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

Would You Consider Doctor Faustus to be a Medieval Morality Play or a Renaissance Drama?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Would You Consider Doctor Faustus to be a Medieval Morality Play or a Renaissance Drama? When considering as to whether Marlowe's Doctor Faustus is a medieval morality play or a renaissance drama one could make a legitimate case on either side of this question. On the one hand, the play seems to offer the very basic moralistic message of avoiding temptation and sin, but if tempted repent when the chance is offered, which falls within the tradition of the morality play. However, parts of the play and its conclusion can be interpreted as straying away from the orthodox pattern of morality plays in order to conform to conventions of renaissance drama. Probably the most significant influence on the play is the social upheaval that was taking place at the time it was written. It is thought that it was first performed around 1594 and this was a time of tremendous change in Europe, with medieval times being replaced by the renaissance stage, and influences from both times can be found in the play. Therefore, the play could be described as a transitional play where beliefs from both sides are inextricably entwined. From a medieval point of view, Doctor Faustus can be looked upon as a morality play, because he overreaches himself, aspiring beyond his God-given place in the world, and to push the boundaries beyond the limitations set by God was a medieval sin. ...read more.

Middle

However, even as he seals the bargain that promises his soul to hell, Faustus is repeatedly filled with misgivings, which are bluntly symbolised in the verbal duels between the good and evil spirits and the play now turns from renaissance drama back to medieval morality. Faustus is a man caught between two conflicting traditions, trapped between medieval morality and renaissance individuality. The evil spirit presents the views of a changing society where the potential of self is explored and in this case, at whatever cost. The good spirit is the representative of God's truth and re-introduces the atmosphere of the morality play by constantly putting forward the possibility of repentance, but because of his deep conviction that he is already damned, Faustus believes that things cannot get any worse. This shows that Faustus is in despair and according to traditional Christian morality despair is, paradoxically, a form of pride, 'Faustus shall not repent.' The moralistic message is clear, it is not Faustus' actions that damn him, but his pride and all the other sins that he commits are different aspects of this. At this point, with the appearance of Lucifer Faustus now ceases to be a renaissance free agent and becomes a subject of the devil, because in the presence of Lucifer there is no possibility of the free debate of the intellect. ...read more.

Conclusion

Typical morality features in Doctor Faustus are the good and bad angels, the tempters in the form of Valdes and Cornelius, the seven deadly sins and the old man in the last act, who offers Faustus a chance of repentance. Also typical are the comic scenes in the middle of the play. However, in a traditional drama, or tragedy, a hero, and in this case a hero of the renaissance, is brought down by an error or a series of errors and only realises his mistake when it is too late. In Christianity, though, as long as a person is alive, there is always the possibility of repentance, so if a tragic hero realises his mistake in time, he may still be saved, but this is not so with Faustus. In the final, wrenching scene of the play, Faustus does come to his senses and begs for a chance to repent, but it is too late and he is carried off to hell. This would suggest that Marlowe sacrifices the medieval morality tradition, that it is never too late to repent, in order to increase the dramatic power of his finale, in which Faustus is conscious of his damnation and yet can do nothing about it. This leads to the conclusion that the play is neither purely in the category of medieval morality nor solely renaissance drama and can only be described as an inverted morality play or even perhaps a transitional play, taking its influences from both schools of thought. ...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. Comparative discussions between the First and Last soliloquies in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus.

    to turn into water drops in the last soliloquy indicates the difference between aspiration and achievement of a human being.

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

    In his fervour, Faustus actually tries to "leap up to [his] God", but fails to do so because some infernal force pulls him down. It is a very tragic scene, particularly as Faustus in his desperation tries to conjure and command the earth to gape open but realises that "o no, it will not harbour me".

  1. Doctor Faustus -a morality play? we will discuss how the Renaissance tragedy Doctor Faustus ...

    A morality play typically has a protagonist who represents humanity as a whole (Everyman or Mankind) or a smaller social group, something that we observe in the protagonist Faustus who, as a proficient scholar who wishes to extend the frontiers of knowledge, can be seen as a personification of the spirit of the Renaissance.

  2. There are many aspects in act one scene one of Doctor Faustus which illustrates ...

    That's hard9', this develops the idea of the lack of control one has over life. Furthermore, his biblical quotes are followed by his Latin interpretation 'che sera, sera10' drawing attention and emphasis to the Protestantism belief of predestination, allowing the audience to relate or understand Faustus' struggle within his religion and individuality.

  1. What do you see as the key features in the renaissance, in terms of ...

    if they did not believe in the church then they did not need priests or a Pope. Because Marlowe mentions these things in his plays it shows that he may have believed in this sort of thing or might have been somewhat interested in it.

  2. Dr Faustus is more morality play than gothic. How far does your reading of ...

    The cycle then goes on the point three of "resolved Faustus shall ne'er repent"; Marlowe use of 3rd person here mirrors the detachment of Faustus's soul. Finally the cycle ends with a gain when Faustus is able to "dispute again" with "Mephistopheles".

  1. What does Marlowe's presentation of Mephastophilis tell an audience about Sixteenth Century ideas of ...

    Faustus claims in scene 3 that "the word damnation terrifies him not" and he refers to himself in third person. The idea that Faustus was not afraid of damnation would have really shocked the Elizabethan audience and as they were religious back then they would have feared for Faustus too.

  2. Discuss how Marlowe presents Faustus at the beginning of the play

    Marlowe continues to build this idea as he uses ironic inversion, having Faustus describe ?and necromantic books are heavenly?, the conflict of describing a book associated with magic and thus hell with religious associations would have further cast Faustus as a sinner within the audience?s eyes.

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