―Hell is Empty, and All the Devils are Here‖: The Influence of Doctor Faustus on The Tempest
A Senior Honors Thesis Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for graduation with research distinction in English in the undergraduate colleges of The Ohio State University by Jonathan Holmes The Ohio State University March 2009 Project Advisor: Professor Derek Alwes, English Department
2 William Shakespeare‘s sources and influences have been the subject of much discussion, which includes vigorous scholarly debate over what effects, if any, Shakespeare‘s contemporaries had on his art. Of those contemporaries, Christopher Marlowe arguably had the greatest impact. However, it is difficult to craft an argument for a specific influence, because, as Stephen J. Lynch puts it, ―I would not deny the profound influence of Marlowe, Chaucer, and the Bible on Shakespeare, but such influences are submersed and dispersed throughout Shakespeare‘s work‖ (117). Thus, numerous influences for various plays have been proposed, but few have been embraced by the majority of Renaissance scholars, whose disputation over such matters continues still. Yet it remains an issue worth interrogating because such analyses can profoundly influence our understanding of the plays and of Shakespeare‘s art more generally. Most of the scholarship regarding Marlowe‘s influence on Shakespeare appears to focus almost exclusively on Shakespeare‘s early plays. One analysis that many other articles cite is Irving Ribner‘s. He compares and contrasts the works of both playwrights, but he focuses only on Shakespeare‘s early plays, such as Henry VI, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, and The Merchant of Venice (Macbeth is the only later play addressed). James Shapiro makes some claims of a very strong influence that all but died out by 1600. He finds that, at least early on in Shakespeare‘s career, the assimilation of Marlowe‘s art took on different forms, evolving from parodic to tributary. Marjorie Garber‘s article on the subject is primarily concerned with Shakespearean drama written before Marlowe‘s death. Although she disagrees with Shapiro in that she views the influence as reactionary rather than assimilative, she agrees with him in perceiving such an influence as being relatively short-lived. A recent article by Maurice Charney identifies Shakespeare‘s indebtedness to Marlowe as characterized in a comparison of
3 The Jew of Malta and The Merchant of Venice. Charney‘s analysis focuses on the relationship between two specific plays; however, it is also indicative of the general trend in scholarship to discuss the influence of Marlowe upon Shakespeare within a framework that focuses on the early plays of the latter, without even acknowledging the possibility of an influence within his later works. Nevertheless, there are a small number of articles that suggest a Marlovian influence on later plays or at least on The Tempest. Of those articles that address the various connections between Doctor Faustus and The Tempest, the conclusions that are drawn vary greatly from each other. Jeffrey Hart suggests that Prospero is something of an amalgamation of Faustus and Robert Greene‘s Friar Bacon, citing Prospero‘s abjuration scene as the main parallel with Friar Bacon. But David Young disagrees with Hart‘s conclusion. Young argues that The Tempest is a product of the influences of Marlowe and Jonson (although the accepted date for production of The Alchemist raises some serious doubts upon this theory). For Young, tracing a partial influence to Jonson‘s alchemist helps to reconcile some of the significant differences between Faustus and Prospero. Another critic that argues for a connection between both plays is David Lucking, who highlights a number of parallels between Doctor Faustus and The Tempest. Most of his observations are thoughtful, though some are more tenuous than others. Although Lucking‘s critical reading of Prospero is similar to my own, he does not...
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