Dr Faustus Context

Contextual information regarding Renaissance philosophy, exploration, tragic form and religion.

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  • Dr Faustus - Context (AO4)
    • The Renaissance Era (rebirth). 14th to the 17th Century.
      • Revival of Greek and Roman culture. Logic was central to thinking as the philosophies of the likes of Aristotle etc. were rediscovered as opposed to the emphasis on belief in the Medieval Era. Thoughts were focused on the individual and what it means to be human.
        • Aristotle: -focus on teleos (end or  purpose) "Is to dispute well logic's chiefest end?...Then read no more, thou hast attained that end” scene 1, Faustus
        • Greek mythology gained popularity and the figure of Icarus became iconic. "His waxen wings did mount above his reach, And melting, heavens conspired his overthrow, For falling to a devilish exercise"
          • Icarus drowned because he over reached himself, this analogy foreshadows that Faustus too will cause his downfall in his attempt to "gain a deity". The heavens conspiring his overthrow also questions God's nature, suggesting He is a vengeful God and not forgiving as the good Angels claim. Perhaps Faustus is fated (predestination) to fail.
    • The Form of a Tragedy
      • Aristotle's Theory of Tragedy:.     The tragic hero must have a sense of nobility or a redeeming quality of some kind as well as a hamartia (a fatal character flaw- think Othello and jealousy) which causes their downfall.
        • There must be a catharsis - the engagement with the play takes the audience through many emotions but leaves them purged of them at the end of the play. This helps to restore and maintain social order. Social mobility was not looked upon as favourably at this time and there was a belief in the divine right of Kings.
        • Marlowe  uses a Chorus which is characteristic of the Greek tragedies. But the chorus also passes judgements on Faustus to remind the audience that it is a Morality  play.
    • A Time of New Discoveries
      • There were advancements in new technologies and views about the nature of the universe were changing. First British colony in America was established, Virginia in 1584.
    • Religion
      • In 1534 Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church in Rome. He established the Protestant Church which was part of them wider Reformation
        • Martin Luther was a German monk who became a leading figure in the Reformation after denouncing the Catholic Church for corruption. The name Protestant is derived from his protests in 1529. Luther taught at the Wittenburg University n 1508, so Marlowe, by having Faustus there as a scholar, links Faustus to the idea of rebellion against authority.


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