Renaissance Authors and Psychological Depth in their Characters: Example of Marlowe´s The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus

Renaissance Authors and Psychological Depth in their Characters: Example of Marlowe´s The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus

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How do Renaissance Playwrights attempt to lend psychological depth to their characters?




Marlowe's major dramas, Tamburlaine, The jew of Malta and Doctor Faustus, all portrays heroes
who desperately seek power- the power of rule, of knowledge, and respectability. All his heroes are overreacher and are 'striving to get beyond the conventional boundaries established to contain the human will.' This paper will focus on Marlowe's well-known play: The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, in which Faustus seeks the mastery and voluptuous pleasure that come from forbbiden knowledge. In the play Faustus aspires to be more than a man: 'a sound magicien is a mighty god.' To achieve his goal Faustus chooses to make a bargain with Lucifer. This essay will turn to show how did Renaissance playwrights, such as Marlowe, attempt to lend psychological depth to their characters.



In the opening soliloquy of the play, Faustus bids farewell to each of his studies- logic, medicine, law, and divinity. All the knowledge he has acquired seems useless, as he is still ' but Faustus, and a man.' He is aspiring for more challenging studies, some knowlegde that will make him well-known 'couldst thou make men to live eternally, or, being dead, raise them to life again, then this profession were to be esteemed.' Most importantly is his renouncement of divinity. Indeed, Faustus finds the words of the Bible to be hard and unfair, ' the reward of sin is deaths? That's hard.' This is the reason why Faustus turns away from divinity and thus declares: ' What doctrine call you this? Che sarà, sarà, what will be, shall be? Divinity, adieu!' According to Jung, 'the death of meaning in the mythic symbols of Christianity was beginning during the Renaissance...


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...or I confound hell in Elysium.'
Mephastophilis is a crucial character in the play, indeed he is 'the symbol of the shadow, archetype of the dark. On this level, Mephastophilis can be seen as the converse of faustus- a figure representing the psychological qualities repressed un Faustus.' He is the opposite of the power-hungry Faustus, Mephastophilis is percieved as humbel and sincere. This can be illustated by the following quote: Faustus asks 'How comes it then that thou art out of hell? Here is Mephastophilis' answer: ' why this is hell, nor ma I out of it. Think'st thou that I who saw the face of God and tasted the eternal joys of heaven am not tormented with ten thousand hells in being deprived of everlasting bliss?' He also warn faustus not to give his souls to the devil ' O Faustus, leave these frivolous demands, which strikes a terror to my fainting soul.

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