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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 Knowledge about literary influences, eg. medieval morality plays.
- 2 Knowledge about the historical context, in particular religious attitudes to hell and damnation.
- 3 Knowledge about dramatic conventions such as the purposes for which soliloquy is used.
- 4 Knowledge about the possibilities and limitations of Elizabethan stagecraft.
- 5 Knowledge about the philosophical debate on free will versus fate.
Common mistakes in 'Dr Faustus' essays
- 1 Writing a one-sided arguments – for example, by not presenting the case both for and against whether Faustus can be considered heroic.
- 2 Making a point but not supporting it by detailed textual reference.
- 3 Failing to distinguish between Dr. Faustus the play and Dr. Faustus the character by appropriate use of quotation marks or italics.
- 4 Failing to analyse the language carefully in order to explore how effects are achieved.
- 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 Hubris.
- 2 Predestination.
- 3 Necromancy.
- 4 Redemption.
- 5 Salvation.
- Marked by Teachers essays 4
- Peer Reviewed essays 1
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 hell, 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
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
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 hell 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
"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
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 sexual innuendo and bizarre acts of idiocy.
- Word count: 1798
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
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
'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
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
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
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
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
What does Marlowe's presentation of Mephastophilis tell an audience about Sixteenth Century ideas of hell 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
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
What does Marlowe's presentation of Mephastophilis tell an audience about sixteen century ideas of hell 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
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
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
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
In seeking to become more than a man, with no regard for the spiritual consequences, he becomes an example to the religious audience of Marlowe's time of what happens when a man pursues knowledge undeterred by moral boundaries. Faustus appears to be driven by his thirst for knowledge. The chorus introduces him as 'glutted...with learning's golden gifts,' and led by his desire to further expand his knowledge he 'surfeits upon cursed necromancy.' This imagery connected with food and overindulgence is used to illustrate the scholastic gluttony that seems to control Faustus' actions, as though by learning he were feeding a hunger for knowledge.
- Word count: 1069
I have intentionally assigned brief readings this week in order to let you get "up to speed"; you should begin now to read Goethe's Faust, which is a longish text. The Faust legend is instructive of the ways in which definitions of "literature" and "folk tradition" or "high culture" (e.g. literature, opera) and "low culture" or "mass culture" or "popular culture" are often difficult to sustain. The legend inspired two great plays and two magnificent operas as well as several novels, while at the same time becoming a narrative motif in movies and television programs.
- Word count: 1095
By considering what Faustus gains in exchange for his soul, explore the ways Marlowe presents 16th Century views of pleasure and power in Dr. Faustus.
We see Faustus' lack of intelligence as early as the first summoning of Mephastophilis "Full of obedience and humility" Faustus' obvious disrespect for the enormity of the situation is shown when Mephastophilis reminds him that he is "in danger to be damned", even he tells the truth to Faustus and warns him of the pains of hell. The play revolves around the presentation of the power of God versus the power of the Devil which is reflected by the frequent apparitions of good and evil angel, possibly representing Faustus' conscience, and in almost all cases the evil angel has the final word showing the lustful desires of Faustus' subconscious to the audience.
- Word count: 1067
During his life, he performs extraordinary feats, which were unlike anything experienced by lesser mortals. Even by modern standards, the notion of necromancy is disturbing; for a contemporary Elizabethan audience, for whom religion permeated all aspects of life, it would have been inconceivably horrific. Once Faustus is "glutted with learning's golden gifts and surfeited upon cursed necromancy" he uses his powers to embark upon amazing adventures (for example learning the secrets of astronomy upon the summit of mount Olympus) which, again, are befitting of the tragic hero. Faustus reversal of fortune is also typically tragic.
- Word count: 1174
Every time the Angels appear and speak Faustus believes the angel who speaks last and does not detect the "Evil" Angel's lies. This demonstrates to he audience how incompetent and oblivious to his impending doom Faustus really is. By giving every piece of virtuous advice an evil counterpart and by presenting both the "Good" and "Evil" Angels, Marlowe would have greatly interested the audience at that time. The people of 16th century England would have been very aware of the seven deadly sins and therefore their counterparts, the seven cardinal virtues.
- Word count: 1805
However this is ironic, as we know that his knowledge contradicts himself as we soon discover that the decision made about selling his sole to the devil had a serious negative affect costing his life. We get the sense that he is not really independent but bases his theories on other philosophers. This provides the audience with the sense that Dr Faustus is uncertain. In lines 3-7, I believe that Faustus is demonstrating that he has succeeded in understanding all that one needs to know in the field of knowledge and philosophy 'level at the end of every art'.
- Word count: 1059
It shows the Renaissance arrogance, and how Faustus is unable to accept the Chain of Being; he sees himself as superior to all. Faustus also defies God; demonstrated in Scene 3, 'This word damnation terrifies not him.' This quote shows that Faustus is not scared of hell, and that he sees himself as being able to overpower the Devil and God. Humanism occurs, where Faustus is unable to accept that he has limitations. Faustus also has classic Renaissance curiosity, representing that he wants to know where heaven and hell are.
- Word count: 1070