The Five Knowledges of Dr. Faustus Essay

The Five Knowledges of Dr. Faustus Essay

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Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus is a play that questions both renaissance and medieval ideas. The character of Doctor Faustus is introduced as a renaissance man with degrees in various subjects and an abundance of knowledge from his high education. Unfortunately for him, this knowledge is not sufficient and his cravings for higher knowledge and power soon corrupt his mind and lead him to his ill-fated end. The opening soliloquy introduces Doctor Faustus's areas of knowledge as debate, health, law, theology, and a desire to learn about black magic. As he goes through each of his degrees, dropping names and showing off, he shows a sense of false hope in them. Doctor Faustus shows how dissatisfied he is with his studies and explains his thirst for something more than education can give him. He concludes his speech by saying "Here Faustus, try thy brains to gain a deity." (Scene 1, l. 63) The desire for power that cannot be attained by simple knowledge proves here to have overcome Faustus and cause him to now lean towards extremes in order to get what he wants most, being equal to God and having tremendous power. Faustus shares his knowledge of the five areas of study but also ends up questioning them. Even though he gives up on what he has already learned, finding it useless and unnecessary, the ideas and philosophies of his education appears throughout the rest of his life, which creates the rest of the play.

In his studies of debate and logic, Faustus insists that "Bene disserere est finis logices" (Scene 1, l. 7) or to be able to carry on a good debate is the completion of logic's purpose. Feeling that he has already attained this, Faustus discounts his knowledge of logic and debate. Although he seems to have g...


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...apparent over the course of the entire play proving that black magic cannot be dropped. Above all the other things that Faustus knows, black magic is the hardest to forget because it is entirely vengeful and sinful much like Faustus himself.

Faustus seems unable to realize that his knowledge is constant and appears in his life whether or not he wants it or is expecting it. Knowledge is not something that one can simply forget about. Once something is learned, it stays in the brain even if the person does not believe it or agree with what he has learned. Doctor Faustus spends the play trying to attain more and more power to achieve a God-like status. He does not seem to understand that power and status cannot be attained through sin, magic, and cruelty. The only true way to become powerful is through knowledge and the continuance of learning and education.

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