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DOCTOR FAUSTUS AS A RENAISSANCE PLAY:

Renaissance which literally means re-birth or re-awakening ,is the name of a


Europe-wide movement which closed the trammels and conventions of the
Mediaeval age, and makes for liberation in all aspects of life and culture.
There was a shift from heavenly to earthly life. Wealth, knowledge and
power of knowledge were the touchstones for the Renaissance man on which
he judged and gauged each and everything. The main ingredients of this new
spirit were individualism and worldliness. These two traits found
manifestation in many forms such as:
1. Yearning for knowledge
2. Learning without fetters
3. Love of beauty
4. Hankering after sensual pleasures of life
5. Spirit of adventure
6. High ambition
7. Lust for power and pelf
Though the influence of the spirit of the Renaissance marks all the writers of
the later half of the age of Elizabeth---- in poetry, drama and prose romances
and novels, that influence can be seen working with particular force on
Marlowe and his fellows who together are called the “University Wits”. Of
them again, the writings of Marlowe are the most prominent embodiment of
the spirit of the renaissance. Generally speaking, Marlowe himself is the
spirit of the renaissance incarnate. In the conception of the central
characters of his dramas, he is impelled by the renaissance spirit for
unlimited powers, unlimited knowledge for the sake of power, unlimited
wealth, again, for the sake of power. On the aesthetic side, love of physical
beauty, unbounded desire of love for the pleasures of the senses, infinite
longing for truth are the characteristics of the imaginative life which
glittered before his eyes in that great age of daring adventures. Marlowe’s
Doctor Faustus is the representative of the Renaissance and reflects the
contemporary problems of life.
Doctor Faustus being the product of Renaissance and the mouthpiece of
Marlowe is dissatisfied with the conventional sphere of knowledge. He has a
towering ambition to become a deity. The knowledge of logic, medicine, law
and divinity are insufficient for him as he says:
“Philosophy is odious and obscure,
Both law and physic are for petty wits,
Divinity is basest of the three.”
He wants to attain super human power, like Renaissance man, which can
only be gained by necromancy. For him “A sound magician is mighty God”.
So he declares his intention in these words: “Here, Faustus, tire thy brain to
gain a deity.”
There was, an intellectual curiosity during the Renaissance: The new
discoveries in science and developments in technology went beyond mere
material advances. It was a youthful age to which nothing seems impossible.
Before the European, this period opened a new world of imagination. All
these things stirred men’s imagination and led them to believe that the
infinite was attainable. In Dr. Faustus, Marlowe has expressed such ideas,
when Faustus says:
“O, what a world of profit and delight,
Of power, of honour, of omnipotence,
Is promised to the studious artisan!
All things that move between the quiet poles
Shall be at my command:”
In fact, Marlowe was profoundly influenced my Machiavelli (1469-1527), the
famous Italian writer, who disregarded all the conventional, moral principles
to achieve the ends by any fair or foul means. The ambition of Marlowe led
him to rebel against God and religion and to defy the laws of society and
man. His refusal is bound to bring mental conflict which results in deep
despair and defeat both Marlowe and Faustus.
Dr. Faustus makes a bargain with the devil to achieve his goal. He is ready to
pay any price for the attainment of his purpose. Although, his conscience
pricks him and there are Good and Evil angels who warn him against the
danger of damnation, yet he cannot resist the temptation as Evil angel says:
“Be thou on earth as Jove in the sky,
Lord and commander of these elements.”
And then, Dr. Faustus, as the true embodiment of Renaissance spirit, starts
dreaming of gaining super-human powers and performing miraculous deeds
with the help of the spirits raised by him,
“I’ll have them fly to India for gold,
Ransack the ocean for orient pearl,
I’ll have them read me strange philosophy,
And tell the secrets of all foreign kings.”
All these proud assertions clearly show Faustus’ Renaissance spirit of
adventure and supreme craze for knowledge and power without any limit.
And finally, we find Faustus discarding God and defying all religious and
moral principles, when he sells his soul to the devil to master all knowledge
and to gain limitless powers. He says:
“Ay and Faustus will turn to God again:
To, God? He loves thee not’
The God thou serv’st is thine own appetite.”
To Faustus, knowledge means power and its power that will enable him to
gratify the sensual pleasure of life like the man of Renaissance; he is a
worshipper of beauty. That is why just after making the agreement with the
devil for twenty four years of worldly pleasures, and his first desire is that of
the most beautiful woman. He asks Mephistophilis:
“Let me have a wife,
The fairest maid in Germany.
For I am wanton and lascivious,
And can not live with-out a wife.
Faustus’s keen longing to have Helen and to find Heaven in her lips reveal his
supreme love of beauty and yearning for sensuous pleasures. The
magnificent apostrophe to Helen in the most inspired and lyrical passage of
the play wonderfully illustrates the Renaissance spirit of love and adoration
for classical beauty as well as urge for romance and mighty adventures.
“Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss! ---
Her lips suck forth my soul; See where flies it! ---
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again,
Here will I Dwell, for heaven is in these lips,
And all in dross that is not Helena.”
After completing the period of twenty four years, Faustus comes to his tragic
end. In the last moment, he learns that supernatural powers are reserved for
the gods and the man who attempts to handle or deal in magical powers
must face eternal damnation. He repents of his deeds but it is absolutely of
no avail.
Some of the critics are of the opinion that Marlowe in his Dr. Faustus wanted
to resist the old religious ideas along with the new ones. He emphasized
upon the people that religion could not be completely ignored. Dr. Faustus
tried to gain everything possible in his temporary world neglecting religion,
but at last, he was damned forever and deprived of heaven. Another group of
critics says that free play of man in this world is limited by God. If a man
tries to cross limits, he will be damned, and thrown into hell. Hence
according to them God is jealous of man and does not want that man should
stand equal to him. So Marlowe revolted against this injustice of God in the
person of Dr. Faustus. But he had to end his play with this advice:
“Faustus is gone; regard this hellish fall,
Whose fiendish fortune may exhort the wise,
Only to wonder at unlawful things
Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits
To practice more than heavenly powers permits.”

Written&Composed By:
Prof.A.R.Somroo
M.A.English&Education.
0662610063,Cell:03339971417
Khangarh.