Dr. Faustus | Christopher Marlowe | Religion And Belief

Johnson 1 Eric Johnson Dr.

Walton English 12 AP 26 October 2010 “Before [Their] Chiefest Bliss” “Till, swoll’n with cunning of a self-conceit, His waxen wings did mount above his reach, And melting, heavens conspired his overthrow.” And as Icarus fell, and as Lucifer fell, and as Adam and Eve fell, Christopher Marlowe alludes to the imminent fall of Dr. John Faustus in his play, Doctor Faustus. It is the theme of overreaching—where he or she extends or aspires beyond their own means—that percolates such stories of myth, ideology, fiction, and real life. Interestingly, the theme of overreaching pervades the life of Christopher Marlowe in respect to the life of his own fictitious character, Dr. John Faustus. The conclusion can be drawn that as Dr. John Faustus fell so will Christopher Marlowe. And while “the historical Faustus was a strolling scholar who had a reputation for possessing magical powers” and “after his death his fame spread far, and often this fame took a strongly anti-papal nature” it is hard to ignore the similarities between the Marlowe’s Dr. John Faustus and Marlowe himself. (Works of Christopher Marlowe: Christopher Marlowe’s Life). One may propose that Dr. John Faustus is Christopher Marlowe’s literary alter ego perhaps. And like Icarus plummeting into the sea, Dr. John Faustus and Christopher Marlowe will meet their end through their own blind ambition. Unmistakably, the origins of Christopher Marlowe and Dr. John Faustus are very similar: both were “born, [their] parents base of stock…” (Doctor Faustus. Prologue. 12). Marlowe’s father was “a lowly shoemaker,” and although there is no additional textual evidence to determine Faustus’ father’s profession, scholars assert that Marlowe and Faustus come from very

“Despite the more or less solemn promise he had made in order to secure the renewal of his scholarship. studying the Old and New Testaments. the Turbulent Life of Christopher Marlowe. Instead. Hermogenes. However. In order to receive the Archbishop Parker’s scholarship.Johnson 2 alike backgrounds (Arebel Playwright.” (Marlowe-Society). as required by his scholarship” (Marlowe-Society). Then “at the age of sixteen and a half [he] was awarded a second scholarship to Corpus Christi College. preparing lessons for his tutor. he was accepted. Cambridge” (Marlowe-Society). “Marlowe’s intellect roamed through other fields of study it was by classical poetry and legend that he was enthralled and inspired” (Boas 17).” (MarloweSociety). socioeconomic makeup would not hinder Marlowe’s drive. “Marlowe began his Cambridge University career as a student of divinity… attending lectures in rhetoric (Quintilian. “Marlowe gained his BA in 1584 to become ‘Dominus’ Marlowe. Although Doctor Faustus shows signs of Marlowe’s theological studies. and gained his MA—a coveted status symbol of Elizabethan times—in 1587. “[sic] His exceptional gifts were recognised when a boy he gained a scholarship to the prestigious King’s School. B08). “He obtained degrees not in divinity but in arts” (Poirier 14). we find Marlowe overreaching. when he left Cambridge after six and a half years of study with the intention of taking holy orders and entering the Anglican Church. and attending chapel sermons” (Pinciss 1). “[Marlowe] was required to compose a Latin verse and to sing in plain-song at sight and to demonstrate his master of Latin syntax and grammar. . at King’s School Marlowe studied Latin and Greek literature extensively. So. Funded by the Church. In following years. To no surprise. he had not the least intention of taking holy orders” (Poirier 16). and Cicero).

