“Scorning both god and his ministers”: At the Origins of Marlowe’s Atheism


  • Cristiano Ragni University of Verona




In this article, I will focus on the documents denouncing Marlowe’s subversive views on religion. In so doing, I will show how – far from being the mere result of a brilliant (if impudent) outcast, or the allegations of dubious government informers – those documents reported views, which were rooted in the theses debated in religious and political texts which circulated widely in late-16th-century Europe, as well as in the early philosophical opposition to Christianity. At the same time, I will highlight how some of those same ‘subversive’ views can be also found between the lines of Marlowe’s plays. By focusing on The Massacre at Paris, in particular, I will thus argue that, if Marlowe may be deemed subversive, it is because in his dramas he carried out the attempt – this one truly impudent – to reveal to many one of the fundamental arcana imperii: that is, that religions had nothing to do with truth, and their only function was to keep peoples together.