Wednesday, June 11, 2008

EDW: Christopher Marlowe

One of those small details which caught my eye was this line from DavidT on the fulminations of religious extremists: "In English, as part of GCSE, they must study Shakespeare, whose books are full of homosexuality, fornication and adultery, each of which are great sins in Islam.”

There isn't that much homosexuality in Shakespeare - a bit of cross-dressing and the ambiguity of the sonnets aside - but Marlowe is a very different creature. The fact that he would annoy religious loons may be a spurious one, but that plus the melancholy elegance of Elizabethean dress are good enough for me to make him a candidate for Elegantly Dressed Wednesday.

As for Marlowe, the blank verse beast, himself: alleged to be an atheist, a heretic, a blasphemer and a homosexualist ('all they that love not boies and tobacco were fools') and spy who was stabbed to death in a tavern brawl in murky circumstances; his life was colourful enough. He was, however, the onlie begetter of the mighty line.

Admittedly the Jew of Malta might hold an unfortunate attraction for a hardcore jihadist, although the play is as much a satire on religious hypocrisy as anything. Then there is Edward II, which really does have plenty of homosexuality.
Music and poetry is his delight;
Therefore I'll have Italian masques by night,
Sweet speeches, comedies, and pleasing shows;
And in the day, when he shall walk abroad,
Like sylvan nymphs my pages shall be clad;
My men, like satyrs grazing on the lawns,
Shall with their goat-feet dance an antic hay.
Sometime a lovely boy in Dian's shape,
With hair that gilds the water as it glides,
Crownets of pearl about his naked arms,
And in his sportful hands an olive tree
To hide those parts which men delight to see,
Shall bathe him in a spring;
Add to that the diabolic genius of Dr Faustus (one can appreciate his desire to see the face that burned the topless towers of Illium) and Tamberlaine - a play glorifying the 'scourge of God', a character who burns a copy of the Koran (another attack on religion in general, of course) and who devoted his life invading places like Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan– and one can just imagine the impact he'd have on the GCSE syllabus. His valedictories are rather more eloquent than anything George Bush is likely to manage, to boot.

Farewell, farewell, divine Zenocrate –
Is it not passing brave to be a king
And ride in triumph through Persepolis!

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Blogger Glamourpuss said...

Sorry to be a boring ex-English teacher, but Marlowe's Dr Faustus was on one of the A Level specifications a while back...

He was rather dashing.


11:46 am  

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