The Comic Scenes in Doctor Faustus

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THE COMIC SCENES IN DOCTOR FAUSTUS:
(A Powerful Play with a weak Plot)

In any tragic or serious play, the dramatist tries to give relief to the audience by introducing comic scenes or episodes. The literary term for such comic interludes is known as tragic relief. A tragedy is bound to create tension in the mind of the audience and if this tension is not relaxed from time to time, it generates some sort of emotional weakness in the mind of the audience. Hence, comic scenes are a necessity to ease the tension and refresh the mind. There was a pressing demand from the side of Elizabethan audience for such interludes. Hence, play wrights had to introduce such comic scenes as the producers also demanded them for a successful run of the play. The comic interlude may have an appropriate emotional connection in the development of the tragic play. But it is also admitted that in Marlowe’s dramas, this tragic relief seems to be crude and often verges on horseplay and buffoonery. For these scenes, it is often said that “Dr Faustus” is a powerful drama with a weak plot. A close study of Marlowe’s famous play “Dr. Faustus” shows us that there are fourteen scenes in all. Out of them, comic scenes are five or six.

According to the critics, the comic elements in these scenes are low and vulgar, full of coarse buffoonery and they can not be accepted as organic parts of the tragic play. They are of the opinion that only in the first comic scene do we see worked out with some care a comic burlesque of the main plot. Another objection on comic scenes in Dr. Faustus is that most of them are later interpolation and not from the mighty pen of Marlowe. Some of these critical arguments really hold good. If we study Marlowe’s play “Temburlaine”, we find him in the prologue to this play, proudly declaring that:

“From jigging veins of rhyming mother wits, And such conceits of clownage keep in pay, We shall lead you to the stately tent of war.”

This shows that Marlowe must have...
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