Doctor Faustus A Text

  • Created by: cara
  • Created on: 08-04-13 15:53

Context- religion

Reformations within the Church

Key influence: CALVINISM

-> Faustus is set in Wittenberg: this is the town where the Reformation began

-> Luther nailed new theology to church door in Wittenberg (1517) which criticised Papal behaviour as well as proposing a whole new set of theological ideas which is known as the 95 Theses of Contention

1 of 6

Context- religion (2)

Calvin (1509-1564) was in the same school of thought as Luther and a contemporary of his

-> Believed in pre-destination which is the idea that God chooses who is saved

->Ideas included: unconditional election, limited atonement, total depravity, irresistible grace and perseverance of the Saints

This is seen in many ways in Faustus...

  • The tragedy within the play is that following the idea of Calvinism, Faustus is always going to be damned
  • The text explores agency; this is the question as to whether a person has control over saving themselves
  • Humans within the text are inclined to be evil with similar vices to Faustus e.g. Wagner, Ralph and Robin all making the same choices as Faustus i.e. necromancy
2 of 6

Context- genres

Greek tragedy...

  • The Chorus alludes to Greek tragedy
  • References to Icarus and Dedalus in the opening
  • Comic antedotes are found through Robin and Rafe
  • Follows Aristotle's theory of tragedy to a large extent:
    • Hamartia (fatal flaw)- Faustus' overreaching ambition
    • Catharsis (cleansing of protaganist's mistakes)- Faustus' death
3 of 6

Context- genres (2)


  • Gothic conventions that the text uses..
    • Doppelgangers: Good and Evil Angels, Wagner and Robin, and Robin and Rafe mimic the relationship between Faustus and Wagner.
    • The liminal: on the edge of repentence constantly, fine line between hell and Earth.. 'why this is hell nor am I out of it', Faustus himself is on the brink of insanity as there is the potential in the A text for him to be making it up... says 'ah Lucifer!' when there is no one else on stage
    • Setting: Set in Germany which is a stereotypical Gothic setting, Faustus' study has connotations of being dark and isolated
    • Black magic: he practices necromancy!
    • Controversial: 'Faustus and Mephistopheles beat the Friars and fling fireworks among them', new ideas on what heaven and hell is like, no redemption for Faustus
    • Religion
    • Supernatural: Supernatural in the context of the play could be defined as God and other higher beings as supernatural
4 of 6

Language within Faustus


All of Marlowe's verse has a pattern of light and heavy stresses running through it, this is known as metre.

e.g. Nor spor-ting in the dall-i-ance of love (prologue 3)

It would never be performed in this way but an actor would be aware that the metre was there to help give the verse form and structure.

Most of the lines in Faustus are not as regular and most have an irregular stress pattern

e.g. The stars move still; time runs; the clock will stike (5.2.76)

Iambic pentameter

Verse which has five iambs per line as its standard rhythm is called 'iambie pentameter'. 'Blank verse' is where iambic pentameter is used but it does not rhyme. This is the standard verse form for both Marlowe and Shakespeare. Special effects can be gained by varying the imabic metre. In this example, the perfectly regular metre helps to express the Scholar's straightforward admiration for Helen of Troy...

e.g. Too sim-| ple is | my wit | to tell | her praise (5.1.26)

5 of 6

Language within Faustus (2)


An alexandrine is an iambic line of six feet, rather than five: in other words an iambic hexameter. When alexandrines are inserted into pentameter verse, they can have a variety of effects. Faustus' desperation and agony are tellingly expressed in

 One drop | would save | my soul, | half a | drop. Ah, | my Christ! (5.2.80)


Many lines contain a pause or break in the middle which is a caesura. It adds variety, emphasises certain words or phrases, or suggests a break in the speaker's thought.

Her lips | sucks forth | my soul. || See where | it flies! (5.1.94)

The fourth foot is not iambic; this creates a heavy stress each side of the caesura, which helps to express Faustus' great sense of wonder and yearning. Caesuras are particularly common in alexandrines where the longer lines encourage a definite pause.

6 of 6


No comments have yet been made

Similar English Literature resources:

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