Dr. Faustus

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The proud Doctor Faustus himself appears as a liminal figure, straddling the ground between residual and emergent modes of behavior and thought, presenting to Marlowe's audience an aspect at times inspiring, but at others frightening, or worse, despicable. Faustus sells his soul for knowledge and power, but gets very little of either. His ambition is admirable and initially awesome, yet he ultimately lacks a certain inner strength. He is unable to embrace his dark path wholeheartedly but is also unwilling to admit his mistake. “Till swollen with cunning of a self-conceit,

His waxen wings did mount above his reach,
And melting heavens conspired his overthrow.
For falling to a devilish exercise,
And glutted more with learning’s golden gifts,
He surfeits upon cursed necromancy.”

These lines make clear the nature of Faustus’ weakness – his intellectual vanity and arrogance and his boredom with what he already knows. A strong indication of his eventual fate is also given by the allusion to the story of Icarus, whose waxen wings melted when he flew too close to the sun. He is an arrogant, self-aggrandizing man, but his ambitions are so grand that we cannot help being impressed, and we even feel sympathetic toward him. He represents the spirit of the Renaissance, with its rejection of the medieval, God-centered universe, and its embrace of human possibility. Faustus, at least early on in his acquisition of magic, is the personification of possibility. According to the Renaissance view, Faustus rebels against the limitations of medieval knowledge and the restriction put upon humankind decreeing that he must accept his place in the universe without challenging it. Because of his universal desire for enlightenment, Faustus makes a contract for knowledge and power. His desire, according to the Renaissance, is to transcend the limitations of humanity and rise to greater achievements and heights. In the purest sense, Faustus wants to prove that he can become greater...
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