UNIT 2 THE TRAGIC DRAMA OF DOCTOR FAUSTUS
2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4
Doctor Faustus as a tragedy Doctor Faustus and the Christian Morality Tradition The heroic character of Doctor Faustus The tragic premise in Doctor Faustus The strength of tragedy Act I : Doctor Faustus: The Unscholarly attitude Act I1 : The Unfolding of Faustus' tragedy Acts 111 & IV : The Comic diversion of tragedy Act V : The tragic denouement of Doctor Faustus Marlowe's achievement in Doctor Faustus
2.10 2.1 1
Doctor Faustus : appeal to 20"' century
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This Unit discusses how Doctor Faustus emerges as a great tragedy. The focus is on how it is modelled after a Christian morality play and how the play transcends the morality ethos within its structure to become a great human tragedy.
Doctor Faustus was written for the Admiral's Men and was staged in 1588. It's first Quarto edition was published in 1604. Several reprints of this Quarto appeared subsequently with some interpolations. in 1616, an enlarged edition of the
a ow ever,
play was p~~blished containing many comic scenes absent in the 1604 ed~tion. Contemporary editions of Doctor Fazfsfi~s depend on both tlie 1604 and 1616 versions of the play.
DOCTOR FAUSTUS AS A TRAGEDY
One has to wade through several conflicting traditions to look at the dramatic core of Doctor Faustus. The influence of the traditions of orthodox Christianity, of the Reformation the Renaissance, of Paganism, of individualism and the incipient scientific modernity is exhaustive in the play. One is lost in the pervasive or conflicting claims of these traditions. However, the strength of the play lies in its disturbing impact on the audience, whether Elizbethan or modern a fact that vouchsafes that the play is not exhausted by the claims of a specific tradition but has an esse~itial drama and a tragic rhythm. Undoubtedly, Doctor Fauslus explains a moment in history. Its tragedy is, predicament. As a dramatic genre, it has all the irreducibly, a national or cult~~ral essentials that go with it. The play's power to disturb the audience is the power of its specific genre. Consequently, one has to see. in the first instance, how tragedy is a powerfill discipline in a particular point of time and place and, secondly, how Doctor Fausfus comes to realize the power of tragedy.
DOCTOR FAUSTUS AND THE MORALITY TRADITION
There is nothing new about tlie dramatic story of Doctor F~rustu.c, the story of human presumption, temptation, damnation and fall being the essential narrative of plays. Doctor Fau,ctus does not deviate either from the mystery, miracle and ~norality the narrative or the thematic strain of the Christian drama preceding it. There is little drama in the divinely ordered destiny of man excepting the allegorical i~lterplay between tlie forces of good and evil. The h ~ ~ m a n situation is a pathetic coniedy of evil, the evil that man, at best, could be tenlpted to, that all that man is capable of in his comic impotence is wrath and despair. The comic inibecility of man however, is a part of the divine totality of purpose as reflected i n tlie world, the natural universe and history. As such, evil is not an antagonist but simply a lack or deficiency of being that is taken care of in the ultimate divine order where all being is ultimately good. Douglas Cole sulns up the Christian draniatic tradition of Marlowe who chooses to transform the German Faust legend into a tragedy: The English n~orality staged as a homiletic allegory. Within its is transparently didactic framework, the personifications of abstract vices and virtues contend for the allegiance of the central figure or figures that represent man. The characteristic plot is a contest, and its characteristic movement is from the seduction of...
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