Sunday, October 3, 2010


Literally soliloquy means talking to himself aloud when a person is alone or is supposed to be alone. In a play it means the talking on the part of the character regardless of the presence of hearers. From the very days of ancient dramatists soliloquy has been used as a technical device of considerable importance. It has been generally used sometimes to supply information regarding the plot and at some other time to reveal the secret workings in the minds of a character.
It is always assumed that the character is talking to himself, but in truth he is addressing the audience gathered before him. In fact a dramatist has not the freedom of a novelist to elaborate or speak for his characters in detail. Hence this is the dramatist’s great technique to enable him to take us down to the innermost recesses of a character of his drama.
Different Uses of Soliloquy
We find the Elizabethan dramatists, including the great Shakespeare, making varied use of this significant dramatic technique. So the function of soliloquy may be manifold. Firstly, it can be used to provide information about the incidents that happened in the past. It may also tell about some thoughts or feelings that developed in the past. As in the case of Faustus’s first soliloquy, it nicely sums up his life and growth of his ideas that took place before the actions that are going to occur on the stage. Sometimes a soliloquy enables us to understand the motives of a character, as from the comments of Shakespeare’s Iago on himself we are able to know about the motive of his actions. And one of the most significant uses of the soliloquy is to reveal a deep experience or a typical state of mind with all its waverings and inner conflict. Sometimes a soliloquy may reveal the moral underlying a play as we find in the case of the soliloquy of Shakespeare’s Othello and that of Marlowe’s Faustus in the last scene.
Significance of Soliloquies in “Doctor Faustus”
In Doctor Faustus we have also some very significant soliloquies that take us deep into the innermost recesses of an inordinately ambitious soul sometimes revealing his dreams of becoming ‘a mighty god’ by mastering the black art of magic, sometimes showing the troubled waverings in his mind or the raging of conflict between passion and conscience in his soul; and in the end it wonderfully reveals the different moods and deep anguish of a terror-stricken soul.
From the very first soliloquy we come to know of the workings in the mind of a proud and inordinately ambitious soul-workings that will lead him to surrender his soul to the Devil. We come to know how he is disillusioned-about all the subjects that he has mastered and how he is led to believe that:
“A sound magician is a mighty god.”
And this fond and blind faith is to bring about his ultimate doom and damnation. Then the soliloquy of the first scene of the second Act divulges to us that. Faustus has already become a prey to his pricks of conscience just before the final surrender of his soul to the Devil. This is how he reveals himself:
“Now Faustus, must
Thou needs be damn’d and canst thou not be sav’d”
Last Hour Soliloquy
Then in the most poignant last hour soliloquy of the closing scene Marlowe reached the most magnificent flights of imagination and as a lyrically as well as dramatically single passage it remains unsurpassed in the whole range of English dramatic literature. The clock strikes eleven and Faustus has just one hour to live on this earth and his soliloquy opens with these intensely emotional lines:
“Ah, Faustus,
Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,
And then thou must be damn’d perpetually”
And then these fifty lines from the mighty pen of Marlowe have most forcefully revealed the varying moods of a deeply anguished soul. The man who once dreamed of becoming a Jove on this earth:
“Lord and commander of these elements”
is now an absolutely broken down personality and very ironically wishes to be transformed into a beast to escape eternal damnation. Like a senseless foolish child he appeals to ‘Fair natures eye’ to rise again ‘and make perpetual day.’
“That Faustus may repent and save his soul”
And the anguished cry of a terror-stricken soul facing its impending doom and damnation finds the most powerful expression in the closing lines of this poignant soliloquy:
“O, it strikes, it strikes: now body turn to air,
Or Lucifer will bear thee quick to hell!                   
Enter Devils
My God, my God look not so fierce to me!
Adders and serpents, let me breathe a while!
Ugly hell, gape not! come not, Lucifer!
I’ll burn my books! Ah Mephistophilis!
Critics and scholars are one in their opinion that the last soliloquy of Doctor Faustus is one of the most magnificent pieces of poetic passages in the whole range of English literature. Such marvellous poetic passages with its lyrical and emotional intensity, with its grand flights of imagination and with its splendour of poetic diction undoubtedly established Marlowe’s claim as the greatest poet and dramatist before the advent of Shakespeare.

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