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Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe was the son of a shoemaker. He was educated at Canterbury and then he graduated from Cambridge University. We know about Marlowe’s life that he was violent and wild and he was accused of atheism and blasphemy. He was killed in 1593. His most famous plays are: Tamburlaine, The Jew of Malta, Edward II and Doctor Faustus.

Doctor Faustus

Faustus’s soliloquy covers the last hour of his life. He is alone, waiting for midnight. At that time the devil will come and take his soul to hell. When he was young, Faustus had signed an agreement with Mephistopheles to give him his soul in exchange for 24 years of knowledge and pleasure. Now Faustus is terrified at the thought of eternal damnation. He repents of what he has done and prays to God for forgiveness nut in vain. He wishes that time would stop or he would transform into an element of nature. But they are impossible wishes; his fate is inevitable. He realises that his bargain it has deprived him of the joeys of heaven. The soliloquy has a double function: it shows the end of the plot and gives a clear insight into Faustus’s suffering and despair.
The soliloquy is divided into two parts which correspond to two half hours but they differ in length. This difference reflects Faustus’s subjective perception of the passage of the time (time seems to run faster just when you wish it went slower). Faustus’s anguish is conveyed through his obsession with the time, his wish to escape damnation, his desperate invocations to God, Lucifer and nature for help which cannot be granted. Faustus’s manner of speech is that of a learned man. His language is rich in imagery and shows literary, philosophical and religious knowledge. He speaks in blank verse, which consists of unrhymed line of iambic pentameter.

Features of Marlowe’s Tragedies


1. The tragic hero lives in a world beyond that of ordinary human experience (Faustus’s lifelong agreement with the devil and its consequences don’t belong to everyday life).

2. Although the tragic hero is dominated by a single passion, he isn’t a flat character (Faustus desires knowledge and pleasure, but at the end he repents).

3. The tragic hero inevitably meets a tragic end which always occurs in a theatrical, frightening way (Faustus is taken away by the devils).

4. The dramatist has given the character a distinctive manner of speech, a heightened language which isn’t that of everyday life.


Summary
Doctor Faustus is a proud scholar who becomes dissatisfied with science and turns to magic. He signs a compact with the devil, Mephistopheles, whereby he exchanges his soul for 24 years of knowledge and pleasure, which lie beyond the realm of human capacity. Now the moment to give up his soul has come.

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