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Concern Authorial Purpose

Textual Evidence


Complicated relationship between Marlowe and his works: - Theological implications are ambiguous (unclear whether Dr. Faustus challenges or supports Calvinism) - Tension arises between Marlowes biography (homosexuality) and religious teachings of his play - Literary interpretation of Dr. Faustus finds blasphemy and atheism next to traditional Christianity The play is an allegory for the fall of man, a cautionary tale warning against the quest for exceeding the realms of human knowledge Complexity of genre: - Tragedy - Comedy - Morality Play Written in sonorous blank verse and prose


Renaissance text (rebirth in thinking) - Introduction to humanism (secular view of the world) - Reformation (Lutheranism proposed justification by grace and faith rather than deeds led to Calvinism: absolute predestination) - Breakdown of medieval centralization of the Pope

Stylistic Features (Conventions of Tragedy)

Structure (lacks unity)

Denouement FAUSTUS: This soul should fly from me, and I be changd/ This soul should fly from me, and I be changd/ Into some brutish beast! No, Faustus, curse thyself, curse Lucifer,/ That hath deprived thee of the joys of heaven/ [The clock strikes twelve] Closing Soliloquy CHORUS: Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits/ To practice more than heavenly power permits.

Faustus searches for any reason not to repent, reveling in the theatrics and drama of his final hour and finally coming to the realization that he is to blame, wishing that his soul be transferred into an animals to escape the impending torture of hell. When hell is discovered, Marlowe uses Catholic views in a similar style to that describe in the old testament, creating tensions between Catholicism and Protestantism

The closing rhyming couplets both summarize the play and serve as a grim parody of the opening soliloquy.

Tragic flaw

PRIDE: I am Pride. I disdain to have any parents. I am life to Ovids flea; I can creep into every corner of a wench.

Faustus flaw is hubris (excessive pride). Pride leads to procession of the seven deadly sins, a hint at Faustus greatest vice. Pride was thought to be the root of all sin (the cause of Lucifers demise). The note I disdain to have any parents alludes to Lucifers disdain for Gods control over him. Ugly imagery of the flea taking over the entire body. The idea of the scene with the seven deadly sins is borrowed from the conventions of the morality plays

FAUSTUS: You stars that reignd at my nativity

Faustus even likens himself to Jesus, another show of hubris and disregard for the dominion of God. Prologue not a convention of the morality play rather typically Greek tragedy The Chorus Prologue alludes to the Greek myth of Icarus whose ambition caused him to fly too close to the Sun foreshadows Faustus downfall as he attempts to gain divine knowledge Implication is that Faustus will meet a similar demise (symbolizes the fall of Lucifer and the Fall of Man)


CHORUS: Till swollen with cunning, of a self conceit, His waxen wings did mount above his reach, And, melting, Heavens conspird his overthrow;

Good Angel and Bad Angel


As FAUSTUS cuts his arm, the wound heals and the words Homo, fuge [Man, flee!] appear

The congealing blood as divine intervention is clear in warning Faustus of the devils trickery Faustus is not entirely victimized by the devils trickery, rather he is willfully ignorant (dramatic nature of Marlowes play exhibited in this action) The descent and ascent of the throne (as staging) is a physical manifestation of Faustus loss (the angel proposes that it is his flaw of weakness not the devil that has condemned him to hell) As Faustus tumbles into the abyss and the clocks strike, tension is heightened and drama added to the denouement

FAUSTUS: Oh, it strikes, it strikes! Now body turn to air,/ Or Lucifer will bear thee quick to hell. [Thunder and lightning]

Sub-plot (Comic relief)

The comedic conjuring of Robin and Dick among the peasants parodies the scenes between Faustus and Mephistopheles. Instead of using magic to gain power and wealth, Robin offers Dick booze. These scenes parallel Faustus use of his powers. The tone of the comic relief sections acts represents Faustus changing ambitions The antics at the Papal Court (ridicule of the pope, comedy and sacrilege) can be regarded as Renaissance Protestant propaganda (irony when the Pop is hit on the ear and exclaims damnd be this soul for ever for this deed)

Subversion of morality play

The typical morality play: Central hero, e.g. mankind, whose inherent weaknesses are encouraged by diabolic forces like the seven deadly sins, but who may choose redemption and enlist the aid of good forces. Faustus is internally and morally conflicted, Marlowes appropriation of morality conventions Faustus, an outsider, is the inversion of the morality hero and rather than being saved he rebels against the established order and is eternally damned. His hubris eventually prevails; Faustus rejects salvation and commits the one unforgiveable sin.

