Doctor Faustus Context

Religious Context

•Elizabethans believed that a cosmic order existed called the chain of being. A human society occupies the middle position, with God and the angels above, and the animals and plants below; Faustus attempts to usurp this divine order. 

•The play seems to represent the Manichaean view at times which is that the soul is divided into two. The good soul is divine, but, driven by the evil soul it is led to do things that it would normally shun. 

•The Calvinistic belief of the time was that everyone is predestined to be saved or damned, and no actions can earn an individual salvation. God predetermines who is elect and who is reprobate, and no amount of good works can change this.

•Opposing to the teachings of Calvinism, Catholics believed that salvation is gained through faith in God and doing good works.

1 of 3

Literary Context

•Marlowe’s inclusion of the Chorus is indicative of the characteristics of Greek tragedy, however the chorus passing judgment reminds the audience that it is primarily a Morality play.

•Aristotle’s tragic hero must both possess a sense of nobility or redeeming quality as well as a hamartia (fatal flaw).

•Medieval Morality Plays featured an Everyman figure who sinned but was eventually saved. Marlowe uses elements of this (such as the inclusion of the Seven Deadly Sins), but subverts the tradition: Faustus is damned.

2 of 3

Social Context

•Elizabethans believed that a cosmic order existed called the chain of being. A human society occupies the middle position, with God and the angels above, and the animals and plants below; Faustus attempts to usurp this divine order. 

•Renaissance humanism embraced reason and human dignity. This is seen through the character of Faustus as he uses his reason to challenge the existence of hell and question other religious beliefs. 

•Revival of Greek and Roman culture during the Renaissance era meant that Aristotle’s concern with ‘telos’ (purpose) was being explored. “Is to dispute well logic's chiefest end? … Then read no more, thou hast attain'd the end” [Act I Scene i].

3 of 3

Comments

No comments have yet been made

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all Dr. Faustus resources »