Study Guide

Gospel of Mark Allusions

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Literary and Philosophical References

Shakespeare's King Lear
Apocalyptic themes are all over the place in Shakespeare's King Lear. Take the final scene, when Kent asks, "Is this the promised end?" and Edgar responds, "Or image of that horror?" (5.3.261-62).

Gloucester in particular expresses the opinion that the tragic events of the play are fulfilling Jesus's prophecies as they are stated in Mark 13. He speaks of "late eclipses in the sun and moon," the division of brothers, civil wars, and the broken bonds of children and their parents. Check out Mark 13:8, 12, and 24-25 for a comparison.

Of course, Gloucester's deceitful and villainous son Edmund thinks he's a dummy:

This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeits of our own behavior, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon and the stars, as if we were villains on necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in by a divine thrusting on. (1.2.118-26)

Ibsen's the Wild Duck

In Ibsen's play The Wild Duck, a young girl accidentally shoots herself in the last act. While everyone else is in commotion, the wayward and cynical drunk Molvik utters Jesus's words from Mark's gospel: "The child is not dead but sleeping" (5:39). Of course, in the play the child really is dead—Ibsen recasts this saying in much darker hues.

Pop Culture References

Coldplay's "Viva la Vida

The king in this song seems to have been deposed in a revolution. He sings: "I sweep the streets I used to own." Listen and see if you can catch the allusion to Mark 6:25, 28.

Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ 

Jesus's "seven last words" in this film are comprised of a compilation from all four gospels: Luke 23:34; Luke 23:43; John 19:27; Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:34; John 19:28; John 19:30; Luke 23:46. Of these, the cry of abandonment is distinctively Markan (15:34). Should sound familiar!

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