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AS and A Level: Christopher Marlowe

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Five pieces of background knowledge that will help you write a well informed and persuasive essay on 'Dr Faustus'

  1. 1 Knowledge about literary influences, eg. medieval morality plays.
  2. 2 Knowledge about the historical context, in particular religious attitudes to hell and damnation.
  3. 3 Knowledge about dramatic conventions such as the purposes for which soliloquy is used.
  4. 4 Knowledge about the possibilities and limitations of Elizabethan stagecraft.
  5. 5 Knowledge about the philosophical debate on free will versus fate.

Common mistakes in 'Dr Faustus' essays

  1. 1 Writing a one-sided arguments – for example, by not presenting the case both for and against whether Faustus can be considered heroic.
  2. 2 Making a point but not supporting it by detailed textual reference.
  3. 3 Failing to distinguish between Dr. Faustus the play and Dr. Faustus the character by appropriate use of quotation marks or italics.
  4. 4 Failing to analyse the language carefully in order to explore how effects are achieved.
  5. 5 Lack of thought about the structure of an essay, resulting in short paragraphs and disjointed arguments.

Ensure that you know the meaning (and spelling!) of the following words and include them in your 'Dr Faustus' essays

  1. 1 Hubris.
  2. 2 Predestination.
  3. 3 Necromancy.
  4. 4 Redemption.
  5. 5 Salvation.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 4
  • Peer Reviewed essays 1
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  1. Marked by a teacher

    Can Faustus truly be regarded as a tragic hero

    4 star(s)

    which, again, are befitting of the tragic hero. Faustus reversal of fortune is also typically tragic. During the final scene of the play, in which we witness Faustus' final hour before being taken off to h**l, he is, like all heroes of classical tragedy, completely isolated. There is a poignant contrast in Faustus' degeneration from the successful, revered conjurer of the previous scenes, to the disillusioned scholar we see here. In despair, he tries to conjure and command the earth to gape open but realises that, "o no, it will not harbour" him.

    • Word count: 1057
  2. Marked by a teacher

    Absolute Power Simply Seems To Corrupt Faustus. Once He Can Do Everything, He No Longer Wants To Do Anything; Discuss.

    4 star(s)

    Faustus is striving for a great power and his intentions are on a grand scale. "I'll have them read me strange philosophy and tell the secrets of all foreign kings; I'll have them wall all Germany with brass and make swift Rhine circle fair Wittenberg". This is what Faustus thinks he will have the ability to do, but later in his same speech we see signs of his arrogance and the way in which he is governed by greed "I'll levy soldiers with the coin they bring and chase the Prince of Parma from out land and reign sole king of all our provinces".

    • Word count: 1023
  3. Marked by a teacher

    Explore the presentation of Faustus in the opening scenes.

    3 star(s)

    To the modern audience it is perhaps harder to relate to the great importance religion played in peoples' lives in Marlowe's day when the concept of h**l was much a reality of eternity in a physical place, with various punishments of torture depending on the life the deceased had led. Marlowe further highlights Faustus' scholarly nature through his choice of language for the character which is mostly extensive, with many references to well known philosophies, 'Summum bonum' that again support Marlowe's portrayal of Faustus.

    • Word count: 1028
  4. Marked by a teacher

    "Marlowe is not only a great poet but also a great dramatist. His speeches are not only impressive pieces of writing but are carefully designed to sound effective on a stage"

    The speech begins with a sighed, "Ah, Faustus" which is Faustus evidently attempting to detach himself from the reality of what is about to befall him this is followed by an entirely monosyllabic line, "Now hast thou one bare hour to live" Written in what could almost be iambic pentameter the line falls short of the typical rhythm, giving it a long, drawn out feel, with the stresses falling on "one bare hour" enabling any actor to truly emphasize the emotion behind this line that is simply overflowing with feeling.

    • Word count: 1103
  5. Peer reviewed

    It has been suggested that Marlowe's audience would have seen Dr Faustus as a 'simply morality play' consider this view of the play using scene 5 as your starting point.

    3 star(s)

    Marlowe addressed this problem in several ways. The first was to make the play a mixture of drama, pantomime, and morality in order to please his entire audience. This explains the seemingly ridiculous scenes where Marlowe incorporated acts such as dismembering, which is a far cry from the seriousness that is a morality play. It would also explain the comic scenes, which are scattered throughout the play and serve as a means to get cheap laughs from the audience. Many were perplexed as to how a magnificently talented playwright could produce such distasteful writing present in the comic scene, which consisted of crude s****l innuendo and bizarre acts of idiocy.

    • Word count: 1798
  6. All characters within the story Doctor Faustus are lonely, and some confide to evil to relinquish their loneliness.

