Doctor Faustus


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doctor faustus
Doctor Faustus' Death

Faustus died a death that few could bear to imagine, much less experience. After
knowing for many years when exactly he would die, he reached the stroke of the
hour of his destiny in a cowardly, horrid demeanor. Finally, when the devils
appeared at the stroke of midnight, tearing at his flesh as they draw him into
his eternal torment, he screams for mercy without a soul, not even God Himself,
to help him. However, what to consider Doctor John Faustus from Christopher

Marlow's dramatic masterpiece The Tragical History of the Life and Death of

Doctor Faustus is a very debatable issue. For example, one can see that he threw
his life away for the sake of knowledge, becoming obsessed with the knowledge
that he could possess. In this case, he is unarguably a medieval tragic hero.

However, when considering the fact that he died for the sake of gaining
knowledge, pushing the limits of what is possible in spite of obvious
limitations and, eventually, paying the ultimate penalty, he could be considered
a Renaissance martyr. These two points of view have their obvious differences,
and depending on from what time period one chooses to place this piece of
literature varies the way that the play is viewed. However, the idea of
considering him a martyr has many flaws, several of which are evident when
considering who Faustus was before he turned to necromancy and what he did once
he obtained the powers of the universe. Therefore, inevitably, the audience in
this play should realize that Faustus was a great man who did many great things,
but because of his hubris and his lack of vision, he died the most tragic of
heroes. Christopher Marlowe was borne on February 6, 1564 (Discovering

Christopher Marlowe 2), in Canterbury, England, and baptized at St. George's

Church on the 26th of the same month, exactly two months before William

Shakespeare was baptized at Stratford-upon-Avon (Henderson 275). He was the
eldest son of John Marlowe of the Shoemaker's Guild and Katherine Arthur, a

Dover girl of yeoman stock (Henderson 275). Upon graduating King's School,

Canterbury, he received a six-year scholarship to Cambridge upon the condition
that he studies for the church. He went to Cambridge, but had to be reviewed by
the Privy Council before the university could award him his M.A. degree because
of his supposed abandonment of going to church. He was awarded his degree in

July of 1587 at the age of twenty-three after the Privy Council had convinced

Cambridge authorities that he had "behaved himself orderly and discreetly
whereby he had done Her Majesty good service" (Henderson 276). After this,
he completed his education from Cambridge over a period of six years. During
this time he wrote some plays, including Hero and Leander, along with
translating others, such as Ovid's Amores and Book I of Lucan's Pharsalia
(Henderson 276). During the next five years he lived in London where he wrote
and produced some of his plays and traveled a great deal on government
commissions, something that he had done while trying to earn his M.A. degree. In

1589, however, he was imprisoned for taking part in a street fight in which a
man was killed; later he was discharged with a warning to keep the peace
(Henderson 276). He failed to do so; three years later he was summoned to court
for assaulting two Shoreditch constables, although there is no knowledge on
whether or not he answered these charges (Henderson 276). Later Marlowe was
suspected of being involved in the siege of Roven where troops were sent to
contain some Protestants who were causing unrest in spite of the Catholic

League. Then, after sharing a room with a fellow writer Thomas Kyd, he was
accused by Kyd for having heretical papers which "denied the deity of Jesus

Christ" (Discovering Christopher Marlowe 2). Finally, a certain Richard

Baines accused him of being an atheist. Before he could answer any of these
charges, however, he was violently stabbed above his right eye while in a fight

Ingram Frizer (Discovering Christopher Marlowe 2). Doctor Faustus could be
considered one of Marlowe's masterpieces of drama. It was his turn from
politics, which he established himself in with his plays Edward II and

Tamburlaine the Great, to principalities and power. In it he asks the reader to
analyze what the limits are for human power and knowledge and ponder what would
happen if one man tried to exceed those limits. The play opens up with Faustus,
who is supposedly the most ... more

doctor faustus

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Faustus

Out of ancient myth of the magician who sells his soul to the Devil for occult powers, Marlowe has fashioned a veritable fable of Renaissance man (Source 5 113).
The goal of any true renaissance man is to improve himself.  This goal may border on heresy, as it leads to a man trying to occupy the same position as God.  Lucifer commits this same basic sin to cause his own fall.  To Doctor Faustus, this idea of sin is of no concern at the beginning of Christopher Marlowes Doctor Faustus.  Faustus goal is to become god-like himself.  In order to accomplish this, he learns of science and shows an interest in magic. He turns to the pleasures of magic and art and the poewr of scientific knowledge as substitutes for the Christian faith he has lost (source 5 115).  Clearly, this total disregard for God makes Faustus an atheist.  However, it is only his renaissance quality, which seals his damnation, not his lack of faith.  It is interesting to note how Faustus directly parallels Marlowe himself.  The play is written as if Marlowes vindication of Faustus will vindicate him in the end.  This has a direct effect on style as well as the overall spin, which Marlowe takes on the archetype.  Such as strong connection between Faustus and Marlowe makes it practical to speak of the damnation of both of these interesting characters almost simultaneously.  Therefore, Marlowe and Faustus are both damned by their own self-improvement, not only by God, but also by themselves, and society.
Doctor Faustus opens with a depiction of Faustus as the perfect Renaissance man.  
He is partly an artist, who does not wish to glorify God, as his medieval predecessors did, but to applaud and please man; he is partly a scientist and philosopher, whose hope is to make man more godlike and not to justify his miserable life on earth; and, most significantly he is a Protestant, a Lutheran by training who has attempted through Reformation to escape the evils he associates with a Roman Catholic Church. (source 5 113)
As the epitome of renaissance man, Faustus believes that he can infinitely improve himself (4 155).  Faustus considers his life before his deal with Lucifer as one that has gone as far as current interests may carry him.  He notes in the opening scene Then read no more; thou hast attained the end. / A greater subject fitteth Faustus wit: / Bid philosophy farewell (Marlowe 14).   To complete his life Faustus considers following God, however after reading from the Bible he decides that God cannot offer him truth, The reward of sin is death.  Thats hard. //If we say that we have no sin / We decieve ourselves, and theres no truth in us. / Why then belike / We must sin and so consequently die, Ay, we must die an everlasting death//Divinity, adieu! (Marlowe 15).  Having denied God completely leaves Faustus completely desolated from society, In acceptance of Mephistophilis, Faustus completely denies society and all that has been handed to him by science and learning.  Marlowe shows that one who rejects his intellectual, social, and spiritual inheritance experiences pain of personal isolation, anxiety, dread, and meaninglessness (source 5 150).  Finally, Faustus turns to magic as his method to improve himself infinitely.  Faustus decision to become a magician marks the fatal culmination of his attempt to improve himself infinitely.  At this point, Faustus notes, A sound magician is a mighty god / Here, Faustus, try thy brains to gain a deity (Marlowe 15).   This marks the crossover from attempting to improve himself as a mortal and attempting to become immortal.  He believes that magic is his only feasable option to become immortal.  He dismisses divinity because it seems to invite a hateful determinism which denies the real freedom to settle, begin, and be(source 10 158).  Faustus deal with Lucfier ultimately commits Faustus to this belief.  By making a deal with Lucifer, he is putting into practice his belief that he can make himself immortal and challenge both God and death.  Clearly, Faustus must believe that God exists since he emprically knows that Lucifer exists.  
Even though Faustus knows that God exists he states, ... more

doctor faustus

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