Excelling all whose sweet delight disputes In heavenly matters of theology… (Doctor Faustus. As such [Walsingham] used the University . to Wertenberg he went. Marlowe was interestingly convicted of witchcraft. Prologue. In the play. It appears that in search of knowledge both characters overreached their limits and entered into risky lifestyles. was also the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. 1. Faustus acquired a Doctorate degree in theology before turning to alchemy and black magic. 13-19) From the text we understand at university Faustus studied theology. Sir Francis Walsingham. Queen Elizabeth’s “Secretary of State. Furthermore. the text brings to our knowledge that Faustus is well-versed in Greek and Latin. There he received a Doctorate—a highly-revered status symbol—for his work. However. Although. Faustus was given a scholarship to attend the University of Wertenberg and thus his life very closely parallels Marlowe’s real life: Of riper years. and he is often found reciting evocative Latin phrases to himself: “Bene disserere est finis logices. it seems unlikely. 7. in respect to Marlowe. It is reasonable to assume after achieving his advanced degree.). Whereas his kinsmen chiefly brought him up. During the 1580’s.Johnson 3 Although fictitious. So soon profits in divinity. Faustus’ story creates a feeling of déjà vu. Faustus reached a turning point in his life. A brilliant scholar. presumably as part of his scholarship’s requirements.” meaning to dispute well is the purpose of logic (Doctor Faustus. The same could be said for Christopher Marlowe. The fruitful plot of scholarism graced. That shortly he was graced with with doctor’s name. he found himself involved with several radical groups.

” and suggest that Marlowe was instead ‘snooping’ on students at Cambridge (Marlowe-Society). In response.” Cambridge authorities denied Marlowe his MA degree. and when his normally constant residence at his college was suddenly interrupted by lengthy absences” (MarloweSociety). to whom an important task “touching the benefit of the country” had been entrusted. His death was followed by the death of his brother Charles IX. And then in 1589. when he had ‘proved’ himself by successfully gaining his BA (a hurdle many students evaded or failed). King Henri III of France was “assassinated with the poisoned dagger of a Jacobian friar” (Marlowe-Society). Prince of Orange. leader of the Protestants in the Netherlands. Rheims often admitted non-Catholic students in hope of converting them. His “first important assignment as a secret agent was evidently in 1584. Marlowe was quickly recruited.Johnson 4 as his recruiting ground to enlist bright. was assassinated…” (Marlowe-Society). and the death of the next King of France. We also find Marlowe involved in “The School of Night. but all were uncovered one after another by the English Secret service… thanks to the efficiency and dedication of Walsingham’s Secret Service” (Marlowe-Society). However. William the Silent. “The Queen is metioned twice. Henri IV. Interestingly.” This close circle. . citing her personal interest in this young man’s attainment of his MA without hindrance from the authorities… and testifies that he had done good service and “deserved to be rewarded for his faithful dealing” (MarloweSociety). Scholars find it difficult to accept that Marlowe was the “young man described in the Privy Council’s letter of commendation. Marlowe it appealed this decision to the Queen’s Privy Council. patriotic young men to serve as secret agents” (MarloweSociety). “In 1584. When rumor spread of Marlowe’s possibly “conversion. “Catholic plots against Queen Elizabeth were ceaseless. Marlowe’s absences directly coincide with the Babington Plot at the Catholic Seminary at Rheims. Yet there is much debate regarding Marlowe’s espionage role.

Johnson 5 “[sic] …called Free-Thinkers… were all stigmatised as “Atheists” in order to blacken them in the eyes of the ignorant” (Marlowe-Society). in the eyes of the church. Like Marlowe. 28. “These Free-Thinkers discussed a wide range of subjects and were avid in their pursuit of all knowledge. Examining Marlowe’s life and work. Faustus placed himself above religion. Faustus disregards God’s warning and proceeds to use coals to open the wound and take the oath. Marlowe envisioned himself above religion and it was his involvement with “The School of Night” and his work that earned him the title. one can tell that he was a rare-breed. 24. turning stone into gold and even . “Consummatum est!” “It is finished”—the last words of Christ on the cross. [he]. Faustus bargains his soul for twenty-four years of life. Atheist. Here. “before his chiefest bliss” (Doctor Faustus. try they brains to gain a deity!” (Doctor Faustus. 92-93). Shortly after. a playwright not wiling to conform his creativity. yet still Marlowe wrote. Faustus statement project his own arrogance as believes that black magic will lead him to the level of God. flee!) appear (Doctor Faustus. After cutting his arm. Here. Prologue. 1. a devil’s power. 1. “falling to a devilish exercise…” (Doctor Faustus. Such men. Elizabethan society is notably superstitious. two angles appear to Faustus: the good angel urges him to repent and renounce his pact with Lucifer and Mephastophilis. the wound divinely congeals and the Latin words “Homo fuge!” (Man.) Faustus’ ambition is too great for his own good and succumbs to Lucifer’s servant Mephastophilis. were dangerous” (Marlowe-Society).) Later when the Seven Deadly Sins are personified and presented to Faustus. Faustus’ own blindness keeps him from salvation. Faustus ultimately believes “A sound magician is a mighty God. 518. he fails to recognize them as wrongdoings. Prologue. he became subject to the wild persecution of others.). but instead ignores them. Despite such divine intervention. and the ability to become invisible. Faustus becomes the tragic hero.

