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Faustus epitomises the dangers of knowledge without morality. Do you agree?

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Introduction

Faustus epitomises the dangers of knowledge without morality. Do you agree? From the outset of Marlowe's play 'Doctor Faustus,' it is clear that Faustus is a man who is unwilling to accept the limitations of human knowledge. In seeking to become more than a man, with no regard for the spiritual consequences, he becomes an example to the religious audience of Marlowe's time of what happens when a man pursues knowledge undeterred by moral boundaries. From the outset of the play, Faustus appears to be driven by his thirst for knowledge. The chorus introduces him as 'glutted...with learning's golden gifts,' and led by his desire to further expand his knowledge he 'surfeits upon cursed necromancy.' Here, I noticed that imagery connected with food and overindulgence is used to illustrate the scholastic gluttony that seems to control Faustus' actions, as though by learning he were feeding a hunger. His own words at the beginning of the play, which are interspersed with the names of works he has studied and phrases in foreign languages, immediately convey his strongly academic nature. Showing the importance Faustus attaches to learning, his first request of Mephastophilis is for knowledge relating to the whereabouts of hell, and he later continues to question the demon on astrology and philosophical issues. ...read more.

Middle

Faustus is shown as a character led by a thirst for knowledge, who vitally does not let morality stand in the way of his ambition. I think that pride, held at the time of the play's writing to be the most egregious of the Seven Deadly Sins due to its interference with the sinner's recognition and love of God, can be seen to be the flaw in Faustus' character that strips him of his morality. His excessive self-belief, accompanied by his desire for divine knowledge, alienates him from Christianity and renders him unable to form a connection with God. He is incapable of humbly accepting God's power over him, and rebels against heavenly constraints by defecting to the side of evil in the belief that he is too intelligent to be tricked by the devil and will gain knowledge and power from the deal. In so doing he establishes his rejection of God, which by Elizabethan standards amounted to a complete disregard for morality. In the play's historical context, in a time when atheism was a crime against the state, morality and religion were fairly interchangeable, and so in this sense Faustus, having turned to Satan, can be seen to be without morality. Further evidence of Faustus' immorality in a religious sense can be found in his reverse moral reactions to Christian stimuli. ...read more.

Conclusion

At the point of the Pageant, the dramatic style devolves into that of the earlier form which influences the play, written in a stage of transition between the two styles, in several ways. One such influence is on the presentation of Faustus himself, which alludes to the tradition of representing vices in human form in order to teach a religious lesson, as I think that he can be seen to exemplify the dangers of knowledge without morality despite showing character development. Similarly, the play is didactic in presenting the tragic consequences of his actions. This is reinforced by the judgement of the chorus, who provides the moral framework with which the audience is encouraged to view Faustus. I think that the prologue and epilogue, features of Morality Plays, are particularly important in ensuring that the audience is given the intended impression of the central character, whose fate, the chorus insists at the play's closing, is deserved due to his acting on the desire to 'practice more than heavenly power permits.' When Faustus is finally dragged away to hell at the close of his twenty four years of demonic power, he serves as a reminder to Marlowe's audience of what happens to those who disobey God. Essentially therefore, I agree that the play's message concerns the dangers, in this case spiritual, that a thirst for knowledge poses when coupled with a lack of morality. ...read more.

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