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

The faustian legend

Extracts from this document...


The faustian legend Like his Christian biblical twin Antichrist, the folk legendary Dr. Faustus has exercised a remarkably tenacious hold on the Western (i.e. Euro-American) imagination, finding his way into folk tales, great literary drama, opera, novels, films, video games, Gothic music, and pornography. Even our verbal expressions have been influenced by this legend: we speak of people making "Faustian bargains" or having "sold out" or "selling their souls" when they make a personal or professional compromise. In addition, Faust's absolute power evokes the similar claims made in medieval Antichrist legends, and in some accounts Faust travels to heaven and hell, the otherworldly journey of classic apocalypse texts. In our first readings, you will explore some of the legends related to this figure who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for power and knowledge. Next week we will read and discuss a Faust play by one of the monumental figures of German philosophy and literature, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. ...read more.


an alchemist and magician. The first published account of this legend occurred in 1587 in Historia von. D. Johann Fausten, which was quickly translated from the German into English. This publication coincided with a European fascination with demonology that endured for a century or more, resulting in the witch hunts of Europe and New England, infamously in the Salem witch trials in 1692. Students from the first semester of the course, however, will remember how demonizing others is central to the ideologies behind apocalypticism. The English Renaissance playwright Christopher Marlowe immediately adapted this material for the stage in his play Tragical History of Dr. Faustus (ca. 1594; published 1604). Dr. Faustus conjures Mephistopheles (a demon) with whom he agrees to surrender his body and soul to the Devil in exchange for limitless power and knowledge. When Faustus summonses the most beautiful woman who ever lived, Helen of Troy, we hear Marlowe's famous line: "Is this the face that launched a thousand ships/And burned the topless towers of Illium?" ...read more.


Back in his mountain castle, Manfred is urged by a monk to repent, but he refuses and dies. Manfred demonstrates an interesting relationship between Romantic gothicism, a fascination with the anti-hero, and Romantic appropriations of apocalypticism. My conviction is that Gothic fiction is apocalypticism without God. Eroticism and damnation (always a central theme in ancient apocalyptic texts) is an apparent theme in the Faust legend. Faust seeks all sensations and experiences, including the erotic, even summoning the most beautiful woman ever to have lived, Helen of Troy. In the 19th century the Faust legend became fused with the legend of Don Juan, the womanizer whose exploits are brought to a dramatic end when a statue comes to life and drags him down to hell. This narrative, like that of Faust, found its way into poetry, drama, and opera Ingrid Shafer's Web essay (see below) provides a very engaging and thorough discussion of precursors to Goethe's Faust. The English Faust Book is the Renaissance translation of the German book that provided the foundation for Marlowe's play. German fascination with this theme is also evident in Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau's film treatment earlier in the 20th century. ...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. Comment on the relationship between the comic and serious material in Dr Faustus.

    This scene is heavily reminiscent of the previous scene with the Pope because, like Faustus, Robin and Rafe steal a goblet and they also use invisibility spells. This scene demonstrates how ridiculous Faustus' tricks are becoming because they are now only as advanced as the magic that the Ostlers can perform.

  2. Faustus: Renaissance Martyr or Tragic Hero

    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 learned man in the world, talking about how he has mastered every field of knowledge known to man.

  1. How far would you say that the novel is not so much about Brighton ...

    a kind of living hell because he often speaks of it as such, he wonders why he should not "have had his chance, like the rest, seen his glimpse of heaven, if it was only a crack between the Brighton walls."

  2. Do Renaissance texts deal primarily with Renaissance concerns, or with universal human emotions and ...

    Already the Red Crosse Knight is not only going on a quest to slay a dragon, but also on a crusade to reclaim the land from those of false faith, as the Templars did. The knight's armour is marked with 'deepe wounds', which is interesting as the knight is described as being young and inexperienced.

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

    man" but Faustus chooses to ignore this message, showing all defiance of God. By doing this, the audience's attitude towards Faustus may be one of admiration because he is courageous enough to blaspheme and oppose God, something that many of them had not dared to do; to gain supreme knowledge, power and wealth.

  2. Notes on the blank verse of Christopher Marlowe.

    Next, we find that Marlowe's vice is one which he was gradually attenuating, and even, what is more miraculous, turning into a virtue. And we find that this bard of torrential imagination recognized many of his best bits (and those of one or two others), saved them, and reproduced them more than once, almost invariably improving them in the process.

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