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Explore the Ways the Theme of Death Develops and Changes in Hamlet and Doctor Faustus

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Explore the Ways the Theme of Death Develops and Changes in Hamlet and Doctor Faustus Hamlet and Faustus have differing views on death at the start of each of the plays. Faustus is a typical character of an Elizabethan drama in the role of a man overreaching himself in his quest for knowledge: he believes that he knows all there is to know about what happens after death and Faustus ?confounds hell in Elysium? which shows that he doesn?t fear hell: instead he believes that his knowledge will give him access to the pagan afterlife of the Greek philosophers. During Faustus? first conversation with Mephistopheles Faustus constantly refers to himself in the third person. Marlowe does this to show that Faustus is distancing himself from making the deal with Mephistopheles and is not completely confident in his thinking. Faustus? desire for further forbidden knowledge is prompted by his view that he has attained all permitted knowledge. In full awareness of what he is doing Faustus bids ?divinity, adieu!? in order to pursue magic and become, in his eyes, a Godly figure. This certainty that Faustus shows deeply contrasts with Hamlet?s ambiguous views on the afterlife. ...read more.


Hamlet similarly tells Gertrude that hell is within her as it "canst mutine in a matron's bones", suggesting that it runs riot in her body. When Faustus starts to sign the deed of gift to Mephistopheles his "blood congeals" , his body reacting physically as a warning against giving up his soul and suffering eternal punishment. Both plays show that people's actions determine whether they go to heaven or hell. Hamlet uses the metaphor of an "audit" to suggest that we have an account which will prove to God whether we deserve a place in heaven. Hamlet believes that at any time one can repent and therefore ensure salvation. He tells his mother that she can "either [lodge] or throw the devil out". And he states that "the readiness is all", explaining that being prepared for death makes it bearable unlike his father who was "full of bread" illustrating that he did not have time to repent his sins. Hamlet knows that if he does carry out the revenge killing of Claudius that he could be damned. From the beginning of the play, Faustus believes that he is damned and will be punished in hell whatever he does. Faustus misinterprets scriptures so that he can prove himself right about the injustice of God. ...read more.


He implements a trochee at the start to reverse the first two words when he says ?O, that this too?.? This draws the audience?s attention because they do not expect a line to begin with a stressed syllable, also underlining Hamlet?s despair as he says ?O?, giving the sense of a despairing groan. Faustus also considers whether he should kill himself, he describes how "poison, guns, halters and envenomed steel" could end his inner torment. Faustus also chooses not to commit suicide because "sweet pleasure conquered deep despair": he loves the sensual pleasures so much that he can't kill himself. The arguments above show that the protagonists' attitudes towards death and the afterlife change dramatically through the plays. Hamlet starts off with a fear of the unknown afterlife but becomes far more accepting of death ? he sees that the justified revenge by killing his murderous uncle removes the risk of damnation. Once he knows of his uncle?s guilt he is held back by cowardice and some moral uncertainty before his final act. In contrast Faustus initially does not care about the terrors of hell and so makes a pact with the devil. However due to the surrender of his soul, Faustus later begins to greatly fear the horrors that await him after his death. The two plays are centred on death and the two characters? obsession with it. ...read more.

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