Many traditions and legends have been created all the way through the long history of western culture. Among which one of the most outstanding and well-known as well long lasting traditions of western culture is of the Faustus legend, where in this legend, a man called Faust or Faustus, sells his soul to the devil for almost twenty-four years for the purpose of worldly power. This makes it a very prominent story that has been narrated many times over by writers such as Goethe, Lessing, and Mann. However, most probably the famous telling is Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe.
The social upheaval during the time period is the most prominent influence on Marlowe's version of Doctor Faustus. This novel has been suspected of being first performed in 1594, which was a time of great change in Europe. During this period the Medieval Times were over and Europe was in its Renaissance stage. However, influences from both periods can be found in the story. Thus, Doctor Faustus, can be called a midway play in which beliefs from both time periods combine, that sometimes also involved disastrous results.
About the Author
Christopher Marlowe is the Elizabethan poet, dramatist, and William Shakespeare's predecessor in English drama. The great author, however, was killed by Ingram Frizer at the age of 29 in a tavern broil and was buried at St. Nicholas.
Thus, his dramatic career remained only six years. Furthermore, English-born mystery writer Raymond Chandler lent Marlowe's name to his own hero Philip Marlowe:
Come live with me, and be my love;
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills and fields,
Woods or steepy mountain yields. (The Passionate Shepherd to His Love', c. 1589)
Christopher Marlowe born in Canterbury was the son of a shoemaker. He received his education in the King's School and from the foundation of Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury he was awarded a scholarship. He studied the Bible and the Reformation theologians along with the philosophy and history at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He took a degree of A.B in the year 1584. However, he left his studies instead of continuing in Cambridge, in order to carry out a secret mission for the government.
Furthermore, in 1587 he took the degree of M.A, but the University authorities, having believed that he had been converted to Catholicism, were initially not much willing to give his degree. This did not help him either, that he had been away a lot from his studies. However, the dispute was settled when the Queen's Privy Council intervene on Marlowe's behalf.
Thus, rather than taking holy orders, he went to London and became a dramatist, where he made important friends, that includes Sir Walter Raleigh, who began the first colony in Virginia, and was competed with the Earl of Essex of Queen's favors. Marlowe most probably on after leaving Cambridge started his writing career. His first dramas were composed in blank verse, where it was assumed that the first part of his Tamburlaine the Great was acted in London in 1587. In this drama Tamburlaine burns the Koran and wants to conquer the heavens after he conquered the world.
Furthermore, he was sent to Newgate Prison, in 1589 on being charged with the murder of William Bradley but was released after two weeks. However, it was not the last time when the short-tempered author was arrested and jailed.
He was assigned numerous plays, but unfortunately, Marlowe neglected to publish authoritative texts, and his fictional bits and pieces were consisted as much of the incomplete works. However, his blank verse, which influenced deeply the theatre of his time, was written with great intensity, and villain-heroes that gave a new type on the English stage.
Both Shakespeare and Marlowe influenced each other's work while they wrote plays for Lord Strange's acting company. The poet Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909) observed of Marlowe that:
the father of English tragedy and the creator of English blank verse was therefore also the teacher and the guide of Shakespeare."
However, Marlowe's major plays were written between the year 1585 and 1593. Among them Parts I and II of Tamburlaine, and The Jew of Malta and A Tragedy and Parody about Statesmanship and Betrayal. As T.S. Eliot said about Marlowe:
If one takes The Jew of Malta not as a tragedy, or as a "tragedy of blood," but as a farce, the concluding act becomes intelligible; and if we attend with a careful ear to the versification, we find that Marlowe develops a tone to suit this farce, and even perhaps that this tone is his most powerful and mature tone." (T.S. Eliot in Selected Essays, new edition, 1960).
Furthermore, his most famous The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus was based on the medieval legend of the bargain with the Devil and Edward II was a historical tragedy in blank verse. He, however, also wrote poetry, including Hero and Leander, which was based on the Greek of Musaeus, The Passionate Shepherd, and even translated Ovid's Amores. Jorge Luis opined about Marlowe as:
Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, like Goethe's Faust, finds himself before the specter of Helen (the idea that Helen of Troy was a ghost or apparition is already present in the ancients) and says to her, "Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss." And then, "O thou art fairer than the evening air clad in the beauty of a thousand stars." He does not say "evening sky," but "evening air." All of Copernican space is present in that word air, the infinite space that was one of the revelations of the Renaissance, the space in which we still believe, despite Einstein, that space that came to supplant the Ptolomaic system which presides over Dante's triple comedy." (Jorge Luis Borges in The Total Library, 1999)
Coming back to his life, his mysterious death in the tavern may have had a political reason. His public image was burdened along with the accusations of atheism, blasphemy, subversion and homosexuality. However, after his death, he was under a shadow of charges of atheism on the proof of his former roommate and fellow dramatist, Thomas Kyd that saved him from imprisonment.
Furthermore, according to Anthony Burgess, the author also worked as a government's secret agent, which most probably while he was still at university, he became an agent of Sir Francis Walsingham (c. 1530-90).
However, through research it was suggested that an agent of Francis Walsingham, for reasons unknown, murdered him. According to Charles Nicholl (The Reckoning The Murder of Christopher Marlowe, 1994), followers of the Earl of Essex could have been behind the death. On the other hand, scholars are still trying to reconstruct the events.
About the Book
The Tragic History of Doctor Faustus" is a classic by Christopher Marlowe; the story is about a uintessential tale of a man, his soul and the devil. Faustus quests to find the greater answers to life as he has had his fill of physics, mathematics, philosophy and divinity. Faustus courts the Prince of Hell and the vile Mephistopheles into replacing his soul for 24 years on earth as the utmost magician in the planet, which shows the way in turn to both solemn dilemmas of faith and morality and comic exploits.
By casting his hero Doctor John Faustus Marlowe, the writer puts a twist on the Everyman plays of medieval times, since he is shown as a figure that pushes the boundaries too far for human experience and is therefore forced to choose between eternal damnation or repentance.
Who can take Marlowe's drama entirely seriously? Since, this is an age when many of the clergy seem to find the idea of hell an embarrassment. Doctor Faustus's play about damnation has now become a damnably difficult piece to pull off.
The dramatist couldn't keep an entirely straight face, even though he himself is a pretty diabolic character. The play deteriorates into tiresome, lamentably unfunny farce, even after a grand start, in which Faustus thrillingly sells his soul to the devil. It was only in the great final scene when our hell-bound hero counts down the minutes to eternal damnation that tragic seriousness resumes.
About Doctor Faustus as Main Character
The play deals with the themes at the heart of Christianity's understanding of the world, so one can categorize Doctor Faustus's play, as a Christian play. First, there is the initiative of sin, which Christianity describes as deeds divergent to the will of God. Faustus commits what is in a sense the ultimate sin, in making a pact with Lucifer: He not only consciously and even eagerly renounces obedience to him and choosing instead to swear allegiance to the devil, he also disobeys God.
However, even the worst deed can be forgiven in a Christian framework, through the redemptive power of Jesus Christ, who is considered as the son of God, and according to Christian belief, Jesus Christ died on the cross for humankind's sins. Therefore, the possibility of…