Essay from Z.I. Mahmud

Undergraduate Open Book Examination:
Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus
Contributing Author Brief Biography


Enrolled freshman fellow student of the Department of English and Humanities (ENH) at BRAC University. As an English Literature enthusiast and anorak, the contributing author cherishes glowing, glimmering, flickering and hovering through indulgence in imaginative literary genres-of- narratives. Seasons of holidaymaking and vacationing henceforward travelling to the native countryside parsonage with accompaniments of bestsellers noteworthily
sparkling story telling collection of Ian Hamilton’s Penguin Book of Twentieth Century Essays, San Francisco Chronicle critically appreciated as ‘fluid and earthy, eerie and realistic, complex and simple’ Graham Swift’s Booker Prize Novel Waterland, enthralling and revelatory documentary testimony of lucid and insightful manifestations of nature of love :John
Sutherland’s ‘The Oxford Book of Love Stories’, Chairperson Professor Ma’am’s recommended marvelously poetic Barack Obama’s phenomenally unforgettable emotional
odyssey “Dreams From My Father’ (picks of bookstore haul) and campus library checkout The Washington Post Book World’s enchanting review to be “bold, high-spirited, self-mocking, powerfully evocative and deeply revealing’’ Gabriel Garcia-the literature Nobel laureate “Living To Tell The Tale”.

Prior to this edition of literary essays, Synchronized Chaos published the manuscript of a book review and literary criticism concerning Charles Dickens. 

The contributing author heartily and gladdeningly welcomes pleasantries exchange and relevant critiquing through email correspondence: and

“Conflict inner or outer, is the essence of tragedy.” Consider this reference to Doctor Faustus.
How does Marlowe in Doctor Faustus present a conflict rather than a mere record of events?
Write a note on how Marlowe dramatizes the conflict in the mind of Doctor Faustus.
Doctor Faustus is primarily a study of the mind of Faustus himself. Discuss.
Trace the mental conflict of Faustus from the beginning till his last hour on this earth in Doctor
“Merely to make and carry out a contract is not itself the material of drama; the dramatic, imaginative power of the play depends, not upon legal but upon moral cause and effect.”
Illustrate from Doctor Faustus the conflict leading to the tragedy.

Throughout the tragedy the spirits of the Good and Evil Angels are to a large extent the external symbols of the internal conflict between Good and Evil going on in the mind of Doctor Faustus.
 Christopher Marlowe has shown a struggle going on in the mind of Doctor Faustus, a conflict
between his conscience and his will, between his hope of redemption and the bond with Lucifer. The inherent element of the conflict is the fountainhead of the entire action of the play and the movement of the action defines the plot of the play.

According to a critic in Faustus we note the perplexities of his divided spirit, his wavering of anguish and remorse, the flickering of the hope extinguished in the smoke of self- abandonment to fear, the pungent pricks of conscience soothed by the transient vision of delight, its prying curiosity which lulls his torment at one moment, the soul’s defiance to yielding despair and from despair to recovering renewed strength to sin and suffer.
Doctor Faustus abjures the trinity ever since scholarism fruits have been harvested in the fields of
 philosophy, theology, medicine and law. He wishes to conjure up magical spirits and perform supernatural feats. In this fulfillment of purpose, he stages a conference with Valdes and Cornelius.

The elements of the earth would be in his domain through application and exertion of supernatural charms. In this way, he abjures the Bible, profanes the scriptures and blasphemes his Saviour Christ  and dedicates himself to Beelzebub the Prince of Hell.

“The God thou serv’st is thine own appetite,
Wherein is the fixed the love of Belzebub:
To him I’ll build an altar and a church,
And offer lukewarm blood of new-born babes.”

Faustus’ atheism and paganism reflect the overthrow of warnings from Heavens. The Good Angel explicitly warns Faustus of the impending dangers involved in the study of witchcraft and wizardry.
 But the Evil Angel lures him in the temptation of infinite possibilities in the power of the magic-the possibility of being a Demigod like figure. The Good Angel is a symbolically impersonating voice of Faustus’ conscience. Since the Good Angel enjoins upon him to leave the ‘execrable art and think of ‘contrition’, ‘prayer’ and ‘repentance’ as they are the only means to bring him unto heaven. As the Good Angel advises Faustus to think of heaven and of heavenly things. Moreover, the Evil Angel
lambastes the words of the Good Angel as illusions, ‘fruits of lunacy’. Nonetheless, the Evil Angel prevails and triumphs in tempting him to the lure of honour and wealth. At this Faustus’ wavering mind resolves to ‘cast no more doubt’.

