The Overreacher in Faustus

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  • The theme of the 'Over-reacher' in Marlowe's 'Faustus'
    • From the prologue, the theme of the over-reacher is depicted perfectly
      • 'His waxen wings did mount above his reach'
        • 'Waxen Wings' refer to the Grecian tale of Icarus - an individual who built wings to escape imprisonment but upon escaping, he flew too close to the sun and lost sight of wings - classic tale of over reaching
          • Revival of the myths of ancient Rome and Greece during the renaissance - time when Marlowe was writing
          • 'Faustus is a Martyr to everything the renaissance prized' - George Santayana
        • 'Waxen Wings' - alliteration - softening vowels - depicts fragility of overreaching [?]
    • Opening soliloquy depicts Faustus' desire to become god through necromancy
      • 'A sound magician is a demigod; here, tie my brains to get, a deity!'
        • 'Demigod' in reference to lexis used in Grecian and Roman myths and legends - perhaps elucidating how magic has the power to make someone the son of god
        • 'Deity' synonymous to god or higher power - depicts how via magic, Faustus wants to become God
          • Both would've been seen as utterly horrific by the 16th century audience as it would've been absolutely blasphemous to compare oneself to god - AKA over reaching at its finest
            • 'Demigod' in reference to lexis used in Grecian and Roman myths and legends - perhaps elucidating how magic has the power to make someone the son of god
            • 'Faustus wants to reach a level of greatness to assume Godhead' - Harold Bloom
    • He is seen to be exploring the planets and the stars aeons before space exploration - the leap in time depicts the nature of his over reaching
      • 'In a carriage drawn by dragons, he views the clouds, the planets and the stars'
        • uses a 'carriage drawn by dragons' to reach the stars - dragons are supernatural creatures and thus using them to take Faustus to heights unknown to man at the time is replicative of how via overreaching he was using unnatural means to discover knowlege
        • The heights he physically reaches is perhaps a metaphysical metaphor for the extreme heights of his overreaching
        • The renaissance saw a revitalisation of exploration in astronomy but man only had begun LOOKING closer at the stars - him physically going up to see the stars is a direct overreach of the knowledge about the stars that was contemporary to his time
    • His rejection of  all other fields of knowledge par necromancy is another depiction of overreaching
      • 'Necromancy books are heavenly'
        • irony used in describing necromancy as 'heavenly' though it is a practice that celebrates hell
        • Would've horrified religious 16th century audiences as necromancy was blasphemous and thus to call necromancy 'heavenly' would depict how faustus finds blaspheming blissful - v much over reaching
      • Written during the renaissance, a time infamously known as the 'rebirth' of knowledge. By disassociating himself from fields enhanced by the renaissance to pursue an unlawful field depicts him to be putting himself above the renaissance - over reaching once again
    • Mentions how pursuit of power won't stop till he conquers the world
      • 'I'll be the great emperor of the world'
        • 'Great emperor' - lexicon used by the British as aim to colonise the world
        • Reference to the 16th century 'age of discovery' where England went out and colonised the world - perhaps depictive of how Britain was overreaching by colonising
    • Overreaches via trying to scale 'olympus'
      • 'Did mount him to scale Olympus' top'
        • 'Olympus' is the equivalent of heaven in Greek mythology thus 'scaling' to Olympus depicts how he is over reaching by trying to reach heaven
          • others state how bc Marlowe is referring to a mythical heaven, by overreaching, Faustus may be reaching a mythical level of heaven that isn't real and thus everything he has obtained through over-reaching will vanish
        • the 'top' of 'olympus' was also considered the physical home of the greek gods - thus by over reaching, Faustus is again trying to get to the level of God
    • Dialogue between Mephostophilis and Faustus depicts how Lucifer was also an overreacher
      • 'Oh, by aspiring pride and insolence for which god threw him out of heaven
        • Lucifer's hubris was his pride and the continual pursual of it became over reaching as it goes against God's word and got him kicked out of heaven
          • it also foreshadows Faustus' own downfall as consequence for his tragic overreaching
    • Mentions how he would continually give up everything up for power is an indication of overreaching
      • 'Had I as many souls as there be stars, I'd give them all to meph'
        • simile - number of stars are countless and thus by stating how if he had a countless number of souls he'd 'give them all to meph' depicts how he would endlessly give himself up for the pursuit of power - overreaching AF
        • contextually, in christianity your soul is the most important part of you and giving it over to the devil was considered the highest form of blasphemy. Faustus indicating that he would endlessly given up his soul to the devil in the pursuit of power is the highest form of over reaching in christianity
    • The pope is seen to be overreaching via abusing his power
      • 'We will depose of the emperor for the dead / and curse those who submit to him'
        • By 'cursing' those who submit to an emperor, The pope is abusing his power by shunning out those who oppose him personally than those opposing god to fit his own political gains - overreaching AF
          • Similar to Henry VIII who was excommonicated from the catholic church after disobeying the pope's orders and divorcing his then-wife, Catherine of Aragon
        • 16th century audiences would've agreed as the country was hugely sectarian and protestant and thus would stand for the defamation of the catholic pope
    • 'Marlowe's characters have an exaggerated appetite for achievement'
    • Faustus had a 'hunger and thirst for unrighteousness' - William Hazlitt


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