the author's sympathetic identification with plenty of ironic counter-currents. The structure of the concepts in the play are theological not racial, and the name as a type was fixed unless he ceased to be a Jew. In the beginning Barabas congratulates himself on his Jewish prosperity and "Abram's happiness." Yet this is not so in Christianity and Abraham and other old patriarchs of the Old Testament cannot belong to the Jewish one and Jewish invocation of them is merely subversive and alien. There have been numerous treatises trying to remove the Old Testament from the Jews.

(217) According to Luther the Jew's application of Abraham's blessings are only carnal injuring the Scripture. They may be the children after the flesh, but Christians are the children of the promise, as Isaac was, of grace and faith. Barabas later on does such self-congratulation when he leads Don Lodowick to his doom.

(218) It was believed that the promise was the very thing the Gentiles were given. So Barabas' self-congratulation seems as the same original choice and his orthodoxy in saying "the blessings promised to the Jews" is no less that Faustus' joy in the paradise of the Seven Deadly Sins. An ironic contrast is made between the figure of Barabas and Job Marlowe citing from the Geneva version of the actual book of Job.

(219) The reference to him is central to the whole conception of Barabas. He is an Anti-Job characterized by his choice of revenge and impatience. This way he is also an Antichrist for Job was the greatest of the types of Christ found in the Old Testament, his descent into poverty mirroring Christ's into flesh. Barabas' career is a parody to Job's, both beginning in prosperity and then losing their possessions both accused of justifying their deeds, both restoring their prosperity. Their frame of mind is different though. Barabas' self-justification is from monstrous egotism and Job's is out of awareness that God is unanswerably just. Yet the latter's voice acquire in the mouth of a revenger the pattern of all patience. The effort of Christian appropriation of Job was to distinguish between the action of a man whose vision of the world was coloured by the awareness of the "Redeemer" living and the superficially similar action of the man whose vision was limited to this world.

(220) Jewish observances are justifications of the mere flesh... for their Religion represented earthly wealth, dignity, and prosperity as highly valuable. Barabas is a Jewish Job and the loss of his wealth is a physical disaster, not a spiritual trial. The parody of Job's spiritual Odyssey and Barabas' view to treasure are different from what is recommended in Christianity. Barabas cannot serve both God and riches and the actions the Job denies are those in which Barabas rejoices as an Anti-Job.

(221) Judas in Herbert's represents such Jewish choice preferring thirty pieces of silver to serving his Lord delighting in avarice. The Jewish usurer was a known contemporary figure in Marlowe's days even if absent from England and his wealth represented a kind of spiritual hunger for the infinite. The line of "infinite riches in a little room" contains in itself the material by which we distance and judge Barabas' passion for treasure. In Miss Helen Gardner's line also there is the notion of "Immensity cloistered in thy dear wombe."

(222) There is similarity between the two; Marlowe's line draws the persistent image of Christ in the Virgin's womb and...

(223) Such wordings are repeatedly mentioned yet in different words from one text to another. In one same tradition the image expresses the paradox of infinitude in little space stretching before and after Marlowe. In another one Christ's power is represented as infinite richness. The Virgin's womb is "litel space" and yet also infinitely rich in monetary sense. The comparison of Christ to jewels, gold, and silver are obviously shown in varied texts.

(224) There is a natural transition of Wisdom to the Virgin where she is infinitely rich by possessing Christ, her womb functioning as a purse, mint, or an alms-box. The money is coined in the image of God, being defaced in the womb of the Virgin, the vessel enjoying humility.

(225) Thus the double paradox of Marlowe's line is already present in a religious tradition, Christianity being opposed to the flesh. The treasure/Christ is there for the use of others and again the contrast between the sterile treasure hoarded by man and the liberal treasure disbursed by God is shown: to ransome great kings from captivity (64-67). But the only king Barabas ransoms is himself while his house is captured and converted into a nunnery, Abigail entering it as a novice to dig up the treasure hidden. The contrasting values are played off: the fruits of the spirit and those of commerce, one against the other. The pun on benefit in the Aside (574-76) is interpreted as benefit to mean: "as much...as Hope is hid" (577).

