The Presentation of Kurtz and Faustus in Marlowe's Play Essay

The Presentation of Kurtz and Faustus in Marlowe's Play Essay

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Doctor Faustus - Analyse the extract closely. In the course of your
writing, compare and contrast the presentation of Kurtz with that of
Faustus in Marlowe's play.

Doctor Faustus: Model answer

Analyse the extract closely. In the course of your writing, compare
and contrast the presentation of Kurtz with that of Faustus in
Marlowe's play.

Initially, one could be forgiven for thinking that a novel written in
the early 2oth Century would have little in common with an Elizabethan
play yet "Heart of Darkness" and "Dr Faustus" are both the stories of
men who achieve great things using "unsound methods", methods that
ultimately condemn them. This essay will compare and contrast the
presentation of Kurtz in an extract from Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"
with that of Faustus in Marlowe's play.

From the first scene of the play Faustus is a condemned man, signing
away his soul to the Devil in return for temporal power, "This night I
conjure though I die therefore" Kurtz is also presented to us as a man
in the final stages of his life, rapidly approaching death, "Kurtz's
life was running swiftly, too, ebbing, ebbing out of his heart into
the sea of inexorable time".

Faustus is presented as a flawed character whose intellect and
ambition seal his own fate. His ambition to achieve God-like
omnipotence whilst living on Earth is made possible by his
intellectual perception of the world. In the first scene Faustus lists
the discoveries and ideas of all the great authors he has studied:
theology, philosophy, logic, medicine then law. He finds reasons to
dismiss each discipline and, although he reconsiders theology, he
ultimately disregards it because he logically believes that all human
beings must sin and die....


... middle of paper ...


...pair; but he
still seems convinced that he can win when he violently shouts that he
will "wring your heart yet" into the wilderness. Maybe, like Faustus,
Kurtz must follow the path he has chosen until its terrible end.

In conclusion, Marlow and Conrad deal with similar themes in very
different ways. Both writers present characters who use "unsound
methods" to achieve temporal power yet their approaches to
characterisation and narrative are in contrast with each other. This
can, perhaps, be largely attributed to the fact that Marlow wrote
Faustus in the early sixteenth century whilst Conrad wrote his novel
in the early twentieth century. "Dr Faustus" was intended to be
performed on stage and would have shocked an Elizabethan audience in
its atheism and the unspeakable horror of "Heart of Darkness" would
have had an equally disturbing on Conrad's readers.

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