Sunday, September 26, 2010


Marlowe and the Spirit of Renaissance
At the very outset we should note that Marlowe belonged to the age of Renaissance and he was to a very great extent the product of Renaissance—Renaissance with its spirit of revolt, with its supreme lust for wealth and power without any regard for moral limits, with its great yearning for limitless knowledge and craving for worldly and sensual pleasures. And all the tragic heroes of Marlowe are embodiment of the Renaissance spirit.

Faustus—An Embodiment of the Epoch
Doctor Faustus is also an embodiment of the epoch. His mind and soul is afire with an inordinate desire for attaining supreme power through knowledge by any means, fair or foul. With the revival of learning, people began to believe that knowledge enabled man to become all powerful. So Faustus even after getting his degree of Doctorate and studying all the important branches of learning like Philosophy, Physic, Law and Divinity realises that he is ‘still but Faustus and a man.’ All are inadequate and none of these subjects can help him to become as powerful ‘on earth, as Jove in the Sky.’ Faustus’s dream is to gain super-human power so that:
“All things that move between the quiet poles,
Shall be at my command: emperors and kings,
Are obey’d in their sev’ral provinces,
Nor can they raise the wind, or rend the clouds,
But his dominion that exceeds in this,
Stretched as far as doth the mind of man.”
Decision to Become a Magician
This inordinate desire to attain super-human powers is absolutely in keeping with the adventurous spirit of the age of Renaissance. And to attain this Faustus makes the supreme but tragic decision of his life:
“A sound magician is a mighty god;
Here, Faustus, tire thy brains to gain a deity.”
But immediately after Faustus feels the prick of conscience as he is going to do something against the will of God. But the Evil Angel or the over-riding desire carries the day, as Faustus dreams of becoming as powerful:
“….as Jove is in the sky.
Lord and commander of the elements.”
To Attain Super-Human Power at Any Cost
And he would attain this power at any cost even by selling his soul to the Devil. Knowledge is no doubt power; but Faustus, who is the embodiment of the dreams and desires of the rising bourgeois of his age forgets in his fit of passion that there is a limit to man’s powers and possibilities and that knowledge may also become a source of ruin and destruction if it is abused. Puffed up with his vast knowledge and learning he ignores the fact that to make an attempt to fly too near the sun with waxen wings means certain doom and destruction. Thus to Faustus:
“Nothing so sweet as magic is to him,
Which he prefers before his chiefest bliss.”
Hence, in the end just like other tragic heroes of Marlowe, Faustus, also with his limitless lust for power and pelf, ultimately finds with horror how the flush and glory of his temporary success brings about his doom and eternal damnation. This is the theme of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.
Theme Revolving Round Faustus—Surrenders His Soul to Devil
We find the theme entirely revolving round Faustus, a great German scholar with a degree of Doctor of Divinity. Even with his great achievements in different branches of learning he took to the study of unholy necromancy to gain super-human power on this earth. He discarded the advice of the Good Angel, rather turned a deaf ear to the voice of his conscience, and conjured up Mephistophilis, a deputy of great Lucifer the Prince of the Devils. Faustus was prepared to surrender his soul to the Devil after enjoying for twenty-four years; a life full of voluptuous pleasure and after acquiring mastery over the black art of Magic to enable him to display miraculous feats. Mephistophilis was also to become his slave for the whole period and carry out all his commands whatever they might be. Even he wrote a deed of gift to this effect with his own blood.
Conflict Between Conscience and Passion
But then very often doubts and diffidence arise in his soul. He thought of saving his soul by means of prayer and repentance. The Good and Evil Angels had their share in trying to exert influence over him in their own ways. A bitter conflict raged in his soul between his conscience and passion. But threatened by the Devil, he submitted to him once more without any reserve and renewed the deed with his blood again. With his mastery over the black art and with the help of Mephistophilis, his constant slave, he gained immense super-human power and moved across the earth and sky to well known cities, had the spirit of Helen, the matchless beauty as his paramour and demonstrated miraculous feats before kings and courtiers.
Tragic and Terrible End
But the sands of time were running out. Ultimately the final hour approached when Faustus was to surrender his soul to the Devil. The fervent appeal of his scholar friends at the last moment to ‘look up to Heaven’ was of no avail. He realised that ‘Faustus’s offence can never be pardoned.’ Finally, he was left pitifully alone in his room to face his inevitable doom and damnation. Horror of the impending doom made him tragic and his terror-stricken soul fervently wished that movement of time might stop or the final hour might be lengthened so that he could have a last chance to repent and pray for God’s mercy. But nothing is of any avail. The Devils appear and carry away the soul of Faustus for eternal damnation. And thus:
“Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight,
And burned is Apollo’s laurel-bough,
That sometime grew in this learned man.”
Doctrine of Medieval Christianity
Thus, by depicting the terrible end of Faustus, Marlowe has also presented in this drama the most awe-inspiring doctrine of the medieval Christianity that tells us that ‘to practise more than heavenly power’ means ‘eternal damnation.’
In the end we may quote a few words from J.A. Symonds to elucidate in brief the theme of this great drama: “Marlowe concentrated his energies on the delineation of proud life and terrible death of a man in revolt against the eternal laws of his own nature and the world, defiant and desperate, plagued with remorse, alternating between the gratification of his appetites and the dread of God whom he rejects without denying.”

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Souvik Biswas said...

thanks a lot for the post sir, keep posting good stuffs, God bless you. :)

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