Marlowe’s Mahomet: Islam, Turks, and Religious Controversy in Tamburlaine, Parts I and II
Marlowe’s drama, including the Tamburlaine plays, draws much of its energy—derives its titillating, blasphemous edge—from the contradictions and paradoxes of theological discourse in a time of religious schism. Marlowe’s Tamburlaine plays raise the same vexed questions that both Protestant and Roman Catholic apologists sought to answer: how does human power, both at the level of the individual and of the nation, manifest divine power? How can one authorize the claim to know whose side God is on? How can we identify God’s will in these matters? These were (literally) burning questions for Protestants and Catholics on the front lines of the sectarian conflict in Europe. In the Tamburlaine plays, however, the Reformation’s intensification of the problem of knowing and recognizing the one true faith is displaced from within the context of Western Christendom to the Mediterranean world where many faiths coexisted, including Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Though he stages the dramatic action of the Tamburlaine plays in places like Constantinople or Jerusalem, Marlowe foregrounds—and lays open to questioning—the same providentialist approach to history that was invoked by Reformation and Counter-Reformation polemicists in Western Europe.
KeywordsDivine Power Mediterranean World Divine Agency Ottoman Empire True Faith
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