The Tragical History Of Doctor Faustus English Literature Essay

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On February 6, 1564, John and Catherine Marlowe brought their eldest son, Christopher Marlowe, into the world. He was their second child, Mary being their first. Christopher Marlowe was christened at the church of St. George the Martyr twenty days later on the 26th of February. John and Catherine had other children but for now they are unimportant because Christopher was the one who became a dramatist.

John Marlowe was a shoemaker in Canterbury at the time of Christopher Marlowe's birth. Later that same year he was inducted into Guild of Shoemakers and remained a member until his death. The Marlowe's were never wealthy by any means, but John and Catherine didn't let that stop them from getting Christopher into good schools and studies.

In 1578, Christopher had earned a scholarship to the King's School, which was the highest educational institution in Canterbury at the time. Due to complications however, he was not admitted until January 14, 1579. The King's School's curriculum was comprised mostly of Latin grammar and verse, studies of classical authors and probably a little Greek. (Ingram)

After Marlowe finished at the King's School he was good enough to receive a scholarship to Cambridge University and left home at age seventeen with all of his belongings and "more money in his picket he had ever had before." (Ingram) Marlowe probably would have stopped at Mr. Anthony Marlowe's place, a relative in London who probably couldn't refuse helping a kinsman headed for college, and then after a few days headed off to college.

Marlowe continued his education at Cambridge where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1584. Three years later in 1587 he graduated again with his Master of Arts. His degree was almost put in jeopardy when he was gone for increasingly long absences during his second three years and the college almost didn't give him his degree. Apparently, Christopher Marlowe was a courier who carried messages to and from ambassadors and may have been a spy for Sir Francis Walsingham. Looking at Marlowe's friends, it appears he may have been a spy because some of his associates were well known spies as well. (Henderson 276)

In 1593, Thomas Kyd was arrested and tortured after being found with blasphemous papers "denying the deity of Jesus Christ". Kyd protested that they belonged to Marlowe and had accidentally been shuffled in with his papers when he and Marlowe had roomed together two years prior.

Resulting from Kyd's testimony, on May 18, 1593, Marlowe was summoned before the Privy Council and ordered, on May 20, to attend meetings with them everyday until they told him he didn't have to anymore. Marlowe being a gentleman obliged them. Ten days later, however, on May 30, 1593, Christopher Marlowe was stabbed to death at the house of Mrs. Eleanor Bull in Deptford. Some reports say it was a tavern but apparently it was a meeting house, where meetings were held and food supplied. (Christopher Marlowe - Poetry Foundation) He was buried on June 1, 1593 in Deptford. (Phelps)

Christopher Marlowe was killed, in a quarrel, by Ingram Frizer who claimed it was in self-defense that he got Marlowe's own knife and killed him. The fight may have been over who was to pay the bill, but no one really knows the truth. Also there were Robert Poley, the man who discovered the Babington Conspiracy in 1586. Nicholas Skeres was also there and may have possibly been with Poley and other conspirators before the conspiracy was discovered. With this amount of spies and big names with Christopher Marlowe at his murder, it can only be assumed that this wasn't really just a regular, old tavern brawl, but something more. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't, we will never know but that's alright. (Christopher Marlowe - The Poetry Foundation)

Overall, Christopher Marlowe lived 29 years and is credited with the improvement of blank verse and for his three-fold heroic tragedy, being built not on artificial unities such as time and place but on character, impression and interest. (Bellinger)

Summary of "The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus

This play starts with Dr. Faustus being discovered in his study looking at a book and trying to figure out which is better philosophy, divinity or magic. He decides on magic and has his servant, Wagner, send for Valdes and Cornelius who are renowned for their ability in conjuring and magic. Valdes and Cornelius convince Faustus that he has made the right decision in choosing magic and they teach him how to conjure.