(226) When Barabs teases the Governor's son to his death he talks of the nuns and friars as "still doing it... reape some fruit; ... in fulnesse of perfection (833-48). The variety of innuendos suggest the lechery of the nuns and friars with the fruit of bastardy playing on the idea of profit, spiritual, and financial. The austere life of Abigail leads to profit, by repaying the debt to God for her sinful past. Behind is the theory of monastic deprivation to appease God's wrath by giving vicarious satisfaction. The nunnery in Barabas' house is still a place of profit and Marlowe's play on 'thesaurus' is justified by the monetary and financial imagery of the church's power.

(227) The vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience which the nuns have taken are works of supererogation (duty done more than expected) and the profit they produce is part of Marlowe's "treasure" though not the kind Barabas is interested in. The doctrine of a surplusage of merits is what lies behind the practice of selling Indulgences specifically talked about in thirty-nine articles as abhorrent to the Anglican Church, one of the most noxious (poisonous) of Roman belief. The final twist of the ironic point is in Barabas' instruction to his daughter (585-98).

(228) The resurrection is not a spiritual one; the profit is judged after the flesh. In (663-69) there is no wooden enactment of predetermined attitude, but a continuous fluctuation of sympathy backwards and forwards round the figure of Barabas while his religious status is never in doubt who fatally mistakes the nature of value functioning as the medieval emissaries of Hell, taking us with him in his scorn of the other characters in the play. The Jew is admired in a way different from Faustus. He is place among Christians with the profession of policy, nuns of dubious chastity, and friars with timid carnality; the Christianity itself is not attacked and neither is Jewishness approved. In Marlowe's time Malta was being menaced by Turkish attacks, and such struggle was not between nations, but between faiths, God and the devil. Such prayers were commonly said in England in 1565.

(229) Marlowe was referring to cut and dried moral issues by choosing Malta as the setting of his play. The Knights of Malta were no ordinary soldiers, but monastic ones vowed to poverty, chastity, and obedience. He chose his men to raise expectations of rectitude while his view of man was that of a fallen condition. The Christians are shown in a variety of cynical variations and inversions and the idealistic rhetoric of honour and piety is only a window-dressing with the reality of greed that "the wind that bloweth all the world besides, / Desire of gold" (1422). The international relations are based on money or illusion and Malta buys its peace from the Turks while the occation of the Turks coming to the island is to sell "Grecians, Turks, and Africk Moores". The only tangible sign of honour in Del Bosco's words is: "I'le write unto his Majesty for ayd," (745) which is never materialized and finally scoffed at by Calymath.

(230)Everyone has its price and Barabas presumes that it is "a trade to purchase townes / By treachery, sell'em by deceit (2330). The difference between a monarch and a thief is only a matter of degrees. Such a world is devoted to greed and Barabas in his self-interest is perfectly adapted to his environment while still standing aside others. Their conflict is a tiresome interruption in the real life of profit-making so that they would "spare me, my daughter, and my wealth (189-92). At a personal he is in conflict with Christians and thus makes a common cause with Ithamore as an individual Turk: both "villaines, / Both circumcised, we both hate Christians" (978-80). His hatred to Christians is merely a reduplication of the Turkish hostility. In Act V it is more profitable to sell the Turks than the Christians for the latter is currently living "the Authority" (2139-41). The Turks and Christians both are inconsistent in their self-interest; but Barabas allows neither race, blood, faith, nor grandeur stand in his consistent monomania.

(231) He is free from idealism or dependence upon others and the degree of admiration and sympathy shown in "borne to better chance, / And fram'd of finer mold then common men" (452) is a counterpoint over religious condemnation. The fate of Malta is a mere transaction but does not obliterate the importance of the orthodox view, that self-interest is self-destroying, and Barabas' lines are a rhetorical progression of ever-narrowing range (189-192). The lines show a preference for private security in a Jewish alien. But there is not a whole progression where the daughter first is assimilated to gold and later is destroyed. Abigail is fraught with ironic overtones. In the Helen speech of Faustus the image of Semele as here Agamemnon was responsible for the sacrifice of Iphigeneia.

(232) Barabas looks to the future in terms of gold (the barren breed of metal) (701-4) and the purchase of Ithamore in the slave-market is set against the sale of "diamond" Abigail to Lodowick (899) with cross-reference to real finance (983-1011). Abigail is both seen as gold and human investment and is drawn from circulation when necessary substituted by Ithamore. (1312-1344).

