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Doctor Faustus and Renaissance Humanism

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journalism
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About the document

Stewart W.
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documents in English
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school essay
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4 pages
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  1. Introduction
  2. The most extreme possible act of humanism
    1. Faustus' signing away his afterlife in exchange for access to superhuman powers
    2. His graduation to the necromantic arts
  3. Mocking the false sense of self importance
    1. The most effective vehicle for satire
    2. Faustus' failure to affect the world in any significant way
  4. Faustus' constant air of skepticism
  5. Faustus' relationship to limits
  6. Conclusion: Squandering the price of his soul
  7. Works cited

The introduction to Christopher Marlowe's The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus in The Norton Anthology of English Literature describes the play's protagonist as ?an overreacher, striving to get beyond the conventional boundaries established to contain the human will? (990). While not grossly inaccurate, this description gives unwarranted grandeur to the hero's downfall. It is partly this same false grandeur that characterizes Doctor Faustus' misguided notions of Renaissance Humanism ? a belief in the ability of humans to transcend traditional earthly limitations through the pursuit of a broad base of knowledge.

[...] Just before his death, he laments to the three scholars: O would I had never seen Wittenberg, Never read book and what wonders I have done, all Wittenberg Can witness yea, all the world; for which Faustus hath lost both Germany and the world yea, heaven itself heaven, the seat of God, the throne of the blessed, the kingdom of joy; and must remain In hell forever (19-24) Faustus knows that he has squandered the price of his soul, but he still makes it seem uncertain whether he fully comprehends the concept of eternity. [...]


[...] Todd Pettigrew argues more specifically, will suggest that whatever its nature, the mechanism of Faustus' fall is this persistent resistance to matters of infinity? (257). Of course, few would likely argue that Faustus' rejection of all matters metaphysical contributes in some way, however general or specific, to his damnation. Works Cited Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. New York: Heinle Publishing della Mirandola, Pico. ?Oration of the Dignity of Man.? The Renaissance Philosophy of Man. Ed. Cassirer, Kristeller, [...]

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