How Successfully Does Marlowe portrayal of Faustus reflect the attitudes and beliefs of Elizabethan times?

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Christopher Heal                        Ms Banfield                        English Literature                Yr 13

How Successfully Does Marlowe portrayal of Faustus reflect the attitudes and beliefs of Elizabethan times?

Christopher Marlowe lived in a time of great change for England and the whole of Europe. New developments in the field of science were overturning ancient ideas about astronomy and physics and the discovery of the Americas had transformed the European views of the world. Christian and pagan beliefs interacted with each other in rich and often illogical ways, and signs of that complicated interaction are present in many of Marlowe's works. We see the idea’s of Renaissance Europe through Dr Faustus in Dr Faustus.

Doctor Faustus is a play of deep questions concerning morality, religion, and man's relationship to both. Sorcery and magic were part of widespread belief systems throughout Europe that predated Christianity. These early beliefs about magic were present in medicine. Women in particular used a mix of magic and herbal medicine to treat common illnesses. But as Christianity spread and either absorbed or rejected other belief systems, practitioners of magic came to be viewed as evil. These themes are presented in Doctor Faustus especially the idea of religion. 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. He is selfish--wanting knowledge, power, and fun without having to work or take responsibility for it. As result of his selfish desires, he signs a contract with his blood trading his soul for his desires, eternal peace for eternal anguish, thus beginning his hardships which leads to him committing the other 6 sins becoming increasingly petty and low.  Like Christian belief that it is Pride which lead for the Devil to be exiled from heaven, it to is behind Faustus’ downfall.

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Elizabethans had a strong view on hell. Hell was developed throughout the Medieval and Tudor times by the church to scare the ordinary people. It was widely believed that Hell is eternal, but so is heaven. For a Christian, all that is necessary to be saved from eternal damnation is acceptance of Jesus Christ's grace. This belief can be shown in Faustus as early as Scence 3 where Faustus signs away his soul. Even after signing away his soul to the devil, Faustus has the option of repentance that will save him from hell. But once he has committed ...

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