Friday, June 21, 2013

"Marlowe's Portrayal of Hell in Dr. Faustus"


Christopher Marlowe was the writer of the Shakespearean age. He was born on February 1584, the year in which Shakespeare was born. He wrote his first play on 1580, "The Tamburline" (two volumes) which was a great success. He did his schooling at the King's school and his Bachelor's degree at Christ College at Cambridge. He underwent a secret patrol job at Rhime to revive Protestantism. He was denied of his Masters in Arts degree at Cambridge earlier. However, after having proved that he was under government's service that he couldn't be regular to his BA classes he was allowed to do his MA under Cambridge's grace list. He then settled at Cambridge where he started his carrier as a writer. He is considered to have followed Blasphemy and Homo-sexuality. He took part in many riots and arguments public. This deteriorated his fame. He wrote Dr.Faustus in 1587 and his other works include Jew of Malta. He was stabbed in a public riot in 1593. Though his life had a lot of Criticisms he is considered as a great writer of the Renaissance period. We can find the influence of his personal life in many parts of the play.


"Dr. Faustus" is one of the well known Renaissance plays of Christopher Marlowe. "Dr. Faustus" is a tragic play which is centralized on various themes of Downfall. It is centered on the limitations of human power, excessive pride , the wades of sin is death, man's reaction to extreme power and the result of Blasphemy and Black magic. "Dr. Faustus" is an excellent portrayal of the ancient Greek tragedy revival during the Renaissance period. "Dr. Faustus" was written in the year 1587. It can also be taken under the genre of morality plays. The chorus in the play, plays the role of a Narrator than of a Judge for what happens in the play. The comic relief serves its purpose of relief from the serious mood of damnation. It is also linked in the central thread in which the entire play is woven. The play provides an altogether different portrayal of Hell.

Dr.  Faustus has various features of the classical tragic hero during the renaissance period. Dr. Faustus was born at Rhode to a lower family. He stayed at Wellington during his older age. He did his masters degree in Medicine. He is a highly talented doctor on whose prescription plague was completely destroyed in the country and several other diseases were cured. Dr. Faustus is well learned about Aristotle's works and he has much interest for Black magic. He also thought that Medicine is the Chief of all virtues yet he felt that as a physician he can still not bring about eternal living. This thought is against nature as well as God. Dr. Faustus wanted to find some means by which he can attain the secret of eternity. He asked suggestions from his friends Vales and Cordinel. They suggested him Black magic. Vales bought him various books on Black magic and Cordinel taught him the basics of Black magic. Soon after this Dr. Faustus was totally engrossed in Black magic. He called out the devils Lucifer, Beelzebub and Mephistopheles. The good and bad angel appeared before him. The good angel said him to leave all these damn art works and repent to God. The bad angel promised him of Hell, wealth, pleasures and knowledge. 

The main idea that makes Dr. Faustus a Tragic hero is the knowledge that has no wisdom. This knowledge without wisdom was the reason for his downfall. He also wanted to do something which is beyond human potentials. He sold his soul to Mephistopheles by writing 'Homo Fuge' (O! fly man) with his own blood. In return he got Mephistopheles as his servant, the power of changing to different shapes, the power of acquiring more knowledge about Astronomy, Botany, Necromancy etc.. Though warned by the good angel, he was the reason for his downfall. After having got power he did not use them for the purpose he sold his soul for twenty four years. He used his power in cheap tricks and in seven deadly sins. He has excessive pride (Hubris) for his powers that made him play pranks with the Pope. He was also not bothered about the warnings of the good angel. Had he repented to god his sins would have been forgiven. At the end it was his own pride and sins that led him to a helpless situation in which he was denied by the good angel and he had to go to the Hell. At the beginning of the play the chorus portrays the fate of the Tragic hero, Faustus by the classical example of the story of ICARUS. Icarus who was in the prison escaped out with the help of Wax Wings given to him by his father Daedalus. Due to his excessive pride he flew up to the Sun where the was melted and he fell into the sea facing a fatal end. The Chorus says that Dr. Faustus' story is one such that of Icarus'.

After having sold his Soul Dr. Faustus asked Mephistopheles a series of questions. He asked what and where hell was. Mephistopheles answered that hell is actually a state of being. Mephistopheles is an angel who went against God that he was banished out of heaven and put to hell. Yet when Faustus called him he was able to attend to it. He was able to come to Earth. According to Marlowe, Hell is a state of being in which there are no thoughts of God. If the presence of God is completely absent in a person then he is said to be in Hell. Thus, hell is not a place but a state of being in the absence of the (supreme power)God's love and care.

In Dr. Faustus we can see Hell as the provider of fancies that human beings crave for. Dr. Faustus wanted to have supreme power which he got through the contract with Mephistopheles. When he asked for a wife, Mephistopheles immediately dressed a devil like a woman and gave him. However Dr. Faustus did not like her ugly appearance. At the time of selling his soul Dr. Faustus felt disturbed and Mephistopheles solved it by bringing angels and felicitations all around him. When Dr. Faustus wanted to learn Astronomy, Cosmology, Botany etc., he used his powers and gained a lot of knowledge with which he became very popular in the Earth. He used his powers to do pranks over the Pope, Burne, etc.. He enjoyed great feasts and the seven deadly sins. Hell can thus be called a place where a man's worldly cravings are satisfied.

Satan who was one among the angels who wanted to free himself from God tried to war against God. God banished him from heaven and put him at the hell. Satan was a very powerful leader. He lead the other angels  who were also against God, though he knew he cannot win God through direct war and he wanted to stay free from God at Hell. Than as a servant to God in Heaven, he preferred to be the King of Hell. Satan is considered as the leader of all the evil spirits, devils and other angels.
Hell is the place of the seven deadly sins. Hell is the place where all the sins are put up in chaos. It is not a place but a circumference in which all the seven sins overlap one another. Greed, Pride, Laziness, Lust, Anger, Hypocrisy and Arrogance are the seven sins that envelop Hell. Dr. Faustus was made to do all the seven deadly sins in the name of Power when he was deprived of the fantasies in the Earth. He wanted to repent, however the seven sins and the greed for wealth overtook him again to the side of the bad angel.

The play portrays Hell as a place of extreme wealth and power. Dr. Faustus gained a lot of Wealth out of hell. He was many a times pulled back to hell by the bad angel with the tool of wealth. Another aspect of hell portrayed by Marlowe is Power. Hell is the place of Power where a person can move hills and unite lands, can reach the stars and read the planets. A person can change to any shape and can even go invisible. Dr. Faustus was provided all these powers when he was damned to hell.

Though Mephistopheles appeared to favor Dr. Faustus he was selfish to attain a soul for his flesh and skin. In many circumstances, Dr. Faustus is being pulled back to hell just for the selfish sake of a soul. As Dr. Faustus' sins were increasing, at one point the good angel did not accept him when he wanted to repent. He was denied of heaven and was sent to Hell. The statement ' The wages of Sins is death' is proved right in the play. Though hell may look attractive, it it like the seed in a Fruit. The Fruit may be tasty but the seed which is in the core is always sour. Thus, in Dr. Faustus we can see various depictions of Hell which proved to be attractive at the earlier stage and soon a disgrace to Dr. Faustus himself at the end of the play.



SARAH

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