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, [...]
[...] Angus Fletcher argues in “Doctor Faustus and the Lutheran Aesthetic,” that Faustus' conflicted skepticism in this scene and several others has, as its source, paradox of agnostic supernaturalism, suggesting that nothing more can be known about the world beyond than the brute fact of its existence” (187). However, this notion requires one to make the shaky assumption that the dialogues between Faustus and Mephastophilis an actual demon - like the one cited above were totally unconvincing, when it is far more likely that Faustus simply divorces himself from the truth (as with the conjured wife and Helen of Troy) in order to cope with his fear of impending damnation. [...]
[...] As the play unfolds, Faustus puts his supernatural abilities to increasingly ordinary and uninspiring uses, bringing his story to a progressively closer parallel with each comic scene. For example, in Scene the third of the scenes, Robin and Rafe conjure Mephastophilis to help them escape a disgruntled vintner whose wine they have stolen. Mephastophilis turns them into animals for using supernatural powers for such a crude purpose. The following scene shows Faustus using his powers to give stag horns to an obnoxious knight. [...]
[...] He continues with a fictional speech by God to Adam in which He says, constrained by no limits shall ordain for thyself the limits of thy nature. We have set thee at the world's center so that thou may observe whatever is in the world” (224). The play consistently mocks this false sense of self-importance associated with Faustus' humanism. For instance, after hours of studying his magic book's conjuring spells, Faustus recites one and is full of self- satisfaction when Mephastophilis appears. see there's virtue in my heavenly words!” Faustus says. Faustus, thou art conjurer laureate / That canst command great Mephastophilis” (3. 27-33). [...]
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