Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus

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From the outset of Marlowe's play 'Doctor Faustus,' it is clear that

Faustus is a man who is unwilling to accept the limitations of human

knowledge. In seeking to become more than a man, with no regard for

the spiritual consequences, he becomes an example to the religious

audience of Marlowe's time of what happens when a man pursues

knowledge undeterred by moral boundaries.

From the outset of the play, Faustus appears to be driven by his

thirst for knowledge. The chorus introduces him as 'glutted…with

learning's golden gifts,' and led by his desire to further expand his

knowledge he 'surfeits upon cursed necromancy.' Here, I noticed that

imagery connected with food and overindulgence is used to illustrate

the scholastic gluttony that seems to control Faustus' actions, as

though by learning he were feeding a hunger. His own words at the

beginning of the play, which are interspersed with the names of works

he has studied and phrases in foreign languages, immediately convey

his strongly academic nature. Showing the importance Faustus attaches

to learning, his first request of Mephastophilis is for knowledge

relating to the whereabouts of hell, and he later continues to

question the demon on astrology and philosophical issues. 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


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consequences of his actions. This is reinforced by the judgement of

the chorus, who provides the moral framework with which the audience

is encouraged to view Faustus. I think that the prologue and epilogue,

features of Morality Plays, are particularly important in ensuring

that the audience is given the intended impression of the central

character, whose fate, the chorus insists at the play's closing, is

deserved due to his acting on the desire to 'practice more than

heavenly power permits.'

When Faustus is finally dragged away to hell at the close of his

twenty four years of demonic power, he serves as a reminder to

Marlowe's audience of what happens to those who disobey God.

Essentially therefore, I agree that the play's message concerns the

dangers, in this case spiritual, that a thirst for knowledge poses

when coupled with a lack of morality.
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