    Mephastophilis is lonely because he's somewhere he doesn't want to be. Doctor Faustus doesn't grasp the notion what Mephastophilis is saying, "Ay, think so still, till experience change thy mind", only by seeing the alternative, which is Heaven, can Mephastophilis truly understand the situation he's in, where he's isolated from Heaven and now spends eternity in h**l "where we are tortured". We, the audience are fascinated by Mephastophilis because his situation is so different to ours. He's not normal and this exotic character fascinates us.

    • Word count: 703
  7. Dr. Faustus Essay. In Christopher Marlows seventeenth century play, Faustus, hubris leads to his own downfall.

    Though in every situation, he is tempted by the magic and its treachery because of hubris. Multiple times, a good and an evil angel appear to Faustus who act as his conscience. The good angel advocates salvation and Faustus deliberates repenting. The evil angel, however, mentions the wealth Faustus can have with magic. In one conversation with the angels, Faustus is easily persuaded: GOOD ANGEL. Sweet Faustus, leave that execrable art. FAUSTUS. Contrition, prayer, repentance! What of them? GOOD ANGEL. O, they are means to bring thee unto Heaven! EVIL ANGEL. Rather illusions-fruits of lunacy, That makes men foolish that do trust them most. GOOD ANGEL. Sweet Faustus, think of Heaven and heavenly things. EVIL ANGEL.

    • Word count: 1380
  8. Marlowes original title was The Tragicall history of Dr. Faustus. To what extent do you consider Faustus a truly tragic figure?

    Faustus's first display of interest in necromancy is illustrated when he says, 'and necromantic books are heavenly'. This paradoxical claim is the first instance whereby Faustus is interested in necromancy while simultaneously not truly understanding it. Faustus's lack of insight to the consequences of total damnation is shown when he says, 'he will spare him four and twenty years'. Faustus has youthful naivety; he believes total damnation for eternity is worth twenty four years of his life. Faustus is a peripeteian character, his actions brought his fateful end but tragically he did not understand or even appreciate the consequences.

    • Word count: 1446
  9. Dr Faustus is more morality play than gothic. How far does your reading of Act 2, scene 3 support this view?

    The four point cycle of doubt, persuasion, resolve and gain repeats itself several times in the scene by Faustus. The character of Faustus here links to the 'everyman' character in morality plays. The four point structure communicates the weakness of the merciful nature of the human's state of mind. Faustus doubts his decision and says that he "will renounce this magic and repent" until we see the persuasions of the good and evil angel come into to distract his mind.

    • Word count: 1073
  10. How does Faustus use the magical gifts that he receives?

    He gains no wealth, no recognition and no delight from his magic. Instead he condemns himself to death and illustrates that no man can ever be God as all men are fallible. Faustus's attempts to use his magical gifts are futile and thus he gains nothing and is forever in debt to Mephostophilis. The pursuit of knowledge is directly linked with obtaining power. Faustus intends to acquire a greater intellect so that he can control everything. This is demonstrated by Faustus in Act one Scene one; "All things that move between the quiet poles/Shall be at my command."

    • Word count: 968
  11. 'Compare the ways that Marlowe and Chaucer present the theme of sin in 'Dr Faustus' and 'The Pardoner's Tale'.'

    The Pardoner's sin is presented very effectively to us as readers, in exactly the same way that the Pardoner goes about his sinful acts, through his powerful oratory, and given that when 'The Canterbury Tales' was written, poetry was designed to be read aloud and heard, this presentation of sin becomes even more appropriate. Marlowe makes use of a similar technique in 'Dr Faustus' to show off his character's greatest sin, which also happens to be pride. The medium of drama lends itself probably best of all to exposing a character's shortcomings through their own words and actions, and this is exactly the image Marlowe gives us of Faustus.

    • Word count: 1843
  12. Doctor Faustus -a morality play? we will discuss how the Renaissance tragedy Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe can be read as belonging to the realm of Morality plays with some significant deviations that indicate the ideological frameworks within whi

    The protagonist who is often representative of mankind is met by personifications of various moral attributes who try to prompt him to choose a godly life over one of evil. Typically after a spiritual battle for his soul, the Morality play ends with the salvation of the protagonist. In the light of the above features we will discuss how the Renaissance tragedy Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe can be read as belonging to the realm of Morality plays with some significant deviations that indicate the ideological frameworks within which it was operating.

    • Word count: 1709
  13. Doctor Faustus: What do we learn about Faustus? What are our responses to his ambition? What is your response to key issued linked to pride?

