In his typical fashion, Marlowe explores a very controversial theme to his contemporary audience in his play Dr. Faustus. The Calvinistic doctrine of predestination, or the idea that God has already chosen those who will be saved, had gained substantial ground in Elizabethan England particularly within the Puritan movement in the Anglican Church. Marlowe had no doubt been familiar with this modification of the age-old idea that one's fate is already decided. Obviously this debate helped him create his own version of Faust. In the prologue, Marlowe begins his characterization:
Of riper years to Wittenburg he went,
Whereas his kinsmen chiefly brought him up.
So soon he profits in divinity,
The fruitful plot of scholarism graced,
That shortly he was graced with doctor's name,
Excelling all whose sweet delight disputes
In heavenly matters of theology. (Marlowe 345)
From this introduction the reader learns several valuable pieces of information. First that Faustus is from Wittenburg, the birth place of the Protestant movement which includes Calvinism. Secondly that Faustus is a doctor of theology. Marlowe is irrefutably attempting to connect his creation, Dr. Faustus, to the theological authorities who argued in favor of the doctrine of predestination. This connection is strengthened further when Faustus' fatalism becomes apparent.
In the open...
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... believes his life to be beyond his own control even when he is the only character to have made any significant decisions in the entire play. Because of the many times he refuses divine help and rejects the idea that he controls his life, Faustus' stubborn belief that he cannot be saved appears almost comically tragic to the audience. The reader gains a sense that Faustus uses fatalism as a justification to do whatever he wants. This may be Marlowe attempting to bring attention to a condition he saw in his society.
For Faustus, fatalism became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Marlowe manipulated the Faust legend to comment on a belief widely held in his society. Because of his atheistic tendancies, Marlowe was able to look at religious beliefs objectively and, through Dr. Faustus, he urged his audience to reflect upon the Calvinistic conception of predestination.
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