Later two scholars are talking about Faustus and wondering where he's gone and they see Wagner. Wagner tells them that Faustus is talking to Valdes and Cornelius and they are horrified and know that he must have started to pursue magic because he is now associated with Valdes and Cornelius.

Faustus conjures that following night and a demon named Mephistophilis comes and Faustus makes a deal with him and Lucifer. The deal: Faustus be a spirit in form and substance, Mephistophilis be his servant, that Mephistophilis do for him and bring him whatever he desires, Mephistophilis must also be invisible when with him and that he can be in whatever form he pleases when he wants. After twenty-four years have passed, then he will let Lucifer and Mephistophilis come and collect him and bring him to whatever fate awaits him. After he finished writing this in his blood, he sent Mephistophilis back to Lucifer and has him give Lucifer his deal. Lucifer accepts and all of Faustus' wishes are granted.

Faustus talks with Mephistophilis about lots of stuff the universe and stuff like that and Mephistophilis tells him. Faustus asks about hell and Mephistophilis gives him a deep theological answer and when Faustus asks him to elaborate on the finer points Mephistophilis tells him he can't and the night goes on.

Lucifer, Beelzebub and Mephistophilis bring the seven deadly sins to parade in front of Faustus and Faustus sees what they all are: Pride, Covetousness, Wrath, Envy, Gluttony, Sloth and Lechery. Faustus tells them to go back to hell where they came from and they leave. Lucifer and Beelzebub take their leave as well.

As the twenty-four years move on, Faustus enjoys himself greatly, confusing a Pope by being invisible and taking the gifts sent to him and slapping him upside the head. Then being cursed by the friars accompanying the Pope. Mephistophilis had some fun too. He turned two men who stole Faustus' book into an ape and a dog and then returned the book to his owner. Also he helped Faustus in all his shenanigans.

When Faustus had dinner with the Emperor the Emperor wished to be able to talk to Alexander the Great and paramour. So Faustus conjured their spirits and he gained the Emperor's respect for his ability to conjure them. Faustus also gives sells his horse to a horse-courser and for forty dollars but tells him not to ride the horse into water. The horse-courser being foolish rides the horse into deep water and it turns to a bale of hay. The horse-courser goes back to get his money but he doesn't get it and has to give Faustus forty more dollars so Faustus won't call the police and report him.

Faustus is invited to the Duke of Vanholt's house to dine with him and his wife. During the banquet, the duchess asks for grapes but it is the middle of winter and grapes are no longer growing. So Faustus sends Mephistophilis to get so grapes for the lady. Mephistophilis returns with the grapes and the duke and duchess reward Faustus for his great kindness he showed the lady. Faustus later conjures Helen of Greece for some scholars and they are indebted to him.

When the twenty-four years have expired, and Faustus knows that his time is near. He asks Mephistophilis to bring him Helen so that he might kiss her and feel a little better as the time nears. He meets with some scholars who ask him what's become of him and tell him to turn and repent. Faustus laments though that if he could he would but he had already sold his soul to the Lucifer twenty-four years ago and now it has come time for him to be collected. The scholars tell him they will go into the next room and pray for his soul and that he might be saved. Faustus thanks them but their prayers are to no avail. For Lucifer comes to make Faustus uphold his end of the bargain. Devils carry Faustus away at midnight and he is never to set foot on this earth again, for he must now live out his eternity in hell.

Critical Analysis of "The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus"

Influences

The influences for Christopher Marlowe's "The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus" aren't really known, but many believe that the main source for Dr. Faustus was Das Faust-Buch anonymously published 1587. There is some discrepancy concerning this though. It appears that Das Faust-Buch wasn't translated into English until 1592. Some scholars believe the date that the play was first acted out was in 1588 or1589 (Phelps) and not 1594. (Ed. Baskerville) To account for this they believe that there may have been an earlier translation of Das Faust-Buch that was published shortly after 1587 and is now lost. But this is very unlikely however because Dr. Faustus is believed to have been written after Tamburlaine the Great which was written in 1587. So it seems unlikely that Christopher Marlowe would have been working on two plays at once.

