‘Nor, in the pomp of proud audacious deeds’
The power of this line is emphasised by the alliterative patterns and creates a magnificent, formal atmosphere. The effect of dramatically listing what the play does not express makes the audience more curious about what is actually going to happen, thus the line, ‘only this gentlemen’, before the chorus describes the position of Faustus, is inevitably intensified.
Indeed this imposing style of commentary is mirrored in the second chorus, which introduces Faustus’s actions in Rome. The opening chorus refers to Roman Mythology, ‘Where Mars did mate the Carthaginians’, perhaps alluding to Faustus’s ambitions to be as powerful as the gods. Similarly, the second chorus mentions ‘Mount Olympus’, the home of the gods in Greek Mythology, which may impress the audience as they hear of Faustus’s ‘travelog’, while at the same time, reminding them that he is being to ambitious and not matter how hard he tries, he will never be as powerful as God.
Despite this dramatic language, its is important that Faustus is presented, in the opening chorus, as someone who is from ‘’base of stock’. In this way, Marlowe is making the point that anyone can ‘’over-reach’’ and suffer a similar fate to Faustus, thus it is almost intended as a warning to the audience. Indeed, the final Chorus speech alliterates Faustus’s ‘fiendful fortune’, which seems to summarise exactly where Fasustus twenty-four years of ‘’voluptuousness’’ gave him. This major theme of ‘’overreaching’’ is heavily emphasised in this opening speech, demonstrated by using language connected to greed and appetite. Faustus is ‘’glutted’ with learning, ‘’surfeits upon necromancy’’ and finds nothing so ‘’sweet’’ as magic. Although it is clear that Faustus desires to study necromancy, it is, however, uncertain exactly why he turns to it. The allusions to greed suggest that Faustus had learned too much and therefore has become absorbed in his own power and knowledge, leading to believe that necromancy is not as dangerous as it seems. On the other hand, eating is a necessity so it is almost as if it is essential for Faustus to learn as it is all he can do and he therefore has to learn something he has never studied before. Either way, it is obvious that his ambition is a dangerous thing, symbolised by the allusion to Icarus, thus the play as a whole may be seen as a more detailed extension of the consequences of ‘’over-reaching’’ which the audience is introduced to in the opening lines of the play. These allusions to appetite are mirrored in the forth chorus, when Faustus’s death is nigh: he ‘would not banquet’, with ‘belly cheer’ as ‘the feast has ended,’’ further emphasising that is not Faustus’s ability that les to his downfall but his greed to be what he was not supposed to be.
It must be remembered that the power of this language would have a much greater influence on a 16th Century audience than it would do today. There is the simple fact that a Jacobean audience would be much more sensitive to language due to the lack of technological advances, which nowadays record everything we need to know and remember. Also, religion will have most likely played a much heavier role in their lives thus interfering with necromancy is probably one the worst things they could imagine. This attitude is reflected in the introduction to the play:
‘’He surfeits upon cursed necromancy’
The word ‘necromancy’ appearing at the end of the line invites the chorus to then pause in order to dramatise the danger Faustus is getting into and exploit the fear that surrounded ‘going to hell.’ However, it is simplistic to simply say that religion was a prominent feature in everybody’s life as different attitudes towards religion were certainly emerging, particularly Calvin’s pre-destination and Luther’s ‘justification by faith alone’ theories and the play certainly reflects this. Chorus two, for example introduces the audience to the scene involving the Pope, which is humorous in the sense that it is so outrageous and yet the Chorus describes the scene as ‘’highly solemnized.’’ This places a seriousness on the following scene, showing that what Faustus is doing is essentially immature and absurd: no better than what is ‘’intellectual interferes’’ Robin and Rafe created by maddeningly with necromancy, which lead to them being transformed into animals.
It is unclear exactly how the speeches are to be performed. The ending of chorus three ‘I leave untold, your eyes shall see performed’, suggests that the actor gestures towards Faustus as he says these closing lines. The text identifies that Wagner should make the speeches although in a production I saw, the ‘chorus; did not actually appear on stage but the voice surrounded the room, having a super-natural, magic effect that fitted in with the context of the play. How they are performed though is arguably less important than the function they serve. As the play is set over a period of over twenty years, the choruses give the feeling that time is passing. For example, ‘Chorus four’ tells the audience that Faustus is going to ‘die shortly’, anticipating a dramatic death as well as concluding that the twenty-four years are almost over. Furthermore, Chorus two tells us that ‘he now is gone to prove cosmography’, showing us what seemingly magnificent things Fasutus is currently experiencing without having to actually perform them on stage. Certainly, the powerful metaphors used suggest a serious tone to illustrate the fact that our actions have consequences. This is particularly true of the final, emphatic chorus, which in a way shows us that Faustus wasted his talents:
‘’Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight.’’ gives the impression that despite his ambitions, Faustus had unfulfilled his potential and could have used his skills to help others instead of for selfish reasons.
Although for it’s time the essential themes of the play seem quite forward thinking yet chourus speeches were not an unheard of feature in 16th century England. They had been preciously used in Morality Plays so Marloew was arguably using a structure that had proved to be a success. However, by having a chorus directly speaking to the audience there is increased communication between the audience and the actors on stage and is simply a simple yet effective way to connect the scenes together and eliminate any confusion the audience may have.