How Successfully Does Marlowe portrayal of Faustus Essay
How Successfully Does Marlowe portrayal of Faustus
How Successfully Does Marlowe portrayal of Faustus reflect the attitudes and beliefs of Elizabethan times?
Christopher Marlowe lived in a time of great change for England and the whole of Europe. New developments in the field of science were overturning ancient ideas about astronomy and physics and the discovery of the Americas had transformed the European views of the world. Christian and pagan beliefs interacted with each other in rich and often illogical ways, and signs of that complicated interaction are present in many of Marlowe’s works. We see the idea’s of Renaissance Europe through Dr Faustus in Dr Faustus.
Doctor Faustus is a play of deep questions concerning morality, religion, and man’s relationship to both. Sorcery and magic were part of widespread belief systems throughout Europe that predated Christianity. These early beliefs about magic were present in medicine. Women in particular used a mix of magic and herbal medicine to treat common illnesses. But as Christianity spread and either absorbed or rejected other belief systems, practitioners of magic came to be viewed as evil. These themes are presented in Doctor Faustus especially the idea of religion. Many religious themes base don Elizabethan views are presented in the play.
Pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, arguably the one that leads to all the others. Faustus’ first great sin is pride and he does not stop there. Reflecting the Elizabethean view, pride gives rise to all of the other sins, and ends ironically with the sinner’s downfall. This is clearly shown in Faustus. Dr. Faustus is a man possessed by himself, and blinded by his own intellect. By making a deal with the devil, Faustus trades his soul for satisfaction, and a greater field of study. He is selfish–wanting knowledge, power, and fun without having to work or take responsibility for it. As result of his selfish desires, he signs a contract with his blood trading his soul for his desires, eternal peace for eternal anguish, thus beginning his hardships which leads to him committing the other 6 sins becoming increasingly petty and low. Like Christian belief that it is Pride which lead for the Devil to be exiled from heaven, it to is behind Faustus’ downfall.
Elizabethans had a strong view on hell. Hell was developed throughout the Medieval and Tudor times by the church to scare the ordinary people. It was widely believed that Hell is eternal, but so is heaven. For a Christian, all that is necessary to be saved from eternal damnation is acceptance of Jesus Christ’s grace. This belief can be shown in Faustus as early as Scence 3 where Faustus signs away his soul. Even after signing away his soul to the devil, Faustus has the option of repentance that will save him from hell.
But once he has committed himself to his own damnation, Faustus seems unable to change his course. This of course leads to his damnation in the last Act. The play emphasizes the idea that if you turn away from God you will be damned. The play also however gives a different idea of what hell is. It was believed at the time that hell was a place and images of fire etc were widely used to show what it looked like. Marlow however gives us the view that it is just separation from God that is Hell. This is shown through Metatopholis in Act 1 Sc 3 when Faustus asks him how come he has left Hell.
The idea of of a time of discovery took off in a major way when Dr Faustus was being written. Amrlow makes several references to this idea throughout the play. New lands were discovered by explorers like Christopher Columbus. A great deal of enthusiasm and optimism was generated by the fact that the world had quite literally become a much bigger place. When Fautus talks about what he wishes to do with his power in Act 1 Sc 1 Line 83 Fautus declares he intends to send
spirits to “search all corners of the new-found world.” He also sends Met. To the other side of the world to fetch the Duchess some grapes in Act 4. This shows that like the scholars at the time Faustus to ahs an interest in exploration and discovery. Fautus also has an interest in expanding his knowledge. At the beginning of the book Fautus is alking to himself about what knowledge he wishes to have. He rejects a range of preoffessions including that of a Physican and lawyer.
These professions were at the time seen as the “magicians” of their time. They were the well-educated people and at the time these people were behind the new ideas and the first stirrings of the scientific revolution. Copernicus proposed that the earth was in motion and orbited the sun, opposing all previous thinking on the subject. In Dr. Fautus in Act 2 Sc 3 Met. Tells Fautus the Renaissance view on the Universe. Marlowe was probably agreeing with them hence why he out it into his play.
The idea of Faustus rejecting the profession he lists in Act 1 Sc 1 symbolizes the Elizabethan break with the medieval world, which prized authority above all else, in favor of a more modern spirit of free inquiry, in which experimentation and innovation trump the assertions of Greek philosophers and the Bible.
Elizabethans believed they could achieve above what was realistically possible. This is verified in the introduction to Scene 1, where the story of Icarus is told. The story shows the consequences of over-ambition, and tells you what will happen to Faustus. Scene 1 also shows the Elizabethan need for extravagance, money and fame, lines 14-15 show how Faustus wants gold, and to be immortalized
Alchemy was a complex of beliefs and ideas that involved chemistry, astrology and magic, with the scope to blend in ideas drawn from various religions. Magic was a theme that was explored in various plays at the Elizabethean time. Shakespeare was fascinated by magic and this is evident from his plays such as, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet and Macbeth.
In his play Dr Faustus, Marlowe warns us of the dark power inherent in magic. Faustus sells his soul to the devil in return for knowledge and worldly success but his dream is eventually shattered. For Marlowe magic is a downright dangerous practise. He was here expressing the common belief that unlike the good magic praticsed by scholars and physicans Black magic was a dangerous place to go and that the occult could lead to a life of damnation. Throughout the play Faustus shows a keen interest in the occult
In the opening of Act 1 Scene 3 we the audience see Faustus conjuring a devil. In Elizabethan times spells, folklore, superstition were a normal part of life. This is shown in Line 7-‘Seeing thou hast prayed and sacrificed to them’, where Faustus prepares for his conjuring act. It is ironic that he prays, as he does not believe in God. Following this ritual, he draws a circle around himself, to keep evil spirits from harming him.
This is ironic once more, as he is conjuring the devil at the same time- who is surely the most evil spirit possible. The entire conjuring scene is set to challenge religion, as many Elizabethans did. This may have been because the religion is England at the time was very unstable and Elizabethan’s had to compel to what ever religion the law enforced on them.
It is not just the Renaissance period Faustus highlights in his play. He also wrote a play he knew would appeal to his audience. The use of slapstick comedy in the play during such scene as making a mockery of the pope and his head falling off would have appealed to the lower uneducated class masses that he would have expected to view his plays. He wrote a simple humor for simple people to understand.