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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.
1 The comparative study of English versification at various periods is a large tract of unwritten history. To make a study of blank verse alone, would be to elicit some curious conclusions. It would show, I believe, that blank verse within Shakespeare's lifetime was more highly developed, that it became the vehicle of more varied and more intense art-emotions than it has ever conveyed since; and that after the erection of the Chinese Wall of Milton, blank verse has suffered not only arrest but retrogression. That the blank verse of Tennyson, for example, a consummate master of this form in certain applications, is cruder (not "rougher" or less perfect in technique)
- Word count: 3422
Rhetorical questions such as '...why did he not take the best...' involve the reader and make them think about possible answers to Dupin's questions. It also makes you think along the same lines as Dupin. The Big Sleep extract shows Marlowe questioning Brody about his involvement with Geiger. The Big Sleep is written in the first person narrative, as is The Murders in The Rue Morgue. In this extract this helps show Brody's attitude to Marlowe (e.g. 'Brody was breathing hard,' shows Brody is scared of Marlowe.)
- Word count: 613
The tragical history of 'Doctor Faustus', which followed in the wake of 'Tamburlaine', is acclaimed by all as Marlowe's best play in which the leaven of fertile poetry and fearless imagination works wonders.
and of a certain magnitude; The beginning, called by modern critics the incentive moment, must start the cause-and-effect chain but not be dependent on anything outside the compass of the play meaning that its causes are downplayed but its effects are stressed. The middle, or climax, must be caused by earlier incidents and itself cause the incidents that follow it. The end, or resolution, must be caused by the preceding events but not lead to other incidents outside the compass of the play; the end should therefore solve or resolve the problem created during the incentive moment.
- Word count: 1554
After his studies, he went to London in 1587 and took up the profession of playwright at which he became very successful with Tamburlaine the Great and its sequel, Tamburlaine the Great, Part II. He associated himself with the Admiral's Men a company of actors for whom he wrote most his plays. The dates of composition of Marlowe's plays are not certain, had he may have began writing while still at university. Doctor Faustus was probably written in the late 1580s.
- Word count: 581
This quotes exemplifies his attitude to wanting to be able to command everything between the north and South Pole in the world, he intends to have control over everything that exists. He is after something that others is not conscious of. As a reader, we are alert of his status in society, but we come to consider that he is not content with this and wants to 'make men live eternally'. He has an representation of becoming god, which is the ultimate supreme spirit and seems to be exited over the thought of being a doctor who can raise people from the dead like Christ, 'or, being dead, raise them to life again'.
- Word count: 1410
Faustus shows his true colours as a student when he tells Cornelius and Valdes that he will 'fill the public schools with silk' and make 'the Rhine circle fair Wittenberg'. These aims show his loyalty to his home and to his students. In the first scene, the main thing I notice about Faustus is his na�vety. He does not realise the horrors of hell, partly through his determination not to believe in it, and partly through Cornelius' and Valdes' influence, as they give him the magic books with no warning as to their power.
- Word count: 899
The Importance of Scene 5 in context with the whole play - "Now Faustus, must thou be damned, And canst thou be saved"
Persuasion is the second as persuasive efforts are made by the Good and Evil Angels to influence him. "...think of heaven, and of heavenly things" - Good Angel. "...think of honour and of wealth" - Evil Angel Scene five is important because it shows Faustus' transaction from an honourable Christian to a greedy Satanist. It is the most important scene as all his ambitions are shown for the first time. The scene focuses on all the major strands that play a key role in the other scenes - intellectual curiosity, Faustus' moral hesitations and the display put on by the Devil to keep him happy and forget the negative issues.
- Word count: 524
He will wear ordinary 21^st century clothes (a t-shirt, jeans and trainers). He will casually, with his hands in his pockets, walk to the front of the stage and deliver the lines as if he normally spoke the way it is written. I chose to have him this way because if you read between the lines, you can see that there is a connection between him and the prologue. By coming out and stating what it won't be about and telling the audience that even though it's not what you expected, that doesn't mean that it won't be good.
- Word count: 1029
Do you think that the lines of the Chorus which end Doctor Faustus sum up satisfactorily the meaning of the play?
The play is also briefly mentioned when Faustus has descended into hell, as is implied by the sentence 'Regard his hellish fall'. Apart from these brief references the Chorus simply laments the life of Faustus, the fact that he was a great scholar who was tempted by evil and eventually lost everything that he held dear. For example, the initial image of the 'branch that might have grown full straight' having been 'cut' implies that Faustus' talent was undeniable and his potential to succeed was limitless.
- Word count: 1092
Throughout the play, the two angels, Good and Evil, represent Faustus' constant state of indecision. They appear together every time Faustus wonders whether or not he should repent and highlight the fact that "the choice is his and unconstrained" (Cole, 202). At the beginning of this scene, the Good and Evil Angels make another appearance as Faustus once again shows his uncertainty. He wavers between continuing to serve Belzebub and turning back to God, which can be seen in the following quote: "Despair in God and trust in Belzebub. / Now go not backward. No, Faustus, be resolute.
- Word count: 1089
He also receives a number of books from both Mephastophilis and Lucifer, which he vows to 'keep as chary as my life,' and uses his twenty four years before damnation to continue his studies, seeking to 'prove cosmography' and becoming renowned for his 'learned skill' as 'his fame spread forth in every land.' Born from 'parents of base stock' and rising to greatness beyond the normal scope of man, I think that Faustus could be seen as a Renaissance hero were it not for the misdirection of his knowledge towards evil.
- Word count: 1706
The association with such plays would also have created expectations within the audience for later features in the play, such as the profound emphasis on religion and good angel vs. bad angel. The use of ?grac?d with doctors name? within the prologue gives an immediate indication of Faustus? education and this supported with ?excelling all? highlights his genius, showing him primarily in a positive light. However, Marlowe soon reveals Faustus? faults through the description ?glutted with learning?s golden gifts?. The choice of ?glutted? immediately forecasts Faustus? downfall as it is one of the seven deadly sins and thus conveys Faustus? greed of learning to be his underlying weakness and sin.
- Word count: 1195