Other influences of Dr. Faustus may have been the fact that European culture was changing greatly. There were many new advances in science. America had been discovered and more classical texts were becoming more increasingly available. Europe was leaving behind an era of economic instability and entering a day where money wouldn't be as tight. Queen Elizabeth was turning England into a powerful nation that stood to become a super power. (Janjua) The changing times had affected the Europeans view of the world and it showed in Marlowe's plays as well as in his contemporaries' plays.

Another influence for Christopher Marlowe in the writing of Dr. Faustus may have been the economic and social traps that gentlemen were subjected to and could often find themselves in unexpectedly. Gentlemen were expected to be hospitable to people and normally would entertain the Queen on her trips through the country. Entertaining the Queen was rather costly and for most it would lead to bankruptcy. (Scott) "There was the social pressure to behave in the manner of gentility, the economic pressure to carry on a lavish lifestyle, and in some ways the political pressure to be in the Queen's favor." (Scott) That's what gentlemen of the Elizabethan age had to endure and it's easy to see why Faustus would be so eager to enhance his social reputation by selling his soul to the devil so haphazardly.

Main Themes

The main themes in Dr. Faustus were many but a few stand out above the rest. One of them is man's limitation. Man is limited by what can be accomplished in their time. That is why Faustus gets bored with physics and turns to necromancy. He justifies it by saying, "A sound magician is a mighty god: Here, Faustus, tire thy brains to gain a deity." (1.1 62-63) Faustus basically wants to leave human limitations behind and become more like a god so that he can do amazing feats and become renowned throughout the land. (Janjua)

Pride is another recurrent theme in Dr. Faustus. After Faustus starts to think that he has been gypped on his side of the bargain with Lucifer his soul is in torment with the good angel and the evil angel. In one such instance, Faustus is contemplating repentance as the good angel urges him to and he says, "Who buzzeth in mine ears I am a spirit? Be I a devil, yet God my pity me; Ay, God will pity me, if I repent." (2.3 14-16) The evil angel tells him, "Ay, but Faustus never shall repent." (2.3 17) Faustus then corrects his earlier confession by saying, "My heart's so hardened I cannot repent. Scarce can I name salvation, faith, or heaven, but fearful echoes thunder in mine ears, "Faustus, thou art damned"." (2.3 18-21) So as Faustus' soul is battling itself he cannot repent because his evil angel, maybe his pride, won't let him repent because he shall never repent.

Throughout Dr. Faustus, Faustus is mostly all talk and no action. In the beginning when he talks about all he will do when he is able to perform magic and how he will help the entire world so that is will become a better place. But once Faustus receives his powers, he only entertains himself with debauchery and ungodly acts for the twenty-four years he has his powers. In the end he only dies with a knowledge of the world he lives in, but without the wisdom all that knowledge could bring. (Janjua) Faustus, in the end dies knowing that what he did was wrong and that he should have stuck to his plans and bettered the world.

Stylistic Devices

There are two main stylistic devices that Marlowe uses in "The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus". They are: the use of blank verse and the fact that the play is a morality play.

What is blank verse? Webster's dictionary describes blank verse like this, "unrhymed verse, especially the unrhymed iambic pentameter most frequently used in English dramatic, epic, and reflective verse." (Webster's Encyclopedic…) Marlowe is credited with the "Father of Blank Verse" because he greatly improved it from its original monotonous nature. "Marlowe invented numberless variations while still keeping the satisfying rhythm within a recurring pattern. Sometimes he left a redundant syllable, or left a line one syllable short, or moved the position of the cæsura. He grouped his lines according to the thought and adapted his various rhythms to the ideas. Thus blank verse became a living organism, plastic, brilliant, and finished." (Bellinger)