Thematic concerns


Complete inversion of the Beatitudes (Satanism, blasphemy) rather than blessed be. it becomes cursed be Upon Faustus request for MEPHISTOPHILIS to serve him: I am a servant to great Lucifer and may not follow thee without his leave. No more than he commands we must perform

Faustus first sin is greed; wanting to surpass the limitations of human knowledge, he turns to magic. He feeds his own sin with his need for power, praise (his pride) and trickery. Faustus and Mephistophilis condemn their lives to servitude to the devil Faustus realization that even with his magic, he cannot be in complete control

MEPHISTOPHILIS: I do confess it Faustus, and rejoice. Twas I that, when thou wert Ithe way to heaven, Damned up thy passage. When thou tookst the book To view the Scriptures, the I turned the leaves And led thine eye

Mephistophilis may depict the sorrow that comes from separation from god (he foreshadows Faustus future pain) Mephistopheles confesses to Faustus that he has caused Faustus damnation. Was Mephistophilis the one to blame and was salvation ever an option for Faustus? He has damned up the path to Heaven for Faustus and in doing so, has damned his own (Mephistophilis has deep knowledge of God and is fully aware of his sin and damnation)

FAUSTUS: Faustus offence can neer be pardoned [call] on God, whom Faustus hath abjured Gush forth blood instead of tears! Yea, life and soul! O, he stays my tongue! I would lift up my hands, but see, they hold em, they hold em

HYPERBOLE! From jokes and pranks to intense consideration in the denouement, Faustus appears melodramatic and very emotional (his genuinity is questioned as he enjoys the theatrics and refuses to repent (bound by guilt or thinks he is more important than God) Metaphor of inability to seek repentance (staging) Faustus becomes concerned for the scholars- feels that its too late to repent and so doesnt fatal flaw of pride (too proud to admit wrongdoing). Ultimately, however, it is Faustus irresolution that damns him


FAUSTUS: The serpent that tempted Eve may be saved, but not Faustus

Belief that he cannot be saved leads to his rejection of salvation (this again is a show of his pride, that Faustus is not humble enough to beg of Gods grace i.e. still believes that he is more worthy or not under divine control)

Supernatural FAUSTUS: These metaphysics of magicians/ And necromantic books are heavenly;/ Lines, circles, scenes, letters, and characters

Controversial inclusion of supernatural elements (circles are typically symbolic of paganism). The use of magic is symbolic of Faustus demoralization. Ironic/oxymoronic statement describes necromancy as heavenly, when in fact these books will send him away from heaven and toward hell.

FAUSTUS (to Helen of Troy): Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss/ Her lips suck forth my soul: see where it flies/ Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again FAUSTUS: O, help us, heaven! see, here are Faustus limbs, All torn asunder by the hand of death

Allusions to pagan gods (in a text essentially about the Christian God) create a chaotic, confused dichotomy. Faustus begs Helen for forgiveness and immortality over God and even Lucifer, signifying his disbelief that the God or Lucifer has the ultimate control. Serious transformation from pranks in which he has his head cut off to really have his body ripped apart by the devil intense imagery of hell, the previously comic elements turn serious as Faustus realizes the extent of his mistake in dealing with the devil

Predestination (Calvinism)

FAUSTUS: If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and theres no truth in us Why then, belike we must sin and so consequently die. Ay, we must die an everlasting death.

Faustus belief that everyone is condemned (reason for his belief that he is unforgiveable) is, in this biblical reference, inaccurate as he excludes joining sentences and dialogue of John between these verses (manipulation of biblical text to fit ambition and search for universal knowledge)

FAUSTUS: Is not thy soul thine own?

Faustus has a choice about whether or not he goes to hell, but he doesn't seem to understand that it's his responsibility. He rejects repentance, the one sin that is unforgiveable. His choice to reject it comes from his Calvinist view that he has always been damned. The question he asks Is not thy soul thine own? is really challenging the notion of predestination.

Interior Conflict/ Dichotomy

FAUSTUS: Who buzzeth in mine ears I am a spirit? Be I a devil, yet God may pity me; Yea, God will pity me, if I repent. BAD ANGEL: Ay, but Faustus never shall repent. FAUSTUS: My heart is hardened; I cannot repent. Scarce can I name salvation, faith, or heaven.