Even the climax of the drama with congealing of blood and Mephistopheles aiding with chafers and coal so that Faustus might write the bloody pact and mortgage his soul to the Prince of Hell. He contemplates in meditation as if there is a relentless battlefield in the breast between good and evil,
conscience and free will, going on in the skeptic protagonist’s mind. “Whither should I fly?/ If unto
God, he’ll throw me down to Hell.”

The poignant climax of the mental conflict intensifies the tension to the dreadful end as Faustus chastises Mephistophilis through these poignant lines:
“Ay, go, accursed spirit, to ugly hell:
‘Tis thou hast dam’d distressed Faustus’soul.”

As soon as Faustus supplicates in redemption of hoping salvation the critical moment foreshadows
the forces of good struggling to defeat the forces of evil in the mind of Doctor Faustus, “Ah, Christ,
my saviour, seek to save distressed Faustus’soul”. The vigilant legions of the kingdom of infernal
hell appear before Faustus, Lucifer, Belzebub and Mephistopheles to apprise in imperative tone the
bond between Faustus and the Devil, and that therefore he should never think of God.

At the end of the drama and the tragic fall of the hero pathos of poignancy strikes the Representative
 of God-the symbolic imagery of celestial divinity in the form of Old Man. The Old Man has a spiritual fecundity of nostromo which might eradicate the tension from mental tortures and agonies
that cast Faustus into despairing disillusionment. The precarious predicament of Faustus would achieve salvation if he breaks his heart and drops blood and mingles with tears to beg the mercy of His Saviour Christ “whose blood alone must wash away” his eternal damnation.

In the entire dramatic literature Faustus witnesses the cumbersome and grotesque macabre of exhumation. When the devil comes to claim his soul at midnight after the expiry of twenty years
 promise, Faustus experiences one of the most poignant mental tortures ever seen in the mind of a
tragic hero. His mournful lamentations can be elegised in heart wrenching soliloquy as follows:
“The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,
The Devil will come, Faustus must be damned!
 I’ll leap unto my God!—Who pulls me down?
See, see, where Christ’s blood streams in the firmament!
One drop would save my soul, half a drop: ah my Christ.”

What is soliloquy? What are the uses of it in Doctor Faustus?
How does Marlowe employ the dramatic device of the soliloquy in Doctor Faustus?
Discuss the outline of the significance of the first and the final soliloquy in Doctor Faustus.

Soliloquy is a literary device employed by playwrights of Elizabethan and Jacobean era to enable their harbinger of audience’s correspondence tracing the innermost recesses of the characters of
 drama. Furthermore, it is through the usage of soliloquy, Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe’s arousal of revelatory intimate thoughts, feelings, motives, intentions, aspirations, expectations, euphoric ecstasy, lamentations, grievances and so on are staged in the soliloquising Faustus’s heart and soul.

In the opening scene of Doctor Faustus Christopher Marlowe’s unparallelled convention of soliloquy has achieved aphoristic excellence. The doctrine of proverb is a eureka
hallmark in Faustus’ temptations to allurement of evil witchcraft. He is compelled by the enticing prospects of black magic or ‘cursed necromancy’. The dramatic monologue happens when the protagonist Faustus-the Marlowian tragic hero, alone on stage, expresses intimate thoughts and
feelings and motives through third-person point of view- “Settle thy studies, Faustus, and begin.”

(line 1) Faustus epitomizes the idealistic picture of the laureate of divinity of Wittenberg University.
However, he is in blues by the insatiable thirst and inordinate appetite to gather amass knowledge of the infinite possibilities in the immortalizing celestial hierarchy. Soon we hear the note of dissatisfaction and restlessness in Faustus’ voice; despite his pinnacle of scholarism in academic accomplishments. For instance, practicing law would be ‘mercenary drudge’ and the bleakish aspects of Jerome’s Bible implicates human sinfulness and the damnation that awaits it.

“Yet art thou still but Faustus, and a man’’(line 23) : Faustus cannot be acknowledged as the eternal healer and resurrectionist Christ. He perseveres to transcend human limitations to break boundaries and shake the foundations of artificial restrictions on human capabilities.

Faustus fantasizes to achieve ‘stretcheth as far as doth the mind of man’ which glorifies the intense optimistic spirit of Renaissance. Scientific investigations into the structure of the universe and laws of the physical world; the voyages of exploration, expansion of trade routes and colonization of the
Americas; the printing press publication revolutionary transformation were restoration of classical ideas of civic virtues and public service. “All things that move between the quiet poles/Shall be at my command (ii. lines-58-9), this speech elicits inferences to the scientist’s and the coloniser’s desire to control the natural world.

