• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9

Dr. Faustus and Conflict

Extracts from this document...


Faustus and Conflict Christopher Marlowe's play "Doctor Faustus" presents a story that is filled with various forms of significant philosophical conflict. While, on the surface, the play is intended to focus on the "form of Faustus' fortunes," the scope of the play includes commentary on several other important themes (Prologue.8). Marlowe uses Faustus's position to demonstrate a sharp contrast between the values of the medieval time period with the developing values associated with the Renaissance movement. Faustus's story shows a direct conflict between the traditional and the modern in its form, its ideology, and its view of religion. Since Marlow maintains an ongoing struggle between these various elements throughout the play, a struggle also exists between the tragic and comedic elements of the story. Marlowe's ambiguity toward the primary direction of the play creates a situation in which the ultimate purpose of the play's comedic scenes remains uncertain even after Faustus's final moments. The content of Faustus's story superficially focuses on Faustus's struggle to maintain control over the destiny of his own soul. Faustus's desire to become "a mighty god" leads him to make a deal with Lucifer, in which he exchanges his soul for twenty four years of demonic power (1.62). Throughout the play Faustus struggles with repentance and disbelief, and he is eventually condemned to Hell for his actions. Symbolically, Faustus's story is more appropriately a representation of the struggle, evident during Marlowe's time period, between the traditional ideas of the medieval period and the modern ideas of the Renaissance. ...read more.


The conclusion of the play demonstrates that the comedy depicted in the play, in addition to its theatrical purpose of providing a comedic interlude, provides a critical depiction of Faustus's fall from grace. One of the first comedic scenes in the play occurs when Faustus asks the demon Mephistopheles to reappear in the habit of a friar since "[t]hat holy shape becomes a devil best" (3.26). While the depiction of a devil in the garb of a Catholic friar would have undoubtedly been hysterical to Marlowe's staunchly Protestant audience, the scene also carries significant meaning. By having Mephistopheles disguise his true figure, Faustus, despite his fearless speech, seems unable to stomach the true nature of Hell. Even when Mephistopheles seems to warn Faustus that his own "pride and insolence" have forever barred him "from the face of heaven" and that he is now "tormented with ten thousand hells," Faust clings to his own diluted version of Hell (3.67-68, 79). He delusionally envisions Hell as a continuation of an earthly existence, and criticizes Mephistopheles for his lack of "manly fortitude" (3.85). The comedy within the play is continued by the antics of the characters Wagner, Robin, Rafe, and the Clown. Most of these comedic actions seem to foreshadow Faustus's own downfall. The first depiction of Wagner and the Clown mirrors Faustus signing his soul over to Lucifer. During this scene, Wagner convinces the Clown to become his servant for seven years, and the Clown jokes about how he would sell his soul for a shoulder of well-seasoned mutton. ...read more.


He recalls that "Christ did call the thief upon the cross," believing that he too will be brought into paradise. Faustus, particularly during his last hours on Earth, seems to exhaust every possibility of incorporating religion into his life. He offers to make deals with God, begs for mercy if not redemption, and even turns to Helen of Troy, a representation of feminine virtue or Mother Mary, for reprieve. Faustus's condemnation demonstrates how Faustus has been simultaneously failed both by traditional religion and by the beliefs held by modern Renaissance thinkers. In conclusion, the comedy within this play serves a variety of purposes. Like many of the other elements in the play, the comic and tragic elements seem to struggle with one another throughout the play. This struggle is also seen in Faustus's struggle between Renaissance thought and form and a more traditional view of life and religion. When coupled with these various forms of conflict, the comedic scenes within "Doctor Faustus" cause the play to constantly waver between tragedy and comedy, leaving the audience without any knowledge of how the play will ultimately end or of the true meaning of the play. Most of the comedy seems to mock Faustus's decision to embrace a modern philosophy toward life, but, when religion ultimately fails him as well, Faustus seems to be a completely hopeless representation of man. The play's comedic scenes are another method, employed by Marlowe, to create confusion and veil the true significance of the play. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Other Authors 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 GCSE Other Authors essays

  1. Prose Study (Oscar Wilde)

    the warmth of their expensive residences and beggars sitting outside of their gates. The Swallow also spots to children hungry and cold lying in each others arms for warmth under a bridge to seek shelter from the heavy rain, but they are told to leave by the watchman, and they walk back out into the rain.

  2. Message vs. Style in Things Fall Apart

    This then suggests to us that language in the society must be very highly developed, for such words do not have a counterpart in the English language, despite the vast vocabulary of the latter. Indeed, I had to refer to the glossary in the book for the English translations of such words.

  1. Prose Study - How important is setting in Gulliver's Travels?

    Because of their wild appearance, he does not recognise them as human, and is shocked when he discovers that they are. In the Land of the Houyhnhnms, horses are the ruling species, and keep Yahoos as pets. The Yahoos emphasise everything Swift has implied about humanity; they show avarice, lust,

  2. Dubliners - From your reading of Eveline, Araby and A Little Cloud, write about ...

    The boy is obsessed with his friend's sister he hides in the shadows, peering secluded from a distance trying to spy her "brown figure" this is obviously his first love this is highlighted through the phrase 'we hid in the shadow until we had seen him safely housed or if Mangan's sister came out onto the doorstep'.

  1. The Meaning of Human Existence

    Camus takes a perspective similar to the scientific viewpoint, that as humans we do not know anything for certain except that we will die. We are born, live out our lives, repopulate and then die to be forgotten forever, but I don't think that this is how Kafka feels we are meant to function.

  2. A view from a bridge

    being a wife, and neither would Catherine's falling in love with Rodolfo. This tells us that all the characters contributed something to cause Eddie's death. Both Beatrice and Catherine are very likeable characters; Catherine acts like a little girl, even though she is 17.

  1. How are traditional American values portrayed in this post-apocalyptic world of Cormac McCarthys The ...

    This is a key image in American Culture, not only featured in many novels and films but important simply because it represents a freedom to be who you want to be. The open road offers new horizons and the prospect to witness new and unexpected things.

  2. It is Hassan rather than Amir who is the true hero of the Kite ...

    This quote is right after the kite running tournament, Amir asks Hassan to run the kite for him. It tells us that Hassan would do anything for Amir, using the word ?a thousand? rather than just saying ?for you?. It also shows us that later in the plot Hassan will keep his habits, as he shows no sign of stopping.

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