October 25

Doctor Faustus, I

Christopher Marlowe

Marlowe (1564-93) is born the same year as Shakespeare. Both a poet and playwright, his plays include Doctor Faustus, Tamburlaine, and Edward II.

Marlowe the Innovator

Tamburlaine is a two-part play about the rise to power of a hero from humble origins, a shepherd who ends up conquering Asia Minor.

Doctor Faustus was composed c. 1592. It shows us another over-reacher: a brilliant individual of humble birth who this time challenges Christian orthodoxy.

Again, the Problem of Ends, Limits, Boundaries

Faustus's opening soliloquy expresses his desire to reach beyond the constraints of ordinary fields of knowledge, but his attempt to transcend all limitations can only be articulated within the constraints of his own language & his own imagination.

Note this double dynamic in Renaissance writings--the expansiveness which celebrates the scope of human powers is often accompanied, or complicated, by a kind of retrenchment, an acknowledgment of boundaries.

Indeed, Sidney praises the God-like creative powers of the poet--but comes back down to earth to concede that the Poet is not God; that the poet may be a creator but he is also a creation of a greater Maker; that the poet's powers ultimately derive from God.

The Temptation of Faustus

Does Mephastophilis tempt Faustus? Or does he damn himself? (Note his recasting of the very notion of transgression in terms of "manly" heroic action in 1.3.95ff.)

NB: F. even comes up with terms of the contract, the 24 year limit.

More pertinent questions: