"The Supernatural in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus"

Topics: Renaissance, God, Christopher Marlowe Pages: 8 (2304 words) Published: November 26, 2012


The Renaissance marked a turning point in history. In this period, Humanism motivated the study of subjects related to man and society, since man, as an individual, had become the centre of interest, leaving theology and religious devotion relatively aside. Therefore, as scholars recognized man's worth and value, some people started to seek further satisfaction in Earth and -partially- stopped longing for Heaven. The highest aspirations were truth and knowledge. The spirit of the time was one of intellectual freedom and defiance; men no longer feared death and even tried to establish direct contact with the afterlife in order to achieve wisdom and power. This thirst for knowledge brought about an inner struggle between the traditional way of thinking imposed by the Church and man's desire to explore the world and discover the truth on his own. The individual was now facing a dilemma: how to live up to the new mindset without completely dismissing old divine concepts. This dichotomy is clearly seen in Marlowe's play _Doctor Faustus_, where the protagonist resorts to the supernatural in order to achieve power and knowledge but at the expense of continuous distress by his contradictory feelings of fascination and fear.

This paper aims to prove that Marlowe's_Doctor Faustus_ reflects the spirit of the Renaissance and the struggle of man between the quest for scientific knowledge and the rejection of religious dogmas and contemplative life. The first section starts with a synopsis of the play. The following section provides a historical background of the Renaissance, with a short description of the concepts and beliefs of the time that are related to Marlowe's play. The last and most extensive section focuses on the analysis of the supernatural elements in _Dr. Faustus_ and their connection with the ambiguities and contradictory ideals of the period.

_Doctor Faustus_ is a non-traditional morality play, whose main character is not Everyman (the typical protagonist of this type of plays) but a single man -John Faustus-, who is a doctor in theology and has a raging thirst for knowledge. He wants to find the answers to all the human wonders, whatever the cost. For that reason, two fellow scholars, Valdes and Cornelius, teach Faustus the fundamentals of the black arts and so he summons dark spirits. Mephostophillis, a servant to Lucifer, warns him that dealing with the devil is a serious matter and there is no turning back. A Good Angel advises him to repent, but an Evil Angel persuades him into going ahead with the deal. Blinded by his desire of wisdom and power, Faustus sells his soul to the devil and, therefore, he loses the eternal joy and felicity of Heaven. He seals the twenty-four year pact with his own blood and Mephostophillis, in the shape of a friar, becomes Faustus' servant. He teaches Faustus how to do spells and incantations to rise up spirits. He also answers Doctor Faustus's questions about Astronomy but Faustus realizes that Mephostophillis knows as much as he does; after all, the deal was not that good if he is not going to benefit much from it. The Good Angel tells him that it is not too late to renounce this magic and God would forgive him. But the Evil Angel warned him that if he repented, devils would tear him in pieces. At this point, Lucifer appears and shows Faustus the Seven Deadly Sins. He is delighted by this and continues to be loyal to him.

In order to prove his new powers and magic, Faustus and Mephostophillis go to Saint Peter's Feast and, while invisible, play jokes on the Pope. In desperation, the Pope crosses himself three times and Faustus hits him. Seeing this, the friars ask the Lord to curse them so Faustus and Mephostophillis beat them and run away. Faustus soon becomes popular for his great skills and he is admired among his subjects. Charles V is one of them. He asks him to bring Alexander the Great and his wife back...

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