    Philosophy, medicine, law and theology doesn't satisfy hum any longer and this is where we begin to embark on Faustus' attractions to the secrets of magic; having mastered all other aspects of knowledge, he want to master craft. Faustus' journey to creating magic reveals a lot about his character in just the first few pages.

    • Word count: 584
  14. Free essay

    Compare the first and final soliloquies in Dr Faustus - is Faustus a hero or a villain?

    Faustus has already accomplished many great things but it seems here he is eager to accomplish something far greater, "A great subject fitteth Faustus' wit." The ambiguity of this line becomes a major theme throughout the play and makes or diminishes Faustus' character from different view points, is he being ambitious or arrogant? His ambition is brought into question throughout the play with people seeing it as something which builds his character and also leads to greed and damnation. The mood and tone of the soliloquy is exciting, the audience is shown a knowledgeable and accomplished man considering what his

    • Word count: 1049
  15. Role of the Chorus and its effect on the audience, as seen in Dr Faustus and Murder in the Cathedral

    Both these plays open with the narration of the chorus in their expositions respectively. In MITC the chorus consists of the poor women of Canterbury, they symbolize the ills the poorer section of society goes through. We normally tend to think of the chorus as a group of people or singers, though it can also be composed of only one character. In Dr. Faustus, a single person or rather, an actor enters and introduces the plot of the play. The audience gets a glimpse into Faustus' early days and how knowledgeable he is.

    • Word count: 1176
  16. There are many aspects in act one scene one of Doctor Faustus which illustrates identical or parallel themes that derive from the Prometheus myth. Throughout the scene Faustus appears to be discontented

    The tone of Faustus' soliloquy can be identified as confident and powerful; nevertheless, this could purely be a tone of excitement and curiosity. Both interpretations however, support the primary theme, power, and emphasize Faustus' attempt to over-reach, thereby engaging thematically with the Prometheus myth. He becomes a victim of his own ambitions as he imagines 'a world of profit and delight, of power, of honour, of omnipotence5', reading these phrases each syllable appears stressed, which adds to Faustus' frustration to obtain these things.

    • Word count: 1117
  17. Consider the importance of scene 5 in Dr. Faustus

    This shows how much Faustus has already been affected by Mephastophillis and the Devil. Faustus is then persuaded by both good and evil angels to go to their 'side' "Sweet Faustus, leave that execrable art" It could be said that the good and evil angel are just extensions of Faustus's own conscience and that he does have a 'good' part to him. But the audience of the time would know what Faustus decides to do because the evil angel speaks last. "No Faustus, think of honour and of wealth." The evil angel is tempting Faustus with material goods which the good angel cannot offer.

    • Word count: 769
  18. What does Marlowe's presentation of Mephastophilis tell an audience about Sixteenth Century ideas of h**l and damnation?

    Mephastophilis has strong emotions and they are clearly shown in Scene 3 in the following exclamatory sentence "think'st thou that I, who saw the face of God, and tasted the eternal joys of heaven, am not tormented with ten thousand hells, in being deprived of everlasting bliss". Mephastophilis is shown to be a very complex character in the play; he has a name and emotions too. That's what makes this play different to morality plays as a devil would have been shown as unsympathetic and uncompassionate.

    • Word count: 1045
  19. Aysha Bismillah 11R

    His body language and facial expressions showed his confusion throughout the play. He talked to himself to tell the audience what was going through his mind. Mephostophilis was a stern character who had his way of making people change their mind. Lucifer was a mean character who looked evil and controlled people. She could also make people do what she wanted them to do. The good and bad angels were competitive and tried to keep Faustus on their side. The set was ideal for the play. It was a traverse stage with people on both sides so everyone could see what was going on.

    • Word count: 787
  20. Remind yourself of Scene 12 (pages 59-63)

    He does not need a name for he is only representational. The Old Man uses much persuasive language during his speech to Faustus and states Faustus' blood must 'wash away thy guilt'. The influential language used throughout lines 26-37 hence persuades Faustus to believe he is 'damned' and must die. As Mephastophilis hands him the dagger, the Old Man states he must not commit suicide-for it was a sin during the Elizabethan period to take your own life. He continues that Faustus must 'call for mercy' and as the 'Old Man' leaves, Faustus prolongs to differ between God and the Devil.

    • Word count: 879
  21. Choruses - what is the importance of these speeches in 'Dr. Faustus?

    Saying this, the opening lines are not about Doctor Faustus itself but rather ironically about what the play is not going to entail. This however, has the effect of drawing in audience as the descriptions of the 'alternative' plays are presented as epic and intriguing in themselves: '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.

    • Word count: 1338
  22. What does Marlowe's presentation of Mephastophilis tell an audience about sixteen century ideas of h**l and damnation?

