“Out of ancient myth of the magician who sells his soul to the Devil for occult powers, Marlowe has fashioned a veritable fable of Renaissance man” (Source 5 113).
The goal of any true renaissance man is to improve himself. This goal may border on heresy, as it leads to a man trying to occupy the same position as God. Lucifer commits this same basic sin to cause his own fall. To Doctor Faustus, this idea of sin is of no concern at the beginning of Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. Faustus’ goal is to become god-like himself. In order to accomplish this, he learns of science and shows an interest in magic. He turns to the pleasures of magic and art and the poewr of scientific knowledge as substitutes for the Christian faith he has lost” (source 5 115). Clearly, this total disregard for God makes Faustus an atheist. However, it is only his renaissance quality, which seals his damnation, not his lack of faith. It is interesting to note how Faustus directly parallels Marlowe himself. The play is written as if Marlowe’s vindication of Faustus will vindicate him in the end. This has a direct effect on style as well as the overall spin, which Marlowe takes on the archetype. Such as strong connection between Faustus and Marlowe makes it practical to speak of the damnation of both of these interesting characters almost simultaneously. Therefore, Marlowe and Faustus are both damned by their own self-improvement, not only by God, but also by themselves, and society.
Doctor Faustus opens with a depiction of Faustus as the perfect Renaissance man.
“He is partly an artist, who does not wish to glorify God, as his medieval predecessors did, but to applaud and please man; he is partly a scientist and philosopher, whose hope is to make man more godlike and not to justify his miserable life on earth; and, most significantly he is a Protestant, a Lutheran by training who has attempted through Reformation to escape the evils he associates with a Roman Catholic Church.” (source 5 113)
As the epitome of renaissance man, Faustus believes that he can infinitely improve himself (4 155). Faustus considers his life before his deal with Lucifer as one that has gone as far as current interests may carry him. He notes in the opening scene “Then read no more; thou hast attained the end. / A greater subject fitteth Faustus’...
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...arlowe humanizes him. “Faustus has the complicated modern soul. He is tragic because his dillema is real” (source 6 62). As a realistic character, Faustus experiences the common feelings which occur in any person’s battle with faith. Marlowe creates a character whose flaw is so slight, yet who is fatally flawed at the same time. This over ambition creates the perfect balance between the extremes of flaw. “There is a desperate fatalism about Marlowe that the most desirable things are subject to cosmic veto” (source 9 226). Marlowe succeeds in accomplishing his ultimate goal of creating a character which vindicates his own beliefs.
The damnation of Faustus as well as the life of Marlowe both prove to demonstrate that unchecked ambition lead to complete damnation and utter loss of happiness in society. Although Marlowe does well in humanizing Faustus, it is still clear how he was damned and why. Marlowe’s biography also is tragic in the same way. All of Marlowe’s as well as Faustus’ damnation both are easily attributed to their ambitious nature which is almost a piece of the archetype to which Icarus and Lucifer both belong. Clearly, the ultimate answer to this problem is moderation.
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