“…evidence point[ed] to the fact that . Thomas Kyd. “the charges of atheism against Marlowe played an important part in the final events of his turbulent life” (Works of Christopher Marlowe: Christopher Marlowe’s Life). Faustus represents the worst type of sinner and so his damnation is justified and deserved. Richard Baines stepped forward claiming Marlowe to have given a lecture wherein he vehemently iterated atheistical blasphemies. For Calvinists. Much of this view is also caused by too close identification of Marlowe the man with the dramatic supermen who are his tragic heroes—Faustus and Tamburlaine for example. …a rebellious Renaissance spirit thrusting against the shackles of accepted belief and authority [which] is largely biographical fiction. a contemporary of Marlowe. Atheism in the Renaissance meant an active hostility to God and religion. several heretical documents were found. it identified many types of skeptical or naturalistic thinking. Additionally.Johnson 6 reversing death. He never belonged to the elect. The text leaves Faustus’ fate obvious: Mephastophilis comes to collected his damned soul. however. to his own dismay. was not the only one to come forward with charges of atheism against Marlowe” (Works of Christopher Marlowe: Christopher Marlowe’s Life). but rather had been predestined from birth for reprobation. (Works of Christopher Marlowe: Christopher Marlowe’s Life) And therefore. or damned. Upon searching Kyd’s quarters. Marlowe himself was often viewed unfavorably. Kyd claimed the documents to be Marlowe’s. was “charged and arrested with atheism” and “suspected of being involved in political disorder” (Works of Christopher Marlowe: Christopher Marlowe’s Life). “Thomas Kyd. the product of biographers with a regard for invention.

and strive in argument to frustrate and confute what has been spoken or written by prophets and such holy men. Marlowe met his end. . He was invited to a dinner at a tavern in Deptford alongside “[sic] Ingram Frizer and Nicholas Skeres. “This at least was the “official” version. On Sunday.” and so the Queen’s Privy Council issued an arrest warrant for Christopher Marlowe. Sir John Puckering. Kyd wrote two letters to the Lord Keeper. 1593. Marlowe died instantly. but granted bail under the condition that he reported daily to the Council. wherein Marlowe attacked Frizer and Frizer retaliated by stabbing Marlowe above the right eye. After Marlowe’s death in 1593. boh swindlers. for it seems that Marlowe may well have been lured to a planned assassination.Johnson 7 Marlowe had the reputation among his contemporaries of being a religious skeptic and of being unorthodox in his philosophical beliefs. in which he repeated in detail his charges against Marlowe. Suddenly an argument erupted over the bill. gibe at prayers. Perhaps something in connection with the espionage activities of Sir Thomas Walsingham… But the exact cause of why Marlowe was murdered remains a mystery” (Works of Christopher Marlowe: Christopher Marlowe’s Life). Kyd said that Marlowe refused holy orders in the Anglican church and had practiced atheism to such an extent as “to jest at the divine scriptures. a double-spy… All of these men were connected with an espionage ring run by Walsingham” (Works of Christopher Marlowe: Christopher Marlowe’s Life).” Kyd also connected Marlowe with a “school of atheism” or “school of night…” (Works of Christopher Marlowe: Christopher Marlowe’s Life). May 20. and Raymond Poley. Marlowe was arrested. Only ten days later.

