Christopher Marlowe And Religion Essay

Christopher Marlowe’s Assault on Religion in Doctor Faustus During the Elizabethan era, England was beset with all manner of intimidating religious tenets. As head of the English Church, the queen sought to bring spiritual unity to a country whose religious identity was muddled because the people had previously been under the reign of Catholic and Protestant monarchs, while Calvinist supporters were condemning anyone who demonstrated insight, awareness, or imagination. The result of these conflicts was that the public was finding itself lost in the melee of who or what to believe in. One playwright responded to these restrictions of spiritual freedoms and theological inconsistencies by penning a work that challenged the relevance and authority …show more content…
The doctrines of predestination and humanism were hot button topics at the time, and people were at a loss as to who or what to believe. McAlindon asserts, “Whereas the humanist emphasized the dignity of human nature and man’s capacity to win salvation for his soul through reason and divine revelation, Calvin and Luther preached the utter degradation of fallen human nature and the total incapacity of mortals to save themselves from the damnation that they so thoroughly deserve” (5). Marlowe was very much aware of the turmoil this was causing, but he is neither preaching for or against predestination in his play. Instead, he is manipulating the entire theater populace, who is already struggling with that dogma, to relate to Faustus: a man who has sinned but is nevertheless worthy of pity (Anderson, 219). Faustus believes “thou art damned” (2.2.21), not because he was predestined for it, but because he committed an unforgivable sin. Marlowe dramatized the crisis of faith caused by the intimidating paradoxes of Calvinist theology in which the play stages a crisis of individuality in the emergence of middle class Protestant subjectivity (Owens, 239). Those individuals who were grappling with the terror that came with the uncertainty of predestination may have found some comfort in Marlowe’s dismissal of the Calvinist

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