(233) The trinity of "me, my daughter, and my wealth" is reduced to 'me and my wealth.' Ithamore is also a tool and the descent from Abigail to Ithamore is through the ever-diminishing circles of personal freedom into depths of pettier criminality where the cut-purse and courtesan natural inhabitants. Such structure of decline takes place in Faustus, too. Both heroes begin with splendid assertions of individual will and in Act II and IV are carried to low-life clowning and frustrations. Yet Faustus ends splendidly while the Jew's fate is not redeemed by a denouement and his psychological conditions are not discussed. Barabas temporarily defeats his enemies by pretending to die. Yet the Antichrist is not easily excluded. He returns through the town's sewers as a coup de theatre (a sudden event), a reminder of medieval pageants inheriting moral as well as physical structures, with the Heaven high up and the Hell underneath in the pit or the cauldron.

(234) On such occasions as those of Barabas' the cauldron could represent the traditional image of hell which was derived from the final chapters of Job where Behemoth and Leviathan both were pictured in details as hell-mouth of fearful monsters., a boiling cauldron was imagined in the open jaws of the monster.

(235) Sometimes the cauldron represents hell itself, and sometimes it is a part of the setting. Definitely in Barabas' end there are inevitable moral concerns with the final victory of Christians in Malta. Yet, Marlowe avoids the collateral Second Coming of Christ and the survival of the Christians has no moral justification. In fact Marlowe has damned the Jew as a means of tormenting and exposing those who pride themselves on their Christianity. The arguments of the Governor are like those of Peter the Venerable urging the Jews to be forced to contribute to the cost of the Second Crusade.

(236) At the time all wars against the Turkish infidels were seen as Crusades and the situation of Malta was the extension of the one that Peter Venerable was writing about. Marlowe implies that Barabas is against the Christ, yet his trial is conducted by figures that approximate to Pilate and Chief Priest (331). Profession in the play means religious faith.

(237) Barabas makes the Christian point that righteousness is not a tribal or racial possession, but an individual covenant (346-350). Therefore he has the right to live and prosper in this world and in terms of the Old Testament he seems to be justified. His extension of legal status in Malta to a religiously legality under the terms of the Jewish law, yet, does not fit in, with his claim to a personal covenant.

(238) The righteousness in Barabas' speech is a distinct and antithetical concept to that of the New Testament and a Christian audience is expected to reject Barabas' defence. In (351-355) profession means Jewish faith and for the Jew to claim individual covenant is a contradiction in terms. Barabas as the figure of Job attempts at futile self-justification and as an Anti-Job figure resorts to Machiavellian cunning (507). The last two line of the Governor (356) show that more than doctrinal correctness is involved.

(239) Marlowe in saying "all they that love not Tobacco and Boie were fooles'? And to what? Such a statement is effective because of its power to upset our preconception, but it does not lead to anywhere. Marlowe identified himself with the rebels: Tamburlaine, Barabas, Faustus, and Edward II, but that such identification blinded him to the immutable laws of God, society is improbable. His Cambridge background and social contacts suggest his contact with Calvinism and the strongest emotional effects in the writings of the reformers usually come from their sense of God's infinite transcendence, and man's infinite debasement (Tamburlaine, 2893-2911). The speaker is passionately involvement with the idea of God's purity and transcendence and the betrayal of that purity in human nature.

(240) He knew what it was like to worship transcendence, the power, and beauty beyond human comprehension. He was a God-haunted atheist being simultaneously fascinated and horrified by the self-sufficiency of the fallen world. We come to prefer the Jewish profession of Barabas to the hypocrisy of the Christians with Marlowe belabouring the Christians. The world of Marlowe is completely a fallen one and so is the world of Calvin.

The Spirit and the Letter:

Marlowe's "Tamburlaine" and Elizabethan Religious Radicalism

(125) Having conquered Babylon and outside the ruins of the city Tamburlaine asks about the Islamic holy books: "Now Casane...They shal be burnt" (2 Tam. 5.1.173-76). He realized the futility of respecting anything but his own divinity. He taunts Mahomet in (2 Tam. 5.1.180-81) and identifies himself as the "scourge" of another higher God.