Conflict is the essence of tragedy and Faustus interior conflict is unlike the traditional morality play whereby the protagonist is a mere instrument used by competing forces (i.e. good against evil) Motif of good (passive) and bad (active) angels to represent the tension between universal right and wrong The angels are physical manifestations of Faustus inner thought (this externalization is more heavily weighted toward the bad angel, who usually opens and closes these interactions with Faustus) This theory of predestination doesnt deny the possibility of repentance, but only those predestined to repent will do so. Faustus says his heart is hardened, evidence for the Calvinist to show his fate.


God and Lucifer (controlling forces, the devil as tempter, God as Saviour) Protestantism vs Catholicism

Imagery and symbolism

FAUSTUS: What might the staying of my blood portend? Is it unwilling I should write this bill?" One drop of blood will save me. O, my Christ!

The blood congealment and clotting is an obvious symbol (to Faustus perhaps the part of himself unwilling to surrender everything for the devil, to Lucifer the physical representation of Faustus soul) At the denouement, as the drama heightens and Faustus waits for his death, the blood of Christ is called upon (symbolic of salvation, the body and soul)


FAUSTUS to himself: "If we say that we have no sin We deceive ourselves, Why then, we must sin, And consequently die. Part of his opening soliloquy: hes seeking the highest forms of knowledge Theology: the logic of the Bible quotations that everyone sins and sin leads to death leads Faustus to give into the fatalistic Que sera, sera! (What shall be will be!). By ignoring the passage of John, Faustus ignores any possibility of redemption

MEPHOSTOPHILIS: Oh Faustus, leave these frivolous demands, which strike a terror to my fainting soul! Thinkstthou that I, who saw the face of God, Am not tormented with ten thousand hells?

Faustus is willfully blind - he proceeds to dismiss Mephastophiliss words, urging him to have manly fortitude. Yet Mephostophilis has appeared to Faustus because of his hope that Faustus will renounce God and swear allegiance to Lucifer. Yet here Mephastophilis seems to be urging Faustus against selling his soul - There is a parallel between the experience of Mephastophilis and that of Faustus. He like Faustus is damned forever for his sin.

Other Quotes:
O, what a world of profit and delight, Of power, of honor, of omnipotence Is promised to the studious artisan! CHORUS: Till swolln with cunning, of a self-conceit, His waxen wings did mount above his reach, And melting, heaven conspired his overthrow! FAUSTUS to himself: Now Faustus, must thou needs be damned? Despair in God and trust in Beelzebub. Now go not backward. No, Faustus, be resolute. CHORUS: wonder at unlawful things, Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits To practice more than heavenly power permits FAUSTUS to Helen of Troy: "Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss. Her lips suck forth my soul: see where it flies. Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again."

Additional Notes:
Tragedy tragic flaw of hubris causes the fall of a great man Morality play hubris, defiance of God, defiance of the natural order, personification of human vices Faustus as a tragic hero: Aspirations are curiously mixed: wants to heap up gold but also make men live eternally heroic Renaissance humanist Subtle implicit suggestion in play that Faustus comes to destruction through the hostile cosmos that entrap him Average man parallels with Adam in the Garden of Eden Comedy subplot involves clowns and devils interacting with humans Comic elements: underlying question of Is this what he sold his soul for? Sense of sacrilege: tricks played on the Pope, Faustus is Gods earthly representative yet insults God even more Faustus is condemned to hell forever he doesnt have to be though, because God promises forgiveness

Fools that will laugh on Earth, most weep in hell (pg 87) inversion showing that the Devil has control of Faustus, has understood his motivations Faustus has excessive pride and his egotism prevails Warning - Placing faith in humanity and not in God, seeking divine knowledge - Against exceeding the realms of human knowledge allusions to Adam and Eve, to Lucifer and his fall from heaven - Hubris and pride allusions to Icarus - Reformation Gods unconditional forgiveness is guaranteed + Protestants believed in Gods grace Ludicrous antics at the papal court can be regarded as Renaissance Protestant propaganda by turning the conduct of the court into farce, Marlowe devalues its sovereignty Dramatic techniques/literary devices: Dramatic irony we already know hes damned Monologue Soliloquy Aside Stage directions Allusion Foreshadowing/forewarning Poetic justice