Santiago Daniel Iglesias
Dr. Preston Scanlon
AP English Literature and Composition
3 January 2009
Comedic Parody as Reflection in Christopher Marlowe's Dr. Faustus
“Behind their clownish antics, [Dick] and Robin highlight Faustus’ downfall and evil’s power through comic relief, parody, and parallel.” (“Rafe...). Throughout the play, Marlowe uses Dick, Robin, and several other characters in the comic scenes. “The slapstick scenes which ticked groundling fancies unite with the seemingly fragmented main action to form a subtly ironic tragic design” (Ornstein). As he says, as a reflection of the main story, the comic scenes enforce the main ideas and morals in the play. The comic scenes in Dr. Faustus serve to mock and reflect the main story.
The first comedic scene in the play is Act I, Scene 2, where Wagner is conversing with two scholars. Here the main elements of Act I, Scene 1 are parodied. In Faustus's opening monologue, he chooses magic to study by logically rejecting other fields of study, as when he says, “Is to dispute well logic's chiefest end?/ Affords this art no greater miracle?/ Then read no more; thou hast attained that end./ A greater subject fitteth Faustus' wit!” (Marlowe Act I Scene 2, 8-11). Faustus continues and argues against medicine, law, and divinity to decide on magic. Wagner also uses logic in a mocking way when talking to the scholars. When asked where Faustus was, he replied, “Yet if you were not dunces, you would never ask me such a question. For is he not corpus naturale, and is not that mobile?” (Marlowe Act I Scene 2, 15-18). Where Faustus used logic seriously to cast down other arts and decide to practice magic, Wagner uses it to jest with the scholars. This serves to diminish Faustus, because although he is a doctor, he is doing no more than his servant can do. In that scene, Wagner also says, “Truly, my dear brethren, my master is within at dinner with Valdes and Cornelius, as this wine, if it could speak, would inform your worships” (Marlowe Act I Scene 2, 26-28). This reflects the tragic scene by showing that Faustus is now learning from Valdes and Cornelius, while still joking about the subject. Another reflection is present between the Good Angel and the scholars. In Scene 1 the Good Angel appears to Faustus and says to him, “O, Faustus, lay that damned book aside,/ And gaze not on it, lest it temp thy soul” (Marlowe Act I Scene 1, 71-72). The scholars play this role in the comic scene by saying, “But come, let us go and inform the rector. It may be his grave counsel may reclaim him.” (Marlowe Act 1 Scene 2, 36-37). Both the Good Angel and the scholars see the danger Faustus's soul is in and want him to stop and go back to religion. This reinforces the message to the audience that what Faustus is doing is wrong and that he is going against God.
The next comedic scene is Act I Scene 4. This is a parody of Scene 3, where Faustus conjures Mephistophilis and agrees to give up his soul. This is parodied during the discussion between Robin and Wagner, where they say, “Wagner: Alas, poor slave! See how poverty jests in his nakedness. I know the villain's out of service, and so hungry that I know he would give his soul to the devil for a shoulder of mutton, though it were blood-raw. Robin: Not so neither. I had need it to have it well roasted, and good sauce to it, if I pay so dear, I can tell you.” (Marlowe Act I Scene 4, 7-14). This mocks Faustus by comparing Mephistophilis's worth to that of a piece of meat, and by showing that a clown makes a better decision than him, and educated man. By doing this, Marlowe says that Faustus is a fool for selling his soul and reinforces the moral lesson to the audience. Faustus is again mocked by Wagner's conjuring. When Faustus conjures Mephistophilis, he tells Faustus, “I came hither of mine own accord” (Marlowe Act I Scene 3, 44-45). Faustus goes through a long conjuring, after which Mephistophilis only appeared because Faustus insulted...
Cited: Jacobus, Lee A. Bedford Introduction to Drama. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/Saint Martin 's, 2005.
Marlowe, Christopher. The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus. The Bedford Introduction to Drama. 5th ed. Bedford, 2005. 274-304. Rpt. of Ory of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus. 1616.
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