At War With God Theology In Christpher — страница 2

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Mohammed to deliver them from the cruel hands of Tamburlaine. At last, driven to the brink of madness by starvation and despair, Bajazeth confesses that “The heavens may frown, the earth for anger quake / But such a star hath influence in his sword /As rules the skies and countermands the gods / More than Cimmerian Styx or destiny.” Sensing Bajazeth’s abandonment of hope, Zabina asks, “Then is there left no Mahomet, no god, / no fiend, no fortune, nor no hope of end / To our infamous, monstrous slaveries?” (Marlowe, 1967, p. 88). Whether Mohammed is impotent or simply disinterested in their plight, the consequences of his failure to act on behalf of his followers is dramatically portrayed at the close of the scene when both Bajazeth and Zabina, overcome by the

hopelessness of their circumstances, brain themselves against the sides of Bajazeth’s cage. After Bajazeth’s death, his son Callapine maintains his confidence in Mohammed, telling the Persian army, “Whet all your swords to mangle Tamburlaine, / His sons, his captains, and his followers. / By Mahomet, not one of them shall live” (Marlowe, 1967, p. 151). As before, Mohammed proves no defense against Tamburlaine. The Persian armies are conquered, Callapine enslaved, and the followers of Mohammed left to mourn their god’s failure to act on their behalves. In addition, Marlowe’s Tamburlaine minimizes the glory of God. “To be a king is half to be a god,” declares Usumcasane, to which Theridamas replies, “A god is not so glorious as a king. / I think the pleasure they

enjoy in heaven / Cannot compare with kingly joys in earth. / To wear a crown enchas’d with pearl and gold, / whose virtues carry with it life and death; / To ask and have, command and be obeyed ” (Marlowe, 1967, p. 37). Deity, then, is reduced to a figure of speech, while a human being is exalted as lord supreme over the affairs of men, law-giver, and the final authority over life and death. As Appleton (n. d.) notes, “all Marlowe’s heroes are overreachers’ who refuse to accept human limitations. . . . [In Tamburlaine] the hero seeks limitless power, . . . [in The Jew of Malta], limitless wealth, . . . [and in Dr. Faustus], limitless knowledge” (n. p.). Through characterizations such as these, Marlowe teeters dangerously near the brink of heresy, suggesting that man

may possess the omnipotence and omniscience ascribed by orthodox Christianity to a Creator-God alone. Along similar lines, Marlowe’s Tamburlaine undermines the character of God, picturing God as a being unconcerned by the struggles of man. Agydas names no specific deity, but sensing Tamburlaine’s anger toward him, describes himself as “lifting his prayers to the heavens for aid /Against the terror of the winds and wave . . . / That sent a tempest to my daunted thoughts / And makes my soul divine her overthrow” (Marlowe, 1967, p. 49). No divine assistance, however, does Agydas find. Rather, this one who has so faithfully warned Zenocrate of Tamburlaine is destroyed by the very evil he sought to expose. Ribner (1953), in fact, suggests that the characteristic which most

distinguishes Tamburlaine among Tudor Renaissance literature is the absence of a Christian ideal in which “divine providence . . . rewards man for good and punishes him for evil.” In contrast, Marlowe espouses a sort of secular humanism in which the will and wisdom of man, more than moral principle or divine providence, determine the course of history (pp. 82-84). Thus, as reflected also in Mohammed’s abandonment of Bajazeth and Zabina, an aloof deity turns a deaf ear to the cries of His followers and abandons civilization to the whim of human tyrants. Second, Marlowe’s Tamburlaine challenges the power of God as it challenges God’s right to govern in the affairs of men. Tamburlaine bows to no authority beyond himself, declaring, “I hole the Fates bound fast in chains,

/ And with my hand turn Fortune’s wheel about” (Marlowe, 1967, p. 21). Even more bold is his later claim that Jehovah would Himself would bow before him (Marlowe, 1967, p. 76). Most shocking of all is Tamburlaine’s indignant response to sickness as he exclaims, “What daring god torments my body thus / And seeks to torment mighty Tamburlaine?” To no avail his faithful friends beg him to hold his peace and respect the authority of the gods in such matters, but Tamburlaine will have none of it. Instead, he bids them rebuke Jehovah for this violation of his rights and warns that should the Almighty fail to remedy the illness promptly, he will storm the very courts of heaven, forcing Jehovah to submit to him. (Marlowe, 1967, pp. 186-187). Ribner (1953) perhaps best