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‘Dr. Faustus Is a Morality Play Without a Moral.’ Discuss.


‘Dr. Faustus Is a Morality Play Without a Moral.’ Discuss.In forming a response to this question there are two aspects which must be thought about. To start with we need to decide whether Dr Faustus is a morality play; I will do this by going over the play’s type, content and subject matter in an attempt to categorise the play. I will likewise use an alternative argument by stating that the play is in fact a tragedy. Second of all we need to choose whether or not it has a moral; to do this I will consider the tone of specific parts of the play, in particular the Chorus’ speeches along with the speech of other characters. Let us very first deal with the categorisation of the play.

To determine if Dr Faustus is a morality play or not we should first understand what a morality play is. Morality plays are basically dramatised preachings generally based upon the subject of repentance; usually an Everyman figure will begin in innocence, be led into temptation by others, to be lastly redeemed. In Dr Faustus Marlowe uses the structure of the morality play intensively, most noticeably in the characters he utilizes as a lot of them are representations of type rather than being individuals. For instance, the characters of Valdes and Cornelius are called’the tempters

‘, hence fitting the morality meaning as the characters who tempt the primary character into sin (although they are not alone in this). The Good and Bad Angels can also be viewed as morality play characters, although this depends upon whether we see them as genuine characters from another world or as externalisations of Faustus ‘own thoughts and conscience. There is nothing in the text which precisely determines which view is right. However Faustus’ speech in Act II scene i, suggests they are externalisations of his conscience; Why waver’ st thou? O something soundeth in mine ear, ‘Abjure this magic, rely on God once again.’Ay, and Faustus will rely on God again. To God? He loves thee not. (II. ii. 7-10)The battle that Faustus is voicing here corresponds the arguments normal of the Great and Bad Angels. It is substantial that right away after this battle of conscience the Good and Bad angels enter, as they do when Faustus appears in many problem or is questioning his decision. This shows that they remain in reality externalisations of Faustus ‘conscience and for that reason not really part of the morality play structure. There is also obscurity worrying Mephistopheles and the other Devils. Although the lower devils who appear, such as Banio and Belcher and to a particular level Lucifer, can be viewed as representational, Mephistopheles certainly appears to be more of a person. We see more of him in contrast with the other Devils because he is Faustus ‘companion; by repercussion we learn something of his character. His speech about the delights of heaven is extremely enthusiastic and makes Mephistopheles appear in some way more genuine, Believe’ st thou that I who saw the face of God And tasted the eternal happiness of paradise Am not tortured with 10 thousand hells In being denied of everlasting happiness?(I. iii. 74-77)However, as this is the only time Mephistopheles speaks so rapturously about heaven, it would seem these were his true ideas, yet he manages to manage them throughout the rest of the play in order to get Faustus ‘soul. Regardless of this though even Mephistopheles can be viewed as an element of the morality play as he lures the lead character into sin and subsequent damnation. As he himself confesses, Twas I, that when thou wert I’ the method heaven Damned up thy passage.(V. ii. 92-93)This speech from Mephistopheles can be utilized as additional proof of the morality elements in Dr Faustus as it reveals that Faustus was a guy led into damnation, in fitting with the tradition of the morality plot. Once again, though, there

is ambiguity as Faustus is not merely an innocent victim, for example his view that’necromantic books are incredible ‘( I. i. 46 )and his apparent refusal to accept human restrictions, both serve to contribute to his damnation. The comic scenes in the play are another example of Marlowe’s usage of the morality structure. Bawdy comic scenes were a common aspect of morality lays, and the scenes in Dr Faustus which feature characters such as the Horse-Courser and the Person hosting are typical of this low humour. For instance, there is farcical humour when Faustus cons the Horse-Courser into riding the horse into the water,’ O what a cozening physician was this! I riding my horse into the water, thinking some surprise secret had remained in the horse, I had absolutely nothing under me however a little straw and had much ado to escape drowning.'( IV. v. 28-31)The characters in these comic scenes are also an aspect of the morality play as, like the ‘tempters ‘, they are representations of a type. For example, we see the Person hosting, a Servant and the Horse-Courser; these are clearly not people. The Seven Lethal Sins also provide some light entertainment for the audience, Faustus himself discovers excellent satisfaction in the screen, ‘O how this sight doth pleasure my soul!'(II.