After these harangues, Doctor Faustus divines in beleaguering the Prince of Parma through voicing
antipathy. Catholic Governor of the Netherlands in the 1580s was an Elizabethan hate-figure. Marlowe’s temperamental tempest can be awakened in the desire to reign as the monarch of provinces. Since Spain plans to invade England and even quell the Protestant rebellion in the
Netherlands which England endowed patronage.
Christopher Marlowe’s soliloquising Faustus’ in the ending scene reveal the moral underlying the
‘’My God, My God, look not so fierce on me!
Adders and serpents, let me breathe a while!
Ugly hell, gape not! come not, Lucifer!
I’ll burn my books!- Ah, Mephistopheles!’’

The forbidden tree of knowledge should always be forsaken since exercising the prohibitive and restrictive were a catastrophically disastrous cascade of cataclysms. In the ending it awe-inspiringly and marvellously reveal the different moods and deep anguish of a terror-stricken soul of Doctor

The last hour poignant soliloquy undoubtedly embellishes splendor of grandiosity through emotionally and lyrically magnificent poetic passages as resonated in the poetic diction:

“Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,
And then thou must be damned perpetually!
A year, a month, a week, a natural day,
That Faustus may repent and save his soul!’’
This glimmers the spark of the fleeting season of time that Faustus aspiringly hopes to achieve redemption through contrition, repentance, restitution and supplication. Marlowe underlines the enjambement through the run-on-lines in showcasing desperately frantic Faustus’ exasperating soul.
Faustus’ eternal damnation cannot be salvaged; since the clock will strike;/ and the devil will come, and Faustus must be damned. Ironically ‘sound magician is a mighty God’ proves to be a wretched beast whose soul would dissolve as inhumation of fossilized minerals or soul “be changed into little water-drops,/And fall into the ocean, ne’er be found!” (lines 119-20) These are Faustus’ pleas pledged in supplicating personae to escape the heavy wrath of God as well as prevention to annihilation.

Bibliography and Further Reading

1. OpenLearn Christopher Marlowe Doctor Faustus The Open University UK
2. Dr. S Sen Study Guides Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus
How does Marlowe use the classical concept of the chorus during the play?

In ancient Greek tragedy Chorus engrosses fundamentally essential and integral dramatic tropes especially in celebrations of religious festivals and fertility rites. These choral characters were a group of professional band of dancers who chanted lyrical odes and lyric verses while performing dancelike maneuvers at Dionysus’ festivities. They mainly served as commentators on the characters
and events who expressed traditional, moral, societal, religious and cultural attitudes. Later the Elizabethan dramatists were intrigued to introduce a single choral character to perform the announcement or proclamation to the prologue and epilogue of their play. This choral character can be used an idealistic vehicle to act as the spokesperson in the commentary of the actions, causes and effects on the play and as well as, providing justification for exposition of its subject, time, setting and of events happening offstage as Christopher Marlowe’s employment in Doctor Faustus.

The choral character in the prologue announces the proclamation of Faustus’ tragic fate and diabolical
destiny which would ultimately lead this Doctor of Divinity to sell his soul to the Devil and be a fallen satanic spirit vulnerable to the perdition’s fiendish pitfall. Faustus’ lack of self-knowledge and his tragic blindness to his own nature forms the central irony of the tragedy, an irony intensified by
Marlowe’s use of the Seven Deadly Sins. In correspondence to gluttony, the prologue of the chorus chants these poignant lyrical verses:

”And glutted more with learning’s golden gifts.”
“He surfeits upon cursed necromancy” (II. lines 24-5)
The chorus does not talk of gallantry, chivalry, romance, royalty and nobility but of Faustus’ fortunes good or bad (line 8). Faustus’ pedigree of aboriginality resonates parents base of stock (line 12) and despite his subservient socio-economic status, his intellectual brilliance led swiftly to his being
awarded a doctorate at University of Wittenberg. In line 20 the shift in the tone of speech is concerned with Faustus “cunning of a self-conceit’’, which has been exemplified as ‘intellectual
pride engendered by arrogance’. 

Finally the chorus acknowledges that the study of black magic or ‘cursed necromancy’ was Faustus’ adamancy of hubris, despite the fact that it jeopardizes ‘his ‘chiefest bliss’ (line 27); that is, his chance of being salvaged by eternal redemption when he is resurrected.

