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Marlowe The Atheism Lecture

28th April 2021

Marlowe has left Cambridge, abandoned the priesthood and taken up residence in Shoreditch

Marlowe lived with playwright Thomas Kyd
on what domestic basis is unknown.
Kyd wrote in verse The Spanish Tragedy
and a Hamlet version called the Ur-Hamlet
because it pre-dates Shakespeare's by some years.
They had some wild parties certainly
and once in fifteen ninety-three, a prank
involved them posting round the town some bills
containing blasphemous, seditious and 
provocative material which caused
considerable offence. It even went 
as far as Privy Council level, close 
advisers of Elizabeth herself
who said the culprits must be caught and charged.
Investigations led the way to Kyd
whose residence was searched and items found.
Arrested and interrogated on the rack,
a torture instrument not legal now,
Kyd soon confessed and blamed his lodger Marlowe 
who had taken refuge at the home 
of Thomas Walsingham the spymaster.
Witnesses appeared denouncing Kit
for atheism and catholicism
and sexual relationships with men.
One report told of a gathering
at Walter Ralegh's house where Marlowe had 
delivered to a riotous assembly
what was called the Atheism Speech.
It reads a little like a stand-up comic's turn.
'The first beginning of religion is,'
said Marlowe, 'only to keep men in awe,'
which was commensurate with Marx's view 
that all religion was  an opiate.

Marlowe joked religion would be more 
attractive if the sacraments could be 
administered through a tobacco pipe.
He said that Jesus' relationship 
with John was as a bedfellow - why else
would he have called him 'the beloved one'
and that his mother Mary wasn't quite 
the honourable virgin Christians claimed. 
He said that Moses had misled the Jews
when he had made them travel forty years
through the Arabian peninsula 
when they could very easily have marched
from Egypt round to Palestine in a year,
even going slowly for the old,
and with a break to fetch the tablets of
the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai.
He pointed out the Biblical mistake 
that Adam lived six thousand years ago
when even ordinary folk in India
believed the human race with all its faults
to be at least sixteen thousand years old.
'Moses,' Marlowe said, 'was just a juggler
and his friend Sir Walter Ralegh had 
a manservant who could do better tricks.
He said if there were any good religion
it was with the papists as they worshipped 
with such ceremony, organs, choirs 
and shaven crowns and that all Protestants
were asses, idiots and hypocrites.
'In any case,' he said to laughter, 'those
that love not boys and baccy are but fools!'

Outrageous was the verdict on this act.
The puritans refused to see the funny side.
The man must answer for his blasphemy....