Meg-01: British Poetry

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  • Topic: Faust, Devil, Hell
  • Pages : 13 (4729 words )
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  • Published : September 25, 2011
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Discuss Dr. Fautus as a tragedy relevant to all times.

Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus is a tragedy that can be relevant to all times because it deals with topics much inherent to human nature. The hunger for wealth, the power of ambition, and the desperate seeking for a better place for ourselves often expose our worse qualities: The weaknesses that appear as a result of our obvious co-dependence to these material and superficial emotions. When Faustus chose to make a pact with the Devil, this was allegorical in that we, as people, everyday make pacts of a similar kind: We sometimes engage in behaviors that we know are not correct just for the sake of getting something we want. In other occasions, we befriend people, or make agreements that we know might hurt someone else and yet go for it when we really are hungry for something we want. Therefore, the themes in Faustus repeat themselves through time and go from person to person individually, surpassing time.

The Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, commonly referred to simply as Doctor Faustus, is a play by Christopher Marlowe, based on the Faust story, in which a man sells his soul to the devil for power and knowledge. Doctor Faustus was first published in 1604, eleven years after Marlowe's death and at least twelve years after the first performance of the play. "No Elizabethan play outside the Shakespeare canon has raised more controversy than Doctor Faustus. There is no agreement concerning the nature of the text and the date of composition... and the centrality of the Faust legend in the history of the Western world precludes any definitive agreement on the interpretation of the play..."[1]

Performance

The Admiral's Men performed Doctor Faustus twenty-five times in the three years between October 1594 and October 1597. On 22 November 1602, the Diary of Philip Henslowe records a £4 payment to Samuel Rowley and William Bird for additions to the play, which suggests a revival soon after that date.[2] The powerful effect of the early productions is indicated by the legends that quickly accrued around them. In Histriomastix, his 1632 polemic against the drama, William Prynne records the tale that actual devils once appeared on the stage during a performance of Faustus, "to the great amazement of both the actors and spectators". Some people were allegedly driven mad, "distracted with that fearful sight". John Aubrey recorded a related legend, that Edward Alleyn, lead actor of The Admiral's Men, devoted his later years to charitable endeavors, like the founding of Dulwich College, in direct response to this incident.[3]

[edit] Text

The play may have been entered into the Stationers' Register on 18 December 1592—though the records are confused, and appear to indicate a conflict over the rights to the play. A subsequent Stationers' Register entry, dated 7 January 1601, assigns the play to the bookseller Thomas Bushnell, the publisher of the 1604 first edition. Bushnell transferred his rights to the play to John Wright on 13 September 1610.[4]

[edit] The two versions

Two versions of the play exist:
1. The 1604 quarto, printed by Valentine Simmes for Thomas Law; sometimes termed the A text. The title page attributes the play to "Ch. Marl.". A second edition (A2) in 1609, printed by George Eld for John Wright, is merely a reprint of the 1604 text. The text is short for an English Renaissance play, only 1485 lines long. 2. The 1616 quarto, published by John Wright, the enlarged and altered text; sometimes called the B text. This second text was reprinted in 1619, 1620, 1624, 1631, and as late as 1663. The 1616 version omits 36 lines but adds 676 new lines, making it roughly one third longer than the 1604 version. Among the lines shared by both versions, there are some small but significant changes in wording; for example, "Never too late, if Faustus can repent" in the 1604 text becomes "Never too late, if Faustus will...
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