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The representation of religion and politics in Marlowe’s The Massacre at Paris, The Jew of Malta, and Edward II

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posted on 2010-10-08, 14:39 authored by Abdulaziz Mohd Al-Mutawa
This thesis examines Marlowe‘s interest in the representation of European religion and politics in three selected plays. The Jew of Malta (c. 1590), The Massacre at Paris (c. 1592) and Edward II (c. 1592) consider various aspects of Protestant/Catholic clashes, anti-Catholic sentiment, and elaborate on Machiavellian policies during the late Elizabethan period. The relationship between England and France is governed by many factors. Responses towards Mary, Queen of Scots and to Elizabeth‘s proposed marriage to Anjou can be considered part of this relationship, whereas the representation of France and the French can be assessed by exploring Marlowe‘s texts, Holinshed‘s Chronicles and Foxe‘s Books of Martyrs. The reaction of the Elizabethan state to Catholics is governed by mutual interest and shared benefits, and not necessarily hatred. Marlowe‘s The Massacre at Paris contains similarities and differences with two French plays written by Pierre Mathieu (La Guisiade 1589) and Chantelouve (Coligny 1575). The plays will be analyzed with reference to characters, interests, and themes. Minions will be investigated in terms of their influence on the political order. Anti-catholic sentiment is clearly demonstrated. The Jew of Malta presents a variety of Machiavelli‘s thoughts, whether stated in Machiavelli‘s books or understood by Marlowe‘s contemporaries. Religious conflict between the two most prominent characters of Marlowe‘s play is manifested. Barabas‘ resistance to Ferneze is used to show the Catholic tyranny of Ferneze. Ferneze‘s tyranny is strongly associated with Machiavellianism, encouraging the investigation of themes such as policy, dominance, power and villainy. Political theories in Edward II could be seen to have parallels in the Elizabethan court. Marlowe‘s interest in Elizabethan politics is apparent in the topics of opposition to the ruler and of despotism. Minions, again, are presented as causing disorder and instability, whereas Mortimer appears to adopt Machiavellian statecraft. Religious antagonism is a relatively minor theme in this play, but remains a factor in Marlowe‘s political thought.



Knight, Sarah

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University of Leicester

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