The heavenly matters of theology are abjured in despondency by the tragic hero Faustus since his predestination forecasts malevolent plotting with “swoll’n” hamartia. As the chorus further embellishes the classical allusions of mythological legends in intensifying the downfall and damnation of Doctor Faustus:

“His waxen wings did mount above his reach
And melting heavens conspir’d his overthrow.”

Icarus the son Daedalus dared to venture to the zenith of the heavenly skies despite warnings by his father to maintain a steady pathway toward Crete. As a consequence, Icarus becomes a scapegoat to the vulnerability of waxen and feathery wings melting near the approaching glowing sun.
In conclusion, transgressions are trailed to the justice of characters’ rebellion against established social hierarchy and the fruitful plot of scholarisms projections to bleakish prospectus as the choral odes resonate throughout the entire play.

Bibliography and Further Reading

1. OpenLearn Christopher Marlowe Doctor Faustus The Open University UK
2. Dr. S Sen Study Guides Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus

How does Faustus’ relationship with Helen of Troy epitomize the activities of the twenty-four year relationship? 
Explain the allegorical and symbolic significance of the figure of Helen in Doctor Faustus.

Acclaimed literary critic and author of dark gritty fiction exploring human condition JD Palmer comments upon the apparition of Helen in Doctor Faustus as “The invocation of Helen, that superb piece of lyric poetry, is shot through with ironical meanings, not intended by Faustus, reminding us
that this vision is an evil spirit, an illusion in more than the theatrical sense. The actions and words constantly serve to divorce the soaring imaginative vision of Faustus’ poetry from the realities of his self-elected situation; his desire inhabits a splendid, open world of infinite possibilities but his choice
commits him to an enclosed, inescapable destiny.”

Doctor Faustus has turned a deaf ear to the Old Man’s talks of penance and restitution which further deteriorates his moral spirituality. Captivatingly compelling Faustus’ consummate promiscuity with paramour of “peerless dame of Greece” Helen digresses his subconscious perception between heaven and hell, damnation and salvation. He further indulges in coquettish adulation of Helen’s dazzling enchantment and lovely paramour. As twenty four years’ of leading supernatural and magical life embarks the anticlimax, Faustus’s revival and renewal of the pact with Lucifer coincides.

Faustus dupes as the Paris of Helen and beleaguered Whittenberg shall be ransacked by him instead of Troy. Furthermore, Faustus would duel chick hearted Menelaus and after that wearing plum-coloured crests of Helen’s robes strike Achilles in the heel. Then he would return to his dame
paramour for a sweet kiss of immortality.

“I will be Paris, and for love of thee,
Instead of Troy, shall Wittenberg be sack’d:
And I will combat with weak Menelaus, And wear thy colours on my plumed crest;
Yes, I will wound Achilles in the heel,
And then return to Helen for a kiss.”
“O, thou art fairer than the evening air
Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars;
Brighter art thou than the flaming Jupiter
When he appeared to hapless Semele;
More lovely than the monarch of the sky
In wanton Arethusa’s azure arms:
And none but thou shalt be my paramour!”

This is the concluding part of the famous apostrophe of Faustus to Helen , “that peerless Dame of Greece”. Faustus is enarmoured of her heavenly beauty. He compares Helen’s dazzling beauty with the loveliest sights of nature as well as the gods and goddesses famous fort their beauty and
splendour. But all pale into insignificance beside her peerless beauty. Her splendid beauty surpasses even the loveliness of the evening sky adorned adorned with numberless shining stars. She appears to be brighter than Jupiter even in all his glorious brilliance when he appeared at her behest before Sebele, the princess of Thebes who loved him, with the result that she was consumed to ashes immediately. To Faustus the aura of paramour personifies even more beautiful than Apollo
when he was locked in the loving arms of Arethusa, the charming sea nymph or when he was reflected in the serene waters of a lake or a river. So Helen, and Helen alone should be his paramour, none else.

These lines manifestly exhibit Marlowe’s lyrical poetry and the relationship between Faustus' 24 years of blasphemous life profaned by incestuous lasciviousness of adultery.