(126) To him Spirit is bound by nothing unlike Mahomet whose "sum of religion rests" in the Koran (2 Tam. 5.1.191). He disdains religion codified in books and the letter of the law means nothing for he possesses a divine spirit throwing off his shepherd's weeds to reveal the armour beneath persuading everyone he is not of flesh and blood subject to laws. Marlowe comments on issues of gnosis and inner enlightenment and the conflict between the spirit and the letter. Here the Koran is substituted for the Christian Scriptures and he is addressing Christian theology in transferring the defiant gesture to the distant world of Islam. In Tamburlaine the possession of a spiritual gnosis leads to a disregard for all laws where others are governed bodily by it. At the time the issues of election and predestination were hotly debated and there were an increasing number of people seeking unmediated contact with God from religious authorities or doctrinal codes. Marlowe's plays are a part of a larger cultural exploration of the significance of individual religious inspiration and the consequences of such inspiration for the body politic.

(127) Marlowe's plays indicate a sceptical attitude towards Gnostic transcendence. He offers a critical portrait of spiritual confidence gone mad and facilitates us with the perception of tensions in English Reformation thought.

II. There is a Gnostic subtext in Marlowe's plays as well as the presentation of anti-materialism.

(128) As the opponents of the Gnostics, the early Church Fathers intended their work as a cautious displaying of heresy focusing their attention excessive, outlandish belief and practices. Gnosticism is a negative religio-philosophical movement escaping from the tragic farce of material existence, loathing the body and material register as a central feature like many ancient philosophies. But in Neoplatonic circles, the theory of divine emanations proclaimed earthly things to bear the reflection of the divine. In Gnostic thought the material world is not even the creation of the true God; rather it's the work of an inferior god, himself the result of an error in the divine realm.

(129) The one, unknowable God causes distinct divine beings to appear, each representing one of his attribute. The materials of creation stem from a tragic sense of loss, abandonment, and perplexity. For the Gnostics the creation of the world is a tragedy. Nothing valuable inheres in the qualities and characters of materiality. To exist on earth signifies the depth of one's removal from the perfection and tranquillity of the divine. The Gnostics can overcome the overwhelming alienation of life on earth through the attainment of gnosis, the recognition of one's true origin the essence of gnosis is knowing that the one's true self is divine and body and the world are impediments to one's transcendental ascent.

(130) Gnostic thinkers believe that only a few individuals possess the pieces of divinity. People are divided into three categories: pneumatics (spirituals), psychics, and hylics, one's status being predestined. The spirituals are by all means saved; the psychics are destined to a middle status; the hylics are wholly material characters unquestionably damned. Gnostic groups deny their bodily appetites. Other Gnostic sects believed that once the individual has achieved enlightenment, they were free to engage in any sort of behaviour. Activities in the body have no effect on salvation. Gnostic philosophy tended to foster an underlying violence that Marlowe acknowledges in the portrait of Tamburlaine.

(131) Tamburlaine's aspirations stem from a Gnostic struggle between spirit and the deadening bonds of matter imprisoning it. He doesn't believe that he is one of this world living, loving, and enjoying it. The world for him is to be conquered and subdued. There is an ontological gap between his innate divine greatness and the baseness of his surroundings. When Zenocrete addresses him as a "shepherd" he is incensed. As the "terrour to the world" (1 Tam. 1.2.34-35,38) he throws off his simple shepherd's garb to reveal armour underneath "Lie here ye weedes that I disdaine to weare. / This compleat armor and this curtle-axe / Are adjuncts more beseeming Tamburlaine" (1 Tam. 1.2.41-43). He dissociates himself from his pastoral identity which is connected to earth, fertility, and animals, and declares himself to transcendence in character. His armour is the symbol of his distance from the bodily world invoking between appearance and reality. Although he and his men seem like "silly country swains," "they bear Empires on [their] speares" (1 Tam. 1.2.47, 65). Tamburlaine claims close relationships to gods saying Jove "shield me safe from harme" (1 Tam. 1.2.180-81). Nothing can destroy him for "The chiefest God ... / Will sooner burne the glorious frame of Heaven / Then it should so conspire my overthrow" (i Tam. 4.2.8, io-11).

(132) Tamburlaine is the bearer of Gnostic identity penetrating others' bodies with his sword, the proof of his inherent divinity. To distance himself from materiality he wounds himself showing he is not of body "A wound is nothing, be it nere so deepe" as the insignificance of the matter (2 Tam. 3.3.115). in such antinomianism any sort of behaviour is allowed; he can treat others' bodies as well as that of earth's as he pleases: rape, murder, and the burning of towns. Others are "peasants," "slaves" as defined by their bodies meriting destruction to Tamburlaine. They have no chance for transcendence. That "A wound is nothing" justifies a violent elimination of materiality and corporeality.

