• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Doctor Faustus -a morality play? we will discuss how the Renaissance tragedy Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe can be read as belonging to the realm of Morality plays with some significant deviations that indicate the ideological frameworks within whi

Extracts from this document...


Together with the Mystery play and the Miracle play, the Morality play is one of the three main types of vernacular verse drama produced during the medieval period in England. The Morality plays attempted to educate via entertainment. It is thought that the Dominican and Franciscan orders of Christian monks developed the morality play in the 13th century by adding actors and theatrical elements to their sermons. By doing so, the (mainly illiterate) masses could more easily learn the basics of Christianity through the dramatic spoken word. The Morality plays were most popular in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries. Doctor Faustus, though a Renaissance text, is like the medieval Morality plays Everyman and The Castle of Perseverance based on the theoretical concept of the human predicament as a sequence of innocence, fall and redemption. In the following paragraphs we will deal with the elements of the Morality play visible in Doctor Faustus as well as the points at which the play is different from the traditional Morality. According to M.H. Abrams, "Morality plays were dramatized allegories of a representative Christian life in the plot form of a quest for salvation, in which the crucial events are temptations, sinning and the climatic confrontation with death." ...read more.


The epilogue suggests this-"Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight..." Even the Old Man in Act 5 provides guidance to Faustus -"O gentle Faustus, leave this damned art...do not persevere in it like a devil..." Also,"the morality agents of temptation are vestigally represented in Doctor Faustus by the conjurors Valdes and Cornelius who lure Faustus to necromantic studies-and as quickly disappear" as noted by Robert A. Potter. The chief aim of the morality play was didactic. It was a dramatized guide to Christian living and Christian dieing. Whosoever discards the path of virtue and faith in God as well as Christ is destined to despair and eternal damnation-this can be taken to be the overt message of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. And it has found the most touching expression in the closing lines of the play which warns against the pursuit of illegitimate forms of knowledge- "whose deepness doth entice such forward wits, to practice more than the heavenly power permits". It is this reason why Hudson had rightly said-"No finer sermon then Marlowe's Doctor Faustus ever came from the pulpit." New Historicist readings however suggest that this supposedly overt cautionary Christian message may be a decoy to escape Puritan censorship. According to this perspective, the play can also be read as the atheist and nonconformist Marlowe's critique of the regressive social and religious forces in the Renaissance world that inhibited and attempted to contain the purveyors of radical social or ideological change. ...read more.


He falls from high to low and this is clear in his last soliloquy-"O soul, be changed into little water drops, And fall into ocean never to be found". The colonial vocabulary that couches these aspirations locates this text in the world of the Renaissance characterised by pervasive change and ideological shifts. The contradictions of the age in the realm of scholarship (medieval scholasticism vs. Renaissance humanism) and in religion (Catholicism vs Protestantism and Free-will vs. Calvinistic Predestination) are mapped in this play by juxtaposing elements of the Morality play and the humanistic tragedy in terms that are ambiguous and open to both conservative and radical readings. Finally, unlike the morality plays where the moral is always positive and the goodness always triumphs over evil, truth over lies, and virtue over vice, the end is tragic, but just. There is no other fair outcome to his actions. The end of the play brings a process of catharsis for the audience, as our pity and fear for Faustus is released when we see justice being done, a typical tragic convention. Thus, Marlowe's Doctor Faustus is "a Morality play with a difference" as it negates, to an extent, the typical notions of a Morality play. Hence, we can conclude by agreeing with Nicholas Brooke who states-"I believe that Marlowe's adoption of Morality form must be seen as a deliberate mis-use of popular old-fashioned material" ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Christopher Marlowe section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Christopher Marlowe essays

  1. Peer reviewed

    It has been suggested that Marlowe's audience would have seen Dr Faustus as a ...

    3 star(s)

    with greed, the body is not so easily subdued and still refuses to participate in the act of sheer blindness. Faustus informs Mephastophilis that 'My blood congeals and I can write no more', when Mephastophilis demands that Faustus signs a contract in his own blood, which confers his soul to Lucifer.

  2. Comment on the relationship between the comic and serious material in Dr Faustus.

    fast at that time that if the next King or Queen happened to be Catholic, Marlowe's work could have been seen to be blasphemous, which could have even put his life at risk! Scene Three is only a point of low comedy because it does not mirror any other events in the play.

  1. What does the play show us about attitudes to sin and damnation?

    Faustus himself realises that he's made a mistake when Mephastophilis gives him books with insufficient information. Faustus main aim was to gain power and we see that Faustus gains no power and is under the control of Lucifer, and is actually low in the hierarchy of hell when he asks Mephastophilis, "Now tell me what says Lucifer thy Lord?"

  2. Dr. Faustus Essay. In Christopher Marlows seventeenth century play, Faustus, hubris leads to ...

    Faustus, thou art safe: Cast no more doubts. Come, Mephistophilis, And bring glad tidings from great Lucifer; (Marlow 1.5 ln.16-30). Faustus's hubris overwhelms him and he decides to continue practicing magic. He believes his wealth from the devil is more important than asking for forgiveness and living a free after-life.

  1. "An impressive opening, a marvellous ending, an indifferent middle". Does this twentieth century comment ...

    The dramatic tension increases as the scene progresses, and Faustus' arrogant proposal to "try [his] brains to gain a deity" confirms our opinion of him as a dangerous over-reacher. The entrance of the good and evil angels signals an opportunity for theatrical spectacle, which again helps maintain the tension of this impressive, dramatic opening scene.

  2. Marlowes original title was The Tragicall history of Dr. Faustus. To what extent do ...

    Faustus's desire to overachieve is referenced by the chorus at the beginning of the play when they say, 'his waxen wing did mount above his reach,/ and melting heavens conspired his overthrow'.

  1. Discuss the presentation of Faustus' inner conflict in Act 1 scene 5 of Doctor ...

    Whenever Faustus is contemplating repenting or wavers in any way, the "Good" and "Evil" Angels appear to try to save him or tempt him. The second time they appear in this scene is when Faustus says "I will renounce this magic, and repent".

  2. Notes on the blank verse of Christopher Marlowe.

    than that of half a dozen contemporaries of Shakespeare; cruder, because less capable of expressing complicated, subtle, and surprising emotions. 2 Every writer who has written any blank verse worth saving has produced particular tones which his verse and no other's is capable of rendering; and we should keep this in mind when we talk about "influences" and "indebtedness."

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work