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The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus. by Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593). Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593). English dramatist and poet (Elizabethan) Major plays (tragedies): Tamburlaine the Great (c. 1587) Dr. Faustus (c. 1588) The Jew of Malta (c. 1589)

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the tragical history of doctor faustus

The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus

by Christopher Marlowe


christopher marlowe 1564 1593
Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)
  • English dramatist and poet (Elizabethan)
  • Major plays (tragedies):
    • Tamburlaine the Great (c. 1587)
    • Dr. Faustus (c. 1588)
    • The Jew of Malta (c. 1589)
  • Marlowe's Dramas
  • Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus
medieval plays
Medieval Plays
  • Mystery—enact events of the Bible, generally part of dramatic cycles presented on a religious holiday.
  • Miracle—focus on enactments of the miracles performed by the saints.
  • Morality—focus on allegorical representations of moral issues, designed to stand alone.

Doctor Faustus borrows many of the conventions of the morality play.

the morality play
The Morality Play
  • Developed in the late Middle Ages.
  • The central figure usually represents humanity in general. (Faustus represents humanity but is also an individual.)
  • A dramatized allegory in which abstract virtues and vices appear in personified form, which serve as inspiration for various characters in Renaissance drama.
elements of the morality play in marlowe s dr faustus
Elements of The Morality Play in Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus
  • the battle over the spirit, waged by a Good Angel and a Bad Angel.
  • the parade of the Seven Deadly Sins: Pride, Covetousness, Envy, Wrath, Gluttony, Sloth, Lechery.
  • the potential for salvation, which exists until Faustus finally succumbs to despair and gives up all hope of being able to repent.
  • Prologue: Dr. Faustus, Rhodes, Germany
  • Scene 1: Faustus dissatisfies with all the

knowledge he studies and determines

to study magic.

  • Scene 3: Calls Mephastophilis, Lucifer’s minister
  • Scene 5: Faustus surrenders his soul to Satan

and has great power among 24 years

  • Scene 7: Amazes the Pope by becoming


  • Scene 9: Calls the spirit of Alexander the


  • Scene 11: Brings ripe grapes in January
  • Scene 12,13: When 24 years is almost over,

he begins to fear Satan and

nearly repents

He is carried off by devils at the end.

  • Sin, Redemption and Damnation
    • Sin:acts contrary to the will of God

In making a pact with Lucifer, Faustus commits the ultimate sin: not only does he disobey God, but he consciously and even eagerly renounces obedience to him, choosing instead to swear allegiance to the devil. However terrible Faustus’s pact with Lucifer may be, the possibility of redemption is always open to him. All that he needs to do is ask God for forgiveness. Yet, Faustus decides to remain loyal to hell.

The conflict between Medieval and Renaissance Values:

The medieval world placed God at the center of existence and shunted aside man and the natural world.

The Renaissance was a movement that began in Italy in the fifteenth century and soon spread throughout Europe, carrying with it a new emphasis on the individual, on classical learning, and on scientific inquiry into the nature of the world.

In the medieval academy, theology was the queen of the sciences. In the Renaissance, secular matters took center stage.


Power as a Corrupting Influence

  • Gaining absolute power corrupts Faustus by making him mediocre and by transforming his boundless ambition into a meaningless delight in petty celebrity.
  • The Divided Nature of Man
  • Internal struggle (personified in
  • good angel and the evil angel, and the old man)
selling his soul to obtain power
  • drawn up the character of an intelligent learned man tragically seduced by the lure of power greater than mortally meant to be
  • the superstitious mind frequently deemed magicians in league with the devil
  • ideal of humanism: damn nonetheless, thus satirizing the ideals of Renaissance Humanism
  • In extant form the play shows the familiar double-plot construction with buffoonery in the subplot (in prose) to parallel the Faust theme (the major plot—in verse).
  • The Good and Bad Angels contending for the soul of Faustus come straight out of the medieval Moralities.
  • 3 main parts:

1. The lure of Faustus

2. Faustus owns the magic power

3. The death of Faustus

functions of the comic scenes
Functions of the Comic Scenes
  • Cover passage of time.
  • Parallel and parody the main plot.
  • Foreshadow events to come.
  • Give comic relief.
characterization faustus
  • He is bold enough to sell his soul to the Devil for ultimate knowledge.
  • He is sometimes ultimately arrogant, overly confident.
  • He is a loner who faces the ultimate test by himself.
  • He can be viewed as naïve.
characterization faustus15
  • A contradictory character:
  • tells himself hell is not bad


wants to go to heaven

  • ambitiouswastes powers
  • Represents the spirit of the Renaissance
minor characters
Minor Characters
  • Wagner: Faustus’s servant, a student
  • Valdes and Cornelius: F’s friends, magicians
  • Robin and Rafe: Ostlers at an inn

Even these two fools can learn enough magic to summon demons.

  • Emperor Charles V
  • A knight at the court (Benvolio)
  • Horse-courser
references relevant links
References/relevant links: