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Dr. Faustus Essay: Faustus' Changing Relationship with the Audience

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Doctor Faustus' Changing Relationship with the Audience


Any good drama will have interesting and multi-faceted characters; some go a step further by developing some of those characters throughout the story, using the events of the plot to change them in various ways. The audience (in the case of a play) follows the characters throughout, watching as they move away from their originally crafted personalities and become something different. Naturally, during this period, the audience's opinion of the characters will change, as will their sympathies. In the case of Doctor Faustus, it is only Faustus' character that has a large enough part in the play to change perceptibly; the other characters are either incidental characters, existing purely for the sake of the plot and ongoing story (in particular, most of the characters from the middle section of the play, from the scenes that take place in the courts of Rome and Germany), or mythological characters, such as Mephostophilis, who are traditional 'morality play' characters and, consequently, are constrained by their accepted dramatic roles.

The character of Faustus, however, changes greatly throughout the play, mainly with regard to his opinions of hell and repentance. Perhaps more important than the changes his character undergoes are the situations in which he finds himself: the audience's shifting sympathy is due as much to his personal developments as well as his changing circumstances.

At he very beginning of the play, we are introduced to Faustus in a very clinical, objective fashion. In the Prologue, the Chorus briefly describes his past and then hints about the events to come ("His waxen wings did mount above his reach, / And, melting, heavens conspir'd his o...


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...hip between Faustus and the audience, as he fully accepts his own mistake and does not blame it solely on Lucifer or his parents or any other person. Scene XX serves to remind us that Faustus was once a normal human being and that he will end his life, after a fashion, as a human being, as the scholars vow to "give his mangled limbs due burial".

At various times during the play we are exasperated by Faustus, endeared to him, laugh with him and, at the end, we feel great pity for him. It is to Marlowe's great credit that he manages to take us on such a long journey with the character and gain our sympathy at the end, despite Faustus effectively being an agent of evil.

Works Cited:

Marlowe, Christopher. "The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 6th ed. Eds. M.H. Abrams et. al. New York: W.W. Norton and Co, 1993.


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