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Example of a Brief Essay Marlowe's Hero and Leander : Humanistic Eroticism [ exordium ] According to the editors of The Norton Anthology of English Literature (748), Christopher Marlowe spent the years from 1580 to 1587 at Cambridge, supported by a ministerial scholarship. These same editors, speaking of Spenser, have also assured us that during this time period, in "the Puritan environment of Cambridge" the radically Protestant (almost Presbyterian!) and extremely influential preacher Thomas Cartwright "was beginning to make the authorities uneasy" (528) with his quasi-revolutionary Puritanism. That Edmund Spenser -- grave, moralistic, Neo-Platonic, and emphatically Protestant -- should have spent his formative years in a highly "Puritan environment" seems reasonable. But for Christopher Marlowe -- tavern brawler, spy, and creator of notoriously anti-Christian heroes such as Tamburlaine, Barabbas, and Faustus -- to emerge from that same environment seems, somehow, bizarre. How could six years of studying for the ministry in the intellectual center of England's radical Puritan community have possibly prepared anyone for the kind of literary career -- devoted to literary eroticism, poetic sensuality, and radical individualism -- that Marlowe followed? Many critics, A. L. Rowse for one, have answered this question by insisting that Marlowe, no matter what his studies, was one of those Romantic narcissists who, like Byron or Scott, “are intensely obsessed by themselves and derive much of their power from the self- generating sources of their own ego.” (31) Others, such as Scott Giantvalley, might argue that Marlowe’s homosexuality had made him comfortably used to concealing his actual interests beneath cloaks of deception, and that there was nothing unusual about a gay writer pretending to be a straight Puritan.
[ narratio ] However, a better answer lies, I think, in the nature of Humanism itself. Their devotion to Humanistic values was the one thing that Puritans such as Cartwright, moderate Protestants such as Spenser, and free-thinkers (both gay and straight) such as Chapman and Marlowe, all had in common. For Cartwright and his fellows in the Puritan tradition that culminated, finally, in Cromwell and Milton, Humanism meant finally a devotion to classical Hebrew, Greek, and especially Latin literature which focused on Holy Scripture as the most important and powerful of all the Humanistic texts for the formation of a truly Christian soul. For a moderate Protestant such as Spenser, Holy Scripture is perhaps the most important of the classic texts which Humanism studies, but its impact is tempered by a recognition that other texts, notably the works of Plato, Cicero and Virgil, contribute powerful elements to the proper education and development of a fully human Christian. For Marlowe, on the other hand, the value of the classically Humanistic texts, the Bible, Plato, Cicero, Virgil, or especially Ovid, is that they show one a language that can be used to explore the full domain of human experience. [ thesis ]

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