(133) He fantasizes about release from the constricting chains of his body into pure spirit. Empire means little to him and he is too "good" for earth so he makes a Gnostic escape from it as he contemplates his return to Samarcanda, his birthplace. He rides through the streets "in golden armour like the Sun." Tamburlaine's real interest lies in returning to the spiritual Samarcanda (2 Tam. 4.3.130- 32). The word "dissevered" suggests violent separation from the hateful body. He looks past to the ultimate goal of transcendence (1 Tam. 1.2.236-37). He maintains "the perfect and sole felicitie" of life is an "earthly crown" (1 Tam. 2.7.28029). Crowns assume a talismanic significance; Tamburlaine steals them, plays with them, rhapsodizes over them, and bequeaths them. They symbolize the drive for his earthly omnipotence. His regret is not having enough time to unify the world.

(134) Tamburlaine has Machiavellian political aims. Like Barabas he detaches himself from the world around him. In his Gnostic belief, there is a powerful tool in achieving ultimate temporal supremacy. His Gnostic disgusts the matter and refuses to tolerate any opposition. Zenocrate is intimately connected to the earth; she sees individuals who live, play, love, marry, and raise children. On the other hand for Tamburlaine it is "unseemly to harbour thoughts effeminate, and faint (1 Tam. 5.1.174, 177). His son Calyphas is representative of the unruly material realm. He suffers the fate of hylic individuals. He is merely a "lump of clay," "created of the messy dregges of earth,/ The scum and tartar of the Element/ wherein was neithercourage, strength or wit/ but follie, sloth and damned idleness (2 Tam. 4.1.125-28). Calyphas is only fit for extermination. Tamburlaine justifies his act through a typically Gnostic rhetoric of material disdain.

(135) In Tamburlaine, the stage is littered with mangled corpses left to rot in desolate landscapes. His belief in the ontological insignificance and evil of matter attempts the destruction of the world being disenchanted with it. No discipline is great enough in subduing the unruly qualities of the material register and Tamburlaine wants nothing less than its total destruction. Burning Larissa, destroying Babylon and drowning its entire population, threatening to burn so much of earth that will cause "the starres to melt" (2 Tam. 4.1.197) suggest his anguished attempt to bring matter to an end. He compares his activities to wars of gods like the reference to Phaethon, Apollo's son misguiding the chariot of the sun destroying a good portion of the earth. He speaks approvingly about the destruction of Damascus.

(136) Tamburlaine's Gnostic assault is on matter and his view like that of the Quakers' comes to the conclusion that the age of books, laws, ceremonies, and formal religions is over when there is the voice within which comes to him shortly before the death of Zenocrate in a "holy trance" (2 Tam. 2.4.34). His devotion to the spirit leads to intolerant disdain for the letter.

III. The sixteenth century was the time of familiarity with Gnostic ideas and texts.

(137) Hermetic texts show both optimistic and pessimistic gnosis, hermetic insights about the interplay between spirit and matter as the basis for scientific investigations that would lead to the improvement of human life and Gnostic hatred of the matter. The Reformation brought Gnostic ideas into the forefront of religious controversy. Discussions on the Letter and the Spirit, Law and Grace, and Eucharist were all responsible for the Gnostic atmosphere. Luther's denunciation of works' righteousness and Calvin arose from new readings of St. Paul and the Gospel of St. John.

(138) The Gnostic nature of Reformed theology was noticed by Erasmus who accused Luther of espousing a thinly disguised gnosis available only to a few. Marlowe as a student of theology in Cambridge was undoubtedly familiar with the Hermetic literature and its obsession with faith, works, the nature of the sacraments, and Puritan theology in England. William Perkins, the greatest preacher of the day and the inspiration for Puritan oratory till after the Restoration was being heard at the time.

(139) In choosing the story of Faustus he sets the ancient legend of the Gnostic Simon Magus and his pursuit of Helen of Troy (Sophia). In England, the Family of Love, preached the primacy of the inner light.

(140) Marlowe could hardly have failed to know the Family of Love.