ii. 164). The Seven Fatal Sins are typical of the Vice characters in morality plays. However, although it is clear that there are several aspects of the morality play in Dr Faustus there is also much evidence to support the argument that it must be viewed as a disaster instead of a morality play. It is worth noting that the full title of the play actually consists of a recommendation to disaster, implying that Marlowe himself saw the play as such. Faustus himself is not a character normal of a morality play and as he is the lead character this should hold much weight. He is not a typical Everyman, but an ambitious renaissance guy. He is very much a private with very strong qualities of his own, for instance his arrogance, his pride and ambitious nature which all culrninate to play a part in the guy’s downfall. He is various to a typical Everyman since his character is seen to develop throughout the play. For instance, we see a rather ignorant and immature Faustus in the comic scenes; the pranks played on the Pope and the minor characters. However, after these childish pranks we receive a sense of Faustus having matured and aged somewhat. For instance when Faustus is informing the scholars of his fate, and they

provide their assistance Faustus states,’Talk not of me however save yourselves and leave.'(V. ii. 75)This generous comment is of terrific contrast to the Faustus of before who is considerably worried about himself only. It also implies that he is more resigned to his fate than in the past and realises no-one can help him. This is enhanced a little later in the exact same scene when Faustus says, ‘Ay, Faustus now thou hast no hope of heaven. For that reason misery! ‘(V. ii. 86 )However it is this maturity in idea, the acceptance of his fate, which causes his guaranteed downfall as he despairs and can not repent and seek to God for redemption. Throughout the play the audience

finds out a good deal about Faustus as his character is talked about and established, which would not be the case if Faustus were an Everyman character. It can be argued then that Faustus is a terrible hero, as he has a terrible defect which causes his failure; his pride. The idea of Faustus as tragic hero is likewise established in the truth that he falls from an elevated position. We understand from Faustus ‘first speech that he is a guy of terrific intelligence who has actually been highly effective. For example he has plainly been an effective doctor, Completion of physic is our body’s health. Why Faustus hast thou not attained that end? Are not thy costs hung up as monoliths Whereby whole cities have escaped the plague.(I. i. 16-19 )It remains in this speech however that we likewise see the over-reaching nature of Faustus’character, Could ‘st thou make guys to live permanently Or being dead raise them to life again, Then this profession were to be respected.(I. i. 22-24)This shows the huge scope of Faustus’ambition, and completion of the speech reveals the real super-human, almost God-like, nature of Faustus’goals, All things that move between the peaceful poles Shall be at my command. (I. i. 52-53) Again this is also more evidence of the reality that Faustus is a specific character. If Faustus is a terrible hero then his tale should be a tragic one. Dr Faustus certainly fits into the meaning of a tragedy as cited in The Oxford English Dictionary, A play or other literary work of a major or sorrowful character with a fatal or disastrous conclusion. It is this ‘dreadful conclusion’which sets Faustus apart from a standard morality play, because he can not repent and for that reason is not ultimately saved and redeemed by God– as Steane states in his book Marlowe,’Humanity and Everyman crawl approximately their God; Faustus even in his last hour still desires jump, and it can’t be done.'(Steane, 1965, p. 157). This quote shows

Faustus ‘failure to repent and proves that his pride remains in control. It likewise emphasises the fact that Faustus is not an Everyman character as their actions are precisely opposite. Nevertheless, although not a typical morality play ending, there were some which ended in the protagonist being damned to Hell and they were typically Protestant plays. Although there are many aspects of the morality play to be discovered in Dr Faustus I believe that the tragic nature of the play, a male damned to hell due to his own attributes, not able to repent and discover redemption and the severity of much of the content of the play surpasses the morality elements. It would seem that, to quote from Steane in Marlowe once again, The Morality Play just offered the form in which Marlowe might externalise the struggle he saw and discovered interesting in the Faust story.(Steane, 1965, p. 167)The ethical of Dr Faustus would initially seem to be very easy; do not desire what human beings can not achieve and believe in the power of God over evil and the Devil. Mephistopheles himself provides a cautioning to Faustus about over-reaching when he tells of Lucifer’s fall from heaven, Faustus: How comes it then that he is prince of devils? Mephistopheles: O, by aiming pride and impact, For which God

