Christopher Marlowe's Poems

The Interplay of Reason and Passion in "Hero and Leander" College

“The dominant mode of ethical thinking in the Renaissance argued that the passions should be governed by reason to ensure good order in society.”

A paradox exists in Renaissance ethics: passions – by definition, ‘barely controllable’ – should be controlled, and the success of a stable public sphere pivots on the control of one’s private desires. This juxtaposition is seen in Christopher Marlowe’s ‘Hero and Leander’. The male protagonist uses the oratory to seduce Hero, which was seen as the proper manner in which to court a lady. Despite his outward actions, his motive is lust. This presents an imbalance between the outer, what is presented to society, and the inner, the true nature and desire of Leander as the pursuer. To those witnessing this display, Leander is seemingly fulfilling his role as Renaissance man, controlling his emotions. Yet, consummation does occur and Venus no longer fulfills her role as a chaste priestess. Marlowe arguably presents an ambiguous view of the opening statement; the courting couple conform to the outward ideals of governed passions yet still act upon this lust for each other.

The opening statement specifies that passions should be governed by ‘reason’ and not ‘passions’. Marlowe arguably...

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