Pain in Dr. Faustus and Oroonoko
In almost every piece of writing there is reference to some sort of pain, whether it be physical pain or emotional pain. In a story like Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, the physical pain stands out above any other grief or misery. However, Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus exhibits just as much pain, but in an emotional sense. This poses an interesting question: Is one pain worse than the other? Can pain be measured?
Pain, whether it be physical or emotional, is an unpleasant sensation. However, something like being poked with a safety pin or feeling sad would not be considered true pain. Physical pain is sent to the brain from other parts of the body, and when the brain recognizes the pain, the body feels it as well.
There is no scientific evidence on where emotional pain comes from, but most people agree with Stanley Schachter’s analysis of emotions in the late 1950’s. Schachter said that emotional pain "begins when a person encounters an important event or thought. The person then interprets the meaning of the encounter, and the interpretation determines the feeling that is likely to follow. (Black 22)"
Throughout history, people have documented their encounters with physical and emotional pain in works such as stories or poems. Neither pain was extensively researched until the late 19th century, so neither Marlowe nor Behn had any documentation on the causes and effects of physical and emotional pain. But both were able to take painful elements from their environment and put them into their texts.
Marlowe wrote Dr. Faustus in 1592, in the middle of the Elizabethian era. The story revolves around a man who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for several years of "forbidden knowledge." Dr. Faustus is written in theatrical form (to be staged), a genre popularized during Elizabeth’s reign by writers such as Marlowe and Shakespeare. This form allowed authors to develop characters and experiment with emotion through dialogue, something authors were unable to do in poetry and had yet to do in stories. Dr. Faustus reads like a commentary on religion intended for the more affluent members of society: Don’t ask for things outside of your means or status. The story could also be a warning to monarchs who believe they are superhuman or divine.
Because of the nature of the story, the pain expressed in Dr.