    Mephastophilis insists that he came to Faustus of his own accord when he heard Faustus curse God and forswear heaven, hoping that Faustus soul was available for the taking. This suggests that while demons may be active agents eagerly seeking to seize Faustus soul, it is Faustus himself that makes the first move Mephastophilis does not force him to do anything against his will. This therefore indicates that devils only have the ability to entrap those who want to be entrapped and who renounce God and swear allegiance to the devil.

    • Word count: 1795
  23. Marlowe's Mephistophilis is a brilliant but ultimately unsatisfactory creation because Marlowe cannot decide whether to make him a gleeful medieval devil or a romantically suffering fallen angel

    It is this contradictory melange of qualities that make Mephistophilis such an ambiguous character throughout the play. In his first scene, Mephistophilis adopts the deflating and belittling tone with Faustus that he often employs to quash him when he becomes overly arrogant or excitable. As the critic Philip Brockbank writes: "Mephistophilis promptly replaces Faustus as the intellectual centre of the play." This is evident, for example, when Faustus proclaims: "I charge thee wait upon me whilst I live, To do whatever Faustus shall command, Be it to make the moon drop from her sphere Or the ocean to overwhelm the world."

    • Word count: 1501
  24. How Successfully Does Marlowe portrayal of Faustus reflect the attitudes and beliefs of Elizabethan times?

    Many religious themes base don Elizabethan views are presented in the play. Pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, arguably the one that leads to all the others. Faustus' first great sin is pride and he does not stop there. Reflecting the Elizabethean view, pride gives rise to all of the other sins, and ends ironically with the sinner's downfall. This is clearly shown in Faustus. Dr. Faustus is a man possessed by himself, and blinded by his own intellect. By making a deal with the devil, Faustus trades his soul for satisfaction, and a greater field of study.

    • Word count: 1339
  25. Would You Consider Doctor Faustus to be a Medieval Morality Play or a Renaissance Drama?

    However, from a renaissance perspective it was a time of individuality and people were no longer trapped in the social class into which they were born. By renaissance ideals, if Faustus believes that he has reached the end of human knowledge, he is quite justified in using the black art to further his ambitions. The structure of the play itself clearly shows how the different influences overlap and intermingle. Whereas it is set in the framework of a medieval morality play and the middle part, largely composed of farce underlines this, the play is flanked at the beginning and end by pure renaissance drama of great depth and power.

    • Word count: 1757

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • Discuss the presentation of Faustus' inner conflict in Act 1 scene 5 of Doctor Faustus.

    "In conclusion we, as the audience, are clearly able to see that towards the beginning of Act 1 Scene 5, Faustus demonstrates his inner turmoil and uncertainty as to what is the right decision for him to make. His inner turmoil is presented primarily, through his monologues, which let the audience know what is happening in his mind, and the through the contrary manifestations of the "Good" and "Evil" Angels. The "Good" and "Evil" Angels symbolise the two extremes of his conscious thought and make it easier for the audience to see Faustus' confusion. By the end of the scene it is made clear that through the temptation of Mephastophilis, the terror of Lucifer and Belzebub and the lies of the "Evil" Angel, Faustus' soul will be contractually damned to hell and he does not have a hope of salvation."

  • Discuss the role of Mephistopheles - How much of a role does he play in Faustus' damnation? How does Marlowe complicate his character and inspire our sympathy?

    "In conclusion, Mephistopheles is perhaps the most complicated character in the play. Marlowe's character goes against the traditional beliefs of a medieval audience, but is a far more compelling figure. Not only does his cunning and determination lead to Faustus' damnation, but his own torment and irritation leads us to feel sympathy for him, perhaps even more than we do for Faustus."

  • Marlowes original title was The Tragicall history of Dr. Faustus. To what extent do you consider Faustus a truly tragic figure?

    "In conclusion, I belief that Faustus is a tragic hero because although he committed terrible sins he is merely guilty of being human with immoral urges. Dr. Faustus is a morality play, it illustrates to the audience how one should not behave but it also illustrates the temptations that are put to them. Faustus had great ability but he unfortunately channeled his abilities in the wrong fashion. A tragic figure, according to Aristotle should be of high status so he would have further to fall, the hero should bring his own peripeteia because of his hamartia; the audience would also most likely have pathos for Faustus, sympathy because Faustus, other than his fateful flaw is actually a likeable character. The audience should also appreciate Faustus's fear because they can relate to his fall from grace and finally a tragic hero must have a moment of anagnorisis. Faustus has all these qualities in him and hence this is the reason why I believe that Faustus is a tragic hero."

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