Cambridge had about 5,000 inhabitants at the time Marlowe arrived there, of whom over 1,800 were teachers or students at the university.1
Corpus Christi College was the first medieval college in England to be founded not by a ruler or important personage, but by the Guild of St Mary, which was joined by the Corpus Christi Guild in the 14th century. In 1352, the foundation stone was laid for the "College of Corpus Christi and of the Blessed Virgin Mary". For the first time, an institutional building was planned as a closed quadrangle from the outset. The first surviving statutes of the college, dating from 1356, stipulated that all students should take ordination and devote themselves to the study of canon law and theology.

In 1544 Matthew Parker, once a student of Corpus Christi, became Master of the College. He put the finances in order, established six new scholarships, revised the statutes, had a new coat of arms made for the college, which is still in use today, and expanded the library. Even when he was already Archbishop of Canterbury, he continued to organise scholarships and collect rare books to benefit the library. With his death in 1575, Corpus Christi lost one of its greatest patrons. In the second half of the 16th century, the college was confronted not only with religious unrest within the leadership, but moreover with an increasing number of students. While there were just thirty-two in 1564, ten years later there were already over ninety. This led to major rebuilding, which caused the college financial difficulties until the turn of the century.2

Although there were precise statutes according to which university life proceeded, they had not been observed for a long time. Of the required years, most students stayed just over three. The education was to include rhetoric, logic and philosophy, for which a standard list of literature was proposed: Quintilian, Hermogenes, Cicero, Aristotle, Pliny and Plato. In addition, students were to acquire their knowledge with the help of tutors and books, with engagement in theology, Bible study and listening to sermons completing the training. For some time, regular drama performances enriched this curriculum.3 In principle, one remained attached to the authors who had already been read in the Middle Ages. Alongside Virgil, Seneca was very popular because he was excellently suited for moral interpretations. The same was true of Horace’s satires and epistles, while his epics and odes posed similar problems as the morally questionable works of Ovid. Cicero served as a model in rhetoric, epistolary style and in the writing of legal documents. Greek authors were hardly read until the fifteenth century. It was at Cambridge that Marlowe’s acquaintance with the works of Ramée took place.4 Corpus Christ’s College was considered a centre of Ramism from 1570 onwards.5 Unlike Oxford, Cambridge was the battleground for Calvinists and their opponents in the late 1580s. When Marlowe arrived in the university town, William Perkins had already made a name for himself as a preacher. He was a supporter of double predestination (God decides not only who is chosen, but also who is damned.) and advocated the logical principles of Ramée. Today, the fierce disputes over seemingly minimal differences in theological understanding are difficult to comprehend. In the 16th century, these were questions of great importance that for many decided their salvation in the afterlife. It is hard to imagine that Marlowe, as a student of theology, remained unimpressed by this.6

Bury, Patrick. 2013. A Short History of the College of Corpus Christi and the Blessed Virgin Mary in Cambridge. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Master and Fellows of Corpus Christi College.
Meissner, Paul. 1952. England Im Zeitalter von Humanismus, Renaissance Und Reformation. Heidelberg: Kerle.
Simon, Joan. 1979. Education and Society in Tudor England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  1. (Urry 1988)↩︎
  2. Bury (2013)↩︎
  3. Urry (1988)↩︎
  4. Meissner (1952)↩︎
  5. Simon (1979)↩︎
  6. Pinciss (1993)↩︎

Aktualisiert am 24.05.2024

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