threw him from the face of paradise.(I. iii. 63-65 )Faustus ‘pride and arrogance, however, guarantee that he neglects this caution. The tone of both the opening and closing Choruses is moralising, as they both use an alerting about overreaching. The prologue at first appears not to be providing any judgement: Just this gentles– we must now carry out The kind of Faustus ‘fortunes, great or bad And now to patient judgements we appeal(Beginning, 7-9) However, the language used later on in the beginning is plainly condemning of Faustus, Till swoll ‘n with shrewd, of a self-conceit, His waxen wings did mount above his reach … … For falling to a devilish workout And glutted now with learning’s golden presents(Beginning, 19-23)Words like ‘swoll ‘n’,’glutted’, and later,’surfeits’ and’ cursed’are plainly criticising Faustus ‘actions. The epilogue offers the audience an ethical more clearly, Faustus is gone: regard his hellish fall, Whose fiendful fortune may exhort the smart Only to doubt unlawful things. (Epilogue, 23-25)In regards to an ethical concerning God and repentance, it is the Old Guy who is utilized to

give the message. He appears late in the play, indicating at the same time that it is never ever far too late to ask for God’s forgiveness, obviously an ethical in itself. Even as late in the play as Act V Scene i, when Faustus’damnation appears inevitable, the Old Male thinks there is hope for Faustus, I see an angel hover o’er thy head, And with a vial full of precious grace Offers to pour the same into thy soul: Then require mercy and prevent anguish. (V. i. 55-58 )This is directed towards Faustus but the audience may see the message as ell; nevertheless, Faustus can not adhere to the Old Male’s guidance, as the ethical

is lost on him once more. By damning Faustus Marlowe makes it clear his ethical failure is being unable to repent and having a lack of faith in God. In this way the play can be seen as a religious conversation commenting on what an absence of faith in God can do. This is strengthened by the strength of the Old Male and the devil’s failure to damage him in the method Faustus has actually been harmed,’His faith is fantastic. I can not touch his soul.'(V. i. 81). Spiritual debate likewise enters the play in the comic scenes concerning the Pope. There is a good deal of anti-clericalism in these scenes(an idea brought forward with the development of Protestantism), with the Pope depicted as being gluttonous, foolish and generally un-Christian, False prelates, for this despiteful treachery Cursed be your souls to hellish suffering.(III. ii. 53-54 )Nevertheless, as stated by Wilson in Marlowe and the Early Shakespeare, in concerns to Faustus’fate and faith there is no talk of predestination or whether Faustus belonged to the choose or reprobate, which again was an idea brought forward with the advancement of Protestantism, Calvinism in specific (Wilson, 1953 ). It is clear that Faustus ‘damnation is because of his own faults and the persuasions of other characters

. Although there are warnings and morals offered throughout the play, it is doubtful regarding whether or not the audience would adhere to them as the play is quite interested in Faustus ‘own fate and as he is a lot an individual it would be hard for an audience to truly associate with him and his fate. It appears to me that the play is more the discussion of an awful character and his tragic fate with lessons and morals being undoubtedly consisted of. Faustus’ final soliloquy makes it clear that the play is more worried with one man’s tragedy than offering a moral to the masses, O Faustus Now hast thou but one bare hour to live And then thou need to be damned perpetually.

Stall, you ever moving spheres of paradise … That Faustus might repent and save his soul.( V. ii. 133-140) The repetition of’thou’and’Faustus’in this extract make that clear. In this soliloquy we are taken through, what seems like minute by minute, the intimate thoughts in Faustus ‘mind as he faces his damnation. There are no morals to be discovered in this speech, aside from to see the distress of Faustus’ soul and gain from that. The subject matter of the play, a guy signing a pact with the devil, is so obscure that it is difficult to discover a suitable ethical

, although an Elizabethan audience would hold more belief and fear in the devil, in addition to being far more worried with the ideas of redemption and damnation, than an audience these days. It is a private catastrophe so there is no need for a moral and as Wilson once again says,’No moral can represent the experience which is given, however convention required an ethical, and one was supplied.( 1953, p. 48 )In conclusion then I believe that Dr Faustus is a disaster which utilizes aspects of the morality play, maybe simply since of the design of the time or because it had the right type for

what Marlowe wished to state. Concerning the moral within the play, there is definitely one( a minimum of)which is provided by a number of characters. Nevertheless I do not think the play was written with the sole objective of offering a moral and would be equally as strong without one. Regardless of the ethical provided and the aspects of the morality play structure the play stays, mostly, the disaster of a person. Bibliography Marlowe, Christopher Dr Faustus in ed. WB Worthen(1996)The Harcourt Brace Anthology of Drama, second edn., Texas: Harcourt Brace Steane, J. B (1965)Marlowe Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Wilson, F. P( 1953 )Marlowe and the Early Shakespeare Oxford: Clarendon Press The Oxford English Dictionary(1989), Second edition, Volume xviii. Oxford: Clarendon Press’Renaissance to Remediation’seminar and lecture notes A-level class notes

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