The Supernatural in Doctor Faustus

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  • Created by: Pip Dan
  • Created on: 05-06-16 14:44

The Supernatural in Doctor Faustus

 

The supernatural pervades Doctor Faustus, appearing everywhere in the story. Angels and devils flit about, magic spells are cast, dragons pull chariots (albeit offstage), and even fools like the two ostlers, Robin and Dick, can learn enough magic to summon demons. Still, it is worth noting that nothing terribly significant is accomplished through magic. Faustus plays tricks on people, conjures up grapes, and explores the cosmos on a dragon, but he does not fundamentally reshape the world. The magic power that Mephastophilis grants him is more like a toy than an awesome, earth-shaking ability. In Marlowe's own time its representations of Faustus' spell-making and dealing with the devil would have seemed shocking, dangerous and even blasphemous. Furthermore, the real drama of the play, despite all the supernatural frills and pyrotechnics, takes place within Faustus’s vacillating mind and soul, as he first sells his soul to Lucifer and then considers repenting. In this sense, the magic is almost incidental to the real story of Faustus’s struggle with himself, which Marlowe intended not as a fantastical battle but rather as a realistic portrait of a human being with a will divided between good and evil.

Scepticism and belief

Doctor Faustus includes a number of supernatural characters. Many of today's spectators and readers may regard the appearance of the Devil and his representatives with some scepticism, as demonstrating outdated beliefs. But at the time the play was first produced, most people will have believed in the reality of the Devil. They accepted that he might be manifested in bodily form, especially if summoned by those who meddled with forbidden knowledge. This was a period

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