Dr. Faustus is a difficult play to classify because it stretches across a couple of categories. Dr. Faustus could be a tragedy because Faustus doesn't gain a deity in the end and that he gets what he deserves. On the other hand, Dr. Faustus could be a morality play because Faustus knows what he is getting into in the beginning and still goes through with it. The good angel, the scholars and the old man who warns Faustus of his terrible end, all try to get Faustus to repent and turn his back on necromancy and return to God. The evil angel, the devils, Lucifer, Beelzebub and the Seven Deadly Sins all try to keep Faustus to upholding his contract with Lucifer and keep on going on the path he is going. That path may be horrible and ultimately lead to the character's destruction but that won't keep the bad people from trying to keep them and the good people from trying to save them. That is why Faustus should be classified as a morality play more that a tragedy, because it is easy to get the moral from the story and apply it easier to everyday life. (Tuten)

Characters

The characters in Dr. Faustus are many and some affect the plot more than others. Here are just a few:

Faustus: Faustus is a German scholar who wants to be greater and be able to "…make men to live eternally or, being dead, raise them to life again, then this profession were to be esteemed." (1.1 24-26) So he sells his soul to the devil and asks for Mephistophilis to be his servant for twenty -four years. As the years whiz by, Faustus does nothing to achieve his goal of making medicine esteemed. Faustus soon decides his deal with the devil is unsatisfactory to him but cannot repent because of the contract he wrote and signed in his own blood. Faustus affects the plot in many ways as he is the main character so whatever he does could possibly change his life. I think Faustus was a good character in the play and really made the play interesting in the fact that he was just an everyday guy.

Mephistophilis: Mephistophilis is the devil that Faustus conjured on his first attempt and shortly thereafter sold his soul to because he was a servant to Lucifer. Mephistophilis shows some concern for Faustus as he is about to sell his soul and says that it would be bad to do so, so incautiously. Mephistophilis is Faustus' to command for twenty-four years and Faustus kind of squanders his power but Mephistophilis doesn't care as long as Faustus upholds his end of the deal. Mephistophilis adds to the plot as being one of the evil people who ultimately ends up leading Faustus to his destruction.

Good and Evil Angel: The good and evil angels are basically a reflection of the inner torment Faustus is going through as he continues to live his life in the debauched way he is. Countless times they appear to Faustus. The good angel appeals to his remaining humanity and tells him to repent while the evil angel keeps Faustus from repenting with lame excuses as "If thou repent, devils shall tear you to pieces." (2.3 77) and "[Contrition, prayer and repentance are] rather illusions, fruits of lunacy, that make men foolish that do trust them most." (2.1 18-19)

Lucifer: Lucifer is to whom Faustus sold his soul during the play so that he would be granted great powers in necromancy. Lucifer is the fallen angel from heaven and he lusts for Faustus' soul and when Faustus gives his soul for twenty-four years of power how can he resist. Besides what is twenty-four years in the face of eternity? Lucifer is a conniving devil who only wishes for us to come to destruction and in Faustus' case that's what happened. Lucifer won and Faustus lost.

Valdes and Cornelius: Valdes and Cornelius are the two magicians who convince Faustus that magic is the way to go. They are the ones who pique his interest in necromancy and start him on the path to his destruction. They must have been trying very hard to win him over because Faustus comments on how "…[their] words have won me at the last." (1.1 101) Valdes and Cornelius are the bad friends in his life and they lead him on when they know what might happen to him in the end. (Bloom)

Test over Christopher Marlowe and "The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus"

Multiple Choice:

