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Renaissance world Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 11 July 2017

Renaissance world

Reread the opening soliloquy of Dr Faustus. In what way does this establish Faustus’ character and at the same time take you back into the Renaissance world? The opening soliloquy of Marlow’s , Dr Faustus’ reveals many different characteristics and values of the epilogist. At the same time as establishing Faustus’ character, the soliloquy takes one back to the Renaissance world by presenting Faustus as a ‘man of his times’ since his character is greatly influenced by changes in attitudes and society which were encountered in the Renaissance era.

One of Faustus’ key characteristics, which is very apparent throughout the opening soliloquy, is that he is engaged in a personal power struggle and is not content with his current status. One acknowledges this problem when Faustus asserts demands such as, ‘ Be a physician, Faustus, heap up gold, And be eternised for some wondrous cure’. In instructing himself to find a wondrous cure in the medical world, Faustus is implying that he wants to be famous and improve his financial situation. This desire to become rich and famous compliments the newly-adopted attitude towards individuals after the Restoration.

As the Restoration stripped the Church of its religious authority, prominence was given to individual’s own quest for religious understanding and both mankind and his life on earth were therefore given greater value. Subsequently, those living in the Renaissance period, strove for success in life and found that their unique talents became significant and worldly virtues such as fame and glory were valued. This struggle for success became known as humanism and intellectuals such as Machiavelli placed this theory at the centre of their philosophies.

Therefore Faustus’ longing for wealth, fame and recognition reflects this attitude of the struggle for personal power which was founded in the Renaissance era and gives reason to his desperation to make his unique talents greater. Another of Faustus’ characteristics which one can identity in his first appearance, is also a result of the humanist movement. The humanists proposed to educate the whole person and placed great emphasis on one’s intellectual achievements. From the opening soliloquy it is therefore clear that Faustus is a humanist as he is very passionate and perhaps obsessive about enhancing his intellect.

This drive for more superior knowledge is evident when in frustration, Faustus proclaims, ‘Affords this art no greater miracle? Then read no more, thou hast attained the end;’ Faustus clearly finds that his present intellectual status is not challenged by his learned subjects and he craves something more demanding that would satisfy his humanist characteristic. However, from Faustus’ opening speech, it is also clear that his immense confidence in thinking he knows all aspects and areas of his studied subjects can undermine him.

For instance, when Faustus tries to defy religious studies by implying that it is a pointless study he says, ‘ Si peccasse negamus, fallimur, et nulla est in nobis veritas’. which, he believes will back up his dispute about religion. Not only does Faustus expose his lack in faith towards god, but in trying to show how clever he is by noticing the flaws in religion he actually draws attention to the gaps in his own knowledge. The quote he gives to confront religious studies, is incomplete, and had he known the entire phrase, he would have realised that his point would have been contradicted rather than supported his argument.

Therefore the opening soliloquy reveals that Faustus has no true religious faith, bares humanism traits and this great desire for knowledge can sometimes lead Faustus’, who is overly-confident in his own knowledge, to draw attention to his incomplete education. One is also taken back to Renaissance times, as not only is one reminded of the humanist attitude but the subjects which Faustus has studied such as, analytics, medicine, law and religion, are typical Renaissance subjects that, as Faustus often proves, were often learnt in their original texts.

The mentioning of magic also links directly to Renaissance times as back then it was considered as merely another path of knowledge for a scholar to follow. As Faustus continues to slight the Renaissance curriculum, one discovers another of Faustus’ traits. When expressing his opinion on law, Faustus declares, ‘This study fit’s a mercenary drudge… Too servile and illiberal for me’ By declaring law as too servile and illiberal, Faustus is stating his aversion to being restricted as he cannot stand being controlled by another force.

This characteristic would have been triggered by the break away of the society from the church as its ruling body. Faustus clearly feels he is an individual against the authority and power of superior forces. This characteristic is reinforced when one realises that he is serious about employing a new talent which will give him authority over all others. His assertion of the limitations of law also emphasises his wish to, in the words of Tamburlaine a Renaissance intellect and hero of Marlowe, climb ‘after knowledge infinite’.

Therefore as the soliloquy progresses, one learns that Faustus is an individual against authority and is so serious about this cause that he will get involved with dangerous forces as well as, understanding that this anti-authority attitude is in context of Marlowe’s time as it may be a result of the declining power of the church in the Renaissance era. The opening soliloquy of Dr Faustus reveals many of Faustus’ characteristics such as him being a humanist, an individual against authority, a man with little religious faith who has an expansive, yet incomplete and flawed education.

Faustus’ first appearance also manages to transport one back to the Renaissance world by exposing some traits of the time which have shaped Faustus’ personality, such as the impact which, the Reformation had on Faustus as well as his opinions formed on the traditional Renaissance curriculum. Therefore Faustus’ characteristics show a reflection of the context of the play and whilst discovering Faustus’ personality one also is taken back to the Renaissance world.

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  • University/College: University of California

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  • Date: 11 July 2017

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