” he would have been a successful scholar (Doctor Faustus. He completely denounces Christianity saying. but also incredibly blind and foolish. and his minister Mephastophilis. Faustus makes another critical mistake: when given the opportunity to . Without thought. By me John Faustus. I. (Doctor Faustus. Epilogue. John Faustus of Wittenberg. Faustus’ tragic “sin is that of Adam—he seeks by knowledge to be as God” by selling his soul to Lucifer (Hawkins 193). And burnèd is Apollo’s laurel bough. 26. a serious crime for which the ultimate penalty was to be burned at the stake” (Marlowe-Society). Prologue. by these presents. 1. That sometime grew within this learned man. and furthermore grant unto them that four and twenty years being expired. 1510-1512) The Epilogue of Doctor Faustus asserts that if Faustus had not “surfeit upon cursèd necromancy. flesh. Doctor. which was heresy. Dr. into their habitation wheresoever. do give both body and soul to Lucifer. Prince of the East. full power to fetch or carry the said John Faustus’ body and soul. 549-556) Faustus is incredibly bold. (Doctor Faustus. and these articles written being inviolate.). Faustus ultimately cuts his life short: Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight. blood. 264-265)In doing so. Faustus suffered for rejecting his religion. As Marlowe suffered for Atheism.” Marlowe remained a target as Kyd and others worked to smudge his reputation in the name of “atheism. he summons Mephastophilis: “ipse nunc surgat nobis dicatus Mephastophilis!” (Doctor Faustus. 2.Johnson 8 It appears that even after “death.

yielding to no warnings and without regard for their well being. 1510-1518) The lines suggest the pagan idea of Faustus’ immortality through fame. one is warned of the hazards of overreaching. However. Faustus ultimately trades his life and soul for a few cheap party tricks and his own personal. Whose fiendful fortune may exhort the wise Only to wonder at unlawful things. To this I understand and agree.e. Like Marlowe. Marlowe’s and Faustus’ life: each character led their lives in absurd blindness. John Faustus.Johnson 9 repent and be saved. i. psychological hell. I assert that it is the degree of blindness that should be taken into consideration rather than the ambition itself. because ultimately. And as all others fell. Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits To practise more than heavenly power permits. Faustus refuses to swallow his pride. it is each character’s own blind ambition that leads them to their downfall. a discussion can be had that blind ambition is a positive quality and if not for blind ambition we would not be where we are today. John Faustus and Christopher Marlowe fell. Dr. “Terminat hora diem. and thus invites one “to wonder at Faustus’ life. (Doctor Faustus. but not to imitate his actions” (Wooton 65). Faustus’ abandonment of religion aids his downfall. Epilogue. Epilogue. And so Faustus’ life concludes: Faustus is gone: regard his hellish fall. terminat author opus” (Doctor Faustus. 1518) . However. From the lives of both Christopher Marlowe and Dr.

25 Oct. Print. the Turbulent Life of Christopher Marlowe. 1951. 2010. M.d. 25 Oct. Christopher Marlowe: A Biographical and Critical Study. . "Some Observations on Christopher Marlowe. Web.marlowe-society." Publications of the Modern Language Association 43. n. Print.3 (1928): 682-700. Gray. Frederick S. Doctor Faustus: With The English Faust Book. 2010.html>. Christopher Marlowe. 193-209. 1963. 1940." The Washington Times 27 Feb. 1966. Houston: Rice University. 15001900.p. Questia School. Christopher. Print. and David Wootton. Hawkins.. "The Marlowe Society. Poirier. Indianapolis. "Arebel Playwright.2. Marlowe. "The Education of Faustus. "Marlowe's Cambridge years and the writing of Doctor Faustus. Austin K. 25 Oct.com. 25 Oct. Print. Michel. N. Questia School. G. Government Agent. Works of Christopher Marlowe: Christopher Marlowe’s Life." Studies in English Literature." The Marlowe Society. 2010. Bigchalk. Boas. Print. Web. London: Chatto & Windus. 1500-1900 33. 6.org/index. Web. Monarch Notes. <http://www. Sherman. Questia School. 2005: B08. 2005.2 (1993): 249+. 2010." Studies in English Literature. Web. Vincent D. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Johnson 10 Works Cited Balitas. IN: Hackett Publishing Company. Pinciss.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful