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Dr Faustus - Ambition

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Length: 1258 words (3.6 double-spaced pages)
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Dr Faustus - Ambition

“Marlowe’s biographers often portray him as a dangerously over–ambitious individual. Explore ways this aspect of Marlowe’s personality is reflected in ‘Dr. Faustus.’ ”

Christopher Marlowe lived during the Renaissance period in 16th century England.
Although this was a time of change, the Elizabethans still had fixed moral values. ‘The Chain of Being,’ a concept inherited from the Middle Ages, can be described as a hierarchy of society, with the monarch at the top and the lowliest peasants at the bottom. Below people were animals, plants and rocks. During the Elizabethan era, ‘dangerous ambition’ would probably involve trying to break the ‘Chain of Being’ and striving to increase one’s social status. It was believed to be necessary to accept one’s place in the chain, as to disrupt it and overcome the set order of society could mean chaos would follow.

Faustus was an exceedingly ambitious man, even in relation to what is considered to be ambitious by people in today’s society. In the prologue, The Chorus sums up Faustus’ background and early life, emphasizing his ordinary background and academic success. It seems that Faustus’ intellect made him become proud and this fired up his ambition. When Marlowe presents Faustus in scene 1, Faustus methodically shuns great authors and classically intellectual subjects, such as medicine and law because they hold little attraction to him, (line 11)

‘A greater subject fitteth Faustus’ wit.’

The abo...


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... ‘Chain of Being’. However, if Marlowe chose to be ‘dangerously over-ambitious’ and regarded himself as this, it is likely that he may have written ‘Dr. Faustus’ differently, not viewing ambition in such a negative way. Whatever Marlowe’s view on ambition was, it is not made clear in the play, through Faustus or other characters. Certain aspects of his personality are indeed reflected in Faustus, which make reading the play and exploring Faustus as a character even more intriguing.

Bibliography:

York Notes Advanced – Dr. Faustus

‘Writers and their Work, Christopher Marlowe’ by Thomas Healy (Northcote House Publishers)

‘Christopher Marlowe’ by Roger Sales (Macmillan)

‘A Death In Deptford’ by Mei Trow and Christopher Hague

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