_____ 1. What year was Christopher Marlowe born?

1593

1564

1587

1584

_____ 2. How did Christopher Marlowe die?

Shot

Natural causes

Stabbed

Poisoned

_____ 3. When was Dr. Faustus written?

1588

1564

After Tamburlaine the Great

Before Tamburlaine the Great

_____ 4. What is believed to be Marlowe's biggest influence during the writing on Dr. Faustus?

Das Faust-Buch

Das Faust-Bucht

Dr. Faustus's History

The Deserved Death of Dr. Faustus

_____ 5. What is the date of The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (A-Text)?

1594

1616

1599

1604

_____ 6. What is the date of The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (B-Text)?

1594

1616

1599

1604

_____ 7. Who is responsible for the death of Christopher Marlowe?

Thomas Kyd

Ingram Frizer

Mrs. Eleanor

Nicholas Goldsborough

_____ 8. Who was interrogated for having "heretical papers that denied the deity of Christ"?

Thomas Kyd

Ingram Frizer

Mrs. Eleanor

Nicholas Goldsborough

_____ 9. Who did the above say those "heretical papers" belonged to?

Mrs. Eleanor

Christopher Marlowe

Nicholas Goldsborough

John Rose

_____ 10. When was Christopher Marlowe killed?

1593

1587

1584

1594

_____ 11. When did Christopher Marlowe attain his Bachelor in Arts degree?

1593

1587

1584

1594

_____ 12. When did Christopher Marlowe receive his Master in Arts from Cambridge University?

1593

1587

1584

1594

_____ 13. Who was Nicholas Goldsborough?

Christopher Marlowe's murderer

The head-master at the King's School

Christopher Marlowe's teacher

Christopher Marlowe's contemporary

_____ 14. Where did Christopher Marlowe receive his early childhood education?

Corpus Christi College

The School of Canterbury

The Church of St. George the Martyr

The King's School

_____ 15. Where did Christopher Marlowe grow up?

London

Canterbury

British Isles

Somewhere in Europe

_____ 16. Who was Christopher Marlowe's father?

John Marlowe

Joseph Marlowe

Edward Marlowe

Peter Marlowe

_____ 17. Who did Christopher Marlowe's father marry?

Catherine Arthur

Mary Arden

Catherine Arden

Mary Peters

_____ 18. What did Christopher Marlowe's dad do for a living?

Built boats

Designed buildings

Wrote poetry

Made boots and shoes

_____ 19. What did Christopher Marlowe's mom's father do for a living?

Preached the Gospel

Built boats

Made boots and shoes

Was the town fool

_____ 20. Where was Christopher Marlowe buried?

In a London cemetery

In an unmarked grave in Deptford

In an unmarked grave in Canterbury

In Canterbury

Fill In the Blank:

_______________ is the main character in The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus.

_______________ conjures __________________ during his first conjuring.

During The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, his soul is tormented by a _______ _________ and an _______ ________.

____________ and _____________ convince Faustus that necromancy is the way to go.

_____________ is the patron to whom Faustus sells his soul to for ____________ years of power and ________________ service.

____________ is Faustus' servant in play and talks to a clown towards the beginning of the play.

The Seven Deadly Sins are: ____________, ___________, ___________, ___________, ___________, ____________ and __________.

Faustus sells his soul to the devil ______ times.

The ______ _________ (number, people) pray for Faustus when his time comes near.

Faustus tries to __________ when _________ is coming to take his _______ but he can't because his _________ is _________ to Him.

Essay: What is the moral to The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus? How does that pertain to you in your life today? What can you take away from this play? (5-7 sentences)

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Extra Credit:

How many sources did I have to use to write my research paper for Mrs. Beck?

9

12

8

15

Test over Christopher Marlowe and "The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus" Answer Key

Multiple Choice:

