A TO Z Literary Principles from History of English Literature: Note 32


Short notes on History of English Literature: Dr. Faustus

A Set of 26 Objective Questions & Answers

a.        Christopher Marlowe’s masterpiece is The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus.

b.       The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus is a famous of Christopher Marlowe that is usually regarded as his greatest.

c.       Earlier playwrights had concentrated on comedy; Marlowe worked on tragedy and advanced it considerably as a dramatic medium.

d.      In the 1580s a group of educated men, sometimes called the University Wits, prepared the way for Shakespeare.

e.       The best-known members of this group were playwright and poet Christopher Marlowe and dramatist Thomas Kyd.

f.        Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), English playwright and poet, considered the first great English dramatist and the most important Elizabethan dramatist before William Shakespeare, although his entire activity as a playwright lasted only six years.

g.       English dramatist Christopher Marlowe incorporated elements of the medieval morality play, in which good and evil vie for the human soul, Faustus’s thirst for knowledge is more characteristic of Renaissance concerns: "Where art thou Faustus, wretch, what hast thou done?
Damned art thou Faustus, damned; despair and die!"

h.       Marlowe's plays, such as The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus(1588) is remarkable primarily for their daring depictions of world-shattering characters who strive to go beyond the normal human limitations as the Christian medieval ethos had conceived them.
i.         The story is that of a scholar and a necromancer who lings for infinite knowledge, and who turns from Theology, Philosophy, Medicine and law, the four sciences of the time, to the study of magic, much as a child might turn from jewels to tinsel and coloured paper.

j.         By revealing the possibilities for strength and variety of expression in blank verse, Marlowe helped to establish the verse form as the predominant form in English drama. His The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (1589?), one of the earliest dramatizations of the Faust legend, is also advance in blank verse.

k.      Marlowe's finest play is" Doctor Faustus," founded on the legend which also gave birth to the greatest work of the greatest modern poet, Goethe's " Faust."

l.         Dramatist Christopher Marlowe perfected the Senecan and so-called tragicomic models to create such masterpieces as TheTragical History of Doctor Faustus (1588?).

m.     In order to learn magic, he sells himself to the devil, on condition that he shall have twenty-four years of absolute power and knowledge.

n.       The play is the story of those twenty-four years.

o.      The end of Faustus is disastrous.

p.      There is rich, dramatic irony when Faustus, having conjured up Mephistopheles, finds him “pliant and full of obedience and humility”, and even more so when Mephistopheles has the truth of his real condition forced out of him and Faustus  laughs at him for being superstitious and lacking ‘manly fortitude’.

q.      Self-confidence has made him fatuous and he signs his contact with Mephistopheles, gaining twenty-four years of knowledge and power and a life of ‘full voluptuousness’- with a braggart light-heartedness: 
                    Had I as many soul as there be stars
                   I would give them all for Mephistopheles.

r. Like Tamburlaine, it is lacking in dramatic construction but has an unusual                     number of passages of rare poetic beauty.

s.        In The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (1589?), scholar and magician Faustus sells his soul to the demon Mephistopheles in return for magical power and scientific knowledge.

t.        The various tales that gathered about Faust's name first appeared in literature in Historia von Dr. Johann Fausten (1587), published in Frankfurt.

u.        It provided the basis for the powerful drama The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus (1588?) by the English playwright Christopher Marlowe.

Christopher Marlowe
v.  Foust Stories: Historia von Dr. Johann Fausten (1587); The narrative appeared in English verse in 1587; in German verse in 1588; In 1592 it appeared in French and English prose versions; The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus (1588?) by the English playwright Christopher Marlowe; poetic drama Faust (first part, 1808; second, 1832) by the German poet and playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; the dramatic epic Faust (1835), by Nikolaus Lenau; Heinrich Heine's ballad Faust (1851), and the novel Doktor Faustus (1947) by Thomas Mann.

w.     Each of Marlowe's important plays has as a central character a passionate man doomed to destruction by an inordinate desire for power.

x.       Faustus conjures the legendary beauty Helen of Troy. He seals his doom when he kisses Helen, actually a demon in human form.

y.       In Goethe's play we find the genius of a great poet united with the wisdom, the self-restraint, the knowledge of the world possessed by a clear, cold, elaborately cultivated mind.

z.        In Marlowe's we find also the genius of a great poet, but disfigured by the want of self-restraint, the extravagance and the turbulence of a fiery and ill-regulated mind.


Ref: 1. History of English Literature- Albert, 
      2. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature
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