Characteristics of the Marlowian Hero
Comment On The Tragic Hero as Conceived by Marlowe
Discuss Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus as a Tragic Hero
Comment on Marlowe’s art of characterization.
Do you agree with the view that Marlowe’s heroes in his plays are veritable incarnation of the genius of the Renaissance ?If so, in what sense?
Write a note on the cause of tragedy in Doctor Faustus

This is a fact universally acknowledged that Marlowe is the pioneer and forerunner in his iconic contributions to English Drama through the characterization of titanic tragic hero Doctor Faustus. Since prior Marlowe there was no hero in the conventional sense in the Miracle, Moralities or
Interludes of pre-Elizabethan epoch. Marlowe embodied the spirit of the Renaissance through individualization of tragic heroic personalities endowed with inordinate ambition and indomitable passions. These embodiments are vigorous and radical characteristics with humble parentage who fall from the peak of fortunes to the precarious predicament facing death and damnation. Doctor Faustus is central character and the heroic figure with the accompaniments of minor
characters subordinated to the purpose of heightening and intensifying the psychological conditions of Faustus from various points of views and different perspectives. Unbridled passions in the quest of infinite chances and knowledge of the heavens prompted Faustus’ superhuman energy to achieve earthly glory. Like a Machiavellian hero, Marlowian tragic heroic character Faustus appeals to the audience’s sympathy through the purgation of cathartic emotions arousing pity, fear, admiration, horror, and contempt.

The delineation psychological conflict or the spiritual struggle in the mind of the hero is the chief theme in Doctor Faustus. Ultimately through blemish or drawback as frailties of the protagonist leads toward doom and disaster. The tragic hero Faustus tragic flaw : ‘’glutted more with learning’s golden
gifts’’ and surfeiting upon ‘’cursed necromancy’’. It is crystal clear that the delineation of the character of the hero and depicting the conflict in his mind is the most significant landmarks in Marlowian drama.

Marlowe’s Fasutus though in course of being fair or foul with inherent tragic flaw, should neither be someone virtuous nor vicious. Insolence of pride and vanity of self-indulgence through over excessive confidence lead to hubris as “His waxen wings did mount above his reach,”/ “And, melting, heavens conspir’d his overthrow;” These classical allusions to the legends and myths of the diabolical destiny that fated Icarus as a fallen and vanquished soul. After the opening of the chorus recital Faustus soaring imaginative vision can be envisioned in these memorable lines:

“Divinity adieu;
These metaphysics of magicians,
And necromantic books are heavenly:
O what a world of profit and delight,
Of power, of honour, omnipotence,
Is promised to the studious artizan!
All things that move between the quiet poles
Shall be at my command…..
A sound magician is a mighty God:”
The soul of Doctor Faustus is inflamed with a glowing craze for superhuman magical charms and sensuous hedonistic impulses. Portrayal incarnations of Renaissance Drama tantalizing individuality, audacious ambition, a hegemonic yearning for knowledge and etherealizing euphoria of ecstatic life are intrinsically inherent intricacies which can be explored further. “Lord and commander of the elements” enticingly allured the temperament of Faustus to sell his soul to the Devil and write the bond with blood from his own veins.

We can regard Doctor Faustus as a tragic hero of that modern tragedy where the prick of conscience
haunts the protagonist’s heart and soul. Despite selling his soul to the Devil, Faustus is suspended in the havoc of the heart and soul battlefield where there is the harbinger of interior struggle and inner conflict between the opposing forces of Good and Evil from the beginning to the end. This inner conflict gives rise to the choice between two alternatives amidst the polarity of being pulled in opposite directions. Being a staunch Protestant reformer, Christopher Marlowe’s embodiment of conventional doctrines and dogmas pertaining to Christian theology can be recognized in Faustus’
depth of the subconscious self. Fluctuations of the wavering loyalties of Faustus are overwhelmed by the incantations of conscious and subconscious forces.

The tragic hero Doctor Faustus’ boasting pride, haughty insolence, presumptuous impertinence are responsible for the downfall and damnation in similarity for which the Milton of Lucifer also fell, Through mastery of the black art of magic Faustus wishes to be a Machiavellian and a mighty god:
“All things that move between the quiet poles,/ Shall be at my command.”

And the grim irony of the protagonist’s sky high expectations are belied during his career as a renowned magician aspiring to dream of becoming Jove on earth and ultimately disillusioned. 

Appealing like a pampered child to “fair nature’s eye to be resurrected through perpetual day.
“That Faustus may repent and save his soul!”

In concluding the essay, we can remark Helen Gaerdener, the American author, rationalist public intellectual, political activist and government functionary relevant observations: “The great reversal from the first scene of Doctor Faustus to the last scene can be defined in different ways: from presumption to despair, from doubt in the existence of hell to the belief in the reality of nothing else….from aspiration to deity and omnipotence to longing for extinction. At the beginning, Faustus wishes to rise above his humanity, at the close he sinks below it, be transformed into the beast or
‘’into little water drops’. 

At the beginning he attempts usurpation on God, at the close he is an usurper upon the Devil.’’