__B_ 1. What year was Christopher Marlowe born?

1593

1564

1587

1584

__C_ 2. How did Christopher Marlowe die?

Shot

Natural causes

Stabbed

Poisoned

__C_ 3. When was Dr. Faustus written?

1588

1564

After Tamburlaine the Great

Before Tamburlaine the Great

__A_ 4. What is believed to be Marlowe's biggest influence during the writing on Dr. Faustus?

Das Faust-Buch

Das Faust-Bucht

Dr. Faustus's History

The Deserved Death of Dr. Faustus

__D_ 5. What is the date of The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (A-Text)?

1594

1616

1599

1604

__B_ 6. What is the date of The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (B-Text)?

1594

1616

1599

1604

__B_ 7. Who is responsible for the death of Christopher Marlowe?

Thomas Kyd

Ingram Frizer

Mrs. Eleanor

Nicholas Goldsborough

__A_ 8. Who was interrogated for having "heretical papers that denied the deity of Christ"?

Thomas Kyd

Ingram Frizer

Mrs. Eleanor

Nicholas Goldsborough

__B_ 9. Who did the above say those "heretical papers" belonged to?

Mrs. Eleanor

Christopher Marlowe

Nicholas Goldsborough

John Rose

__A_ 10. When was Christopher Marlowe killed?

1593

1587

1584

1594

__C_ 11. When did Christopher Marlowe attain his Bachelor in Arts degree?

1593

1587

1584

1594

__B_ 12. When did Christopher Marlowe receive his Master in Arts from Cambridge University?

1593

1587

1584

1594

__B_ 13. Who was Nicholas Goldsborough?

Christopher Marlowe's murderer

The head-master at the King's School

Christopher Marlowe's teacher

Christopher Marlowe's contemporary

__D_ 14. Where did Christopher Marlowe receive his early childhood education?

Corpus Christi College

The School of Canterbury

The Church of St. George the Martyr

The King's School

__B_ 15. Where did Christopher Marlowe grow up?

London

Canterbury

British Isles

Somewhere in Europe

__A_ 16. Who was Christopher Marlowe's father?

John Marlowe

Joseph Marlowe

Edward Marlowe

Peter Marlowe

__A_ 17. Who did Christopher Marlowe's father marry?

Catherine Arthur

Mary Arden

Catherine Arden

Mary Peters

__D_ 18. What did Christopher Marlowe's dad do for a living?

Built boats

Designed buildings

Wrote poetry

Made boots and shoes

__A_ 19. What did Christopher Marlowe's mom's father do for a living?

Preached the Gospel

Built boats

Made boots and shoes

Was the town fool

__B_ 20. Where was Christopher Marlowe buried?

In a London cemetery

In an unmarked grave in Deptford

In an unmarked grave in Canterbury

In Canterbury

Fill In the Blank:

____Faustus___ is the main character in The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus.

____Faustus_____ conjures ___Mephistophilis__ during his first conjuring.

During The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, his soul is tormented by a _good_ __angel__ and an _evil_ _angel_.

__Valdes__ and _Cornelius_ convince Faustus that necromancy is the way to go.

_Lucifer_ is the patron to whom Faustus sells his soul to for _twenty-four_ years of power and _Mephistophilis'_ service.

_Wagner_ is Faustus' servant in play and talks to a clown towards the beginning of the play.

The Seven Deadly Sins are: _Pride_, _Covetousness_, _Wrath_, _Envy_, _Gluttony_, _Sloth_ and _Lechery_.

Faustus sells his soul to the devil _two_ times.

The _three_ _scholars_ (number, people) pray for Faustus when his time comes near.

Faustus tries to _repent_ when _Lucifer_ is coming to take his _soul_ but he can't because his _heart_ is _hardened_ to Him.

Essay: What is the moral to The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus? How does that pertain to you in your life today? What can you take away from this play? (5-7 sentences)

The moral to The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus is this: Don't sell your soul to the devil and you won't die a horrible death. Some people say there really isn't a moral to the story but I think that this was it. Faustus wanted to improve his social status so he turned to necromancy to give him the power he wished for. This pertains to my life because it should tell me that I should be careful who I associate with because they might be able to influence me for good or bad. I can take away the fact that I need to be selective when picking my close friends and be careful to not sell my soul to the devil.

Extra Credit:

__D­_ How many sources did I have to use to write my research paper for Mrs. Beck?

9

12

8

15

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