(143) IV. The government of the time viewed English society susceptible to Gnostic solutions to religious questions. Marlowe's plays are part of this overall late sixteenth discussion, concerned with challenges to authorities who deny that individuals have a right to speak with confidence as the bearers of ultimate religious insight. Tamburlaine provides two ideas for divine perfection of the individual and antinomianism, individual being of the same being as God implying the originality of the soul

(144) The individual must simply repent and recognize his true divinity. No Christian atonement for sin is necessary. Christ did not atone for human sin; he simply provided a model of behaviour for the enlightened in his victory over sin, the body, and death. Familists believed "Christ is no one man, but an estate and condition in man" everyman being "his own saviour and a Christ for himself"... "possessed with absolute holinesse and purenesse."

(145) It is only a short step from a belief in human perfection to antinomianism. Like Tamburlaine, the Familists believed the body was mere dead matter, no more than an illusion without real consequences for their salvation that explains their preference for "spirit" over the "letter;" whatever lies in books is of no use.

(146) Baptism and Eucharist are useless symbols including Catholicism. The Bible is valuable only as an allegorical text offering types of rebirth to be imitated by the initiated.

(147) Major biblical stories and figures elucidate the central conflict between those enlightened by God and those not. Gnostic philosophies show deeply-seated, violent antipathy to the world. All people, Turkes, Mahometans, and Jews were eligible for spiritual rebirth, and all people were to be loved. Marlowe would have appreciated such universal concord in the anti-dogmatic philosophies of his day as an appealing alternative for an individual marginalized as an alien, an atheist, and a sodomite.

(148) However, Marlowe demonstrates that any form of Gnostic transcendence potentially leads to violent for those "earthly." In Tamburlaine frightening consequences of radical religious doctrines overcome the complications of life in a spiritual flight from a "poisonous" world. In linking Marlowe with the orthodox opponents of this heresy, the writer goes against the critical consensus on Marlowe's ideological orientation. Most critics considered Marlowe sympathetic to his characters' desire for the infinite. Bartels in describing Marlowe as "outrageously other," perpetuates the identification of the dramatist and his protagonists. Marlowe however, was not an antinomian or an admirer of Gnostic aspirations.

(149) Taking Tamburlaine as ideal would be a misreading of the play. Marlowe does place a persuasive version of gnosis but it is a pessimistic call for the destruction of the world and its inhabitants, anything that is "not-Tamburlaine." Marlowe shuns the body as an illusion. His primary sources for the life of the Scythian conqueror the historical Tamburlaine is eulogized as a model Renaissance prince who dies a natural death with his empire intact. Tamburlaine's conquest of the world is never criticized. Yet, he expands the role of the Damascene Virgins, Zenocrate, and Calyphas. These characters question Tamburlaine's mission and articulate Marlowe's concern for the body and the world at the hands of religious fanatics like Tamburlaine with whom we sympathize. Marlowe alters the story ends. In the sources, Tamburlaine dies of old age after a successful career as a conqueror and king. Instead, he chooses to show Tamburlaine succumbing to a loosely defined "distemper" or sickness. Tamburlaine maintains throughout the play that his true being has nothing to do with his material existence, hence his shocked question "Shall sickness prove me now to be a man/ That have been termed the terror of the world?" (2 Tam. 5.3.44-45).

(150) Tamburlaine's distemper and death exposes the vacuity of the Gnostic hope for perfection proclaimed by the conqueror during his life. Religious controversies of his age are rooted in the anxieties about the relationship between spirit and matter reminiscent of ancient Gnosticism.

(151) The inner light was a problem for Marlowe; the beauty and passion of Tamburlaine's speeches in part 1 are appealing responses to living with the limitations of mortality. The inner light also disturbs Marlowe. The author's doubts are apparent on Tamburlaine's deathbed, when the Physician tells the conqueror that his "blood is dried" and his "Artiers, which alongst the veins convey / the lively spirits which the heart engenders / Are parch'd and void of spirit" (2 Tam. 5.3.85, 93-95).

Net-Library

(Xiii) Why did Marlowe choose to bring aliens on the stage? Oriental barbarians, black magicians, homosexuals, African queens and kings, Machiavellian Christians, Turks, and Jew? Why was the alien such an appealing subject? Why were other non-European, worlds like Persia, Egypt, Africa, and the East chosen as the setting? Besides the timeless fascination with the alien, there was also the emergence of imperialist ideas.

(xiv)


To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Request Removal

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have the essay published on the UK Essays website then please click on the link below to request removal:


More from UK Essays

We can help with your essay
Find out more
Build Time: 0.0054 Seconds