Essay, Research Paper: Dr. Faustus

World Literature

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When I first began reading Dr. Faustus I did not even realize that there were
comic scenes. Only after being told and after watching the movie did I realize
that there were comic scenes. Many critics say that Christopher Marlowe did not
even write these scenes, but instead say that they were written later by other
playwrights. After realizing that there was in fact comedy in the play, I began
to ponder why it was in the play. My first thought was that they were there to
lighten the mood of such a dark and serious play. Any good playwright knows that
you can't hold an audience's attention with hours of serious, deep and emotional
content without also having something to lighten the mood. With this point of
view I realized that it was very possible that Mr. Marlowe did not in fact write
the comic sections of this play (I really wanted to believe that he wrote them),
maybe a later playwright found that the play was too serious. The fact that I
wanted Marlowe to be the author of the whole play (I don't like it when someone
comes along a changes a piece of art, or that people say that someone changed it
because it is just too good to be true) made me dig deeper to try and find
something that sounded more sensible to me. I would have to say that it was
eight lines in scene five that were spoken by Mephastophilis in response to a
question from Faustus. These Lines were (pg.442 lines 110-125): Mephastophilis.
Now Faustus, ask what thou wilt. Faustus. First will I question thee about hell:
Tell me, where is the place that men call hell? Mephastophilis. Under the
heavens. Faustus. Ay, but whereabouts? Mephastophilis. Within the bowels of
these elements, Where we are tortured and remain forever. Hell hath no limits,
nor is circumscribed In one self place; for where we are is hell, And where hell
is, there we must ever be. And to conclude, when all the world dissolves, And
every creature shall be purified, All places shall be hell that is not heaven.
Not only is this some very powerful poetry but it seems to say everything about
the comic scenes. After I read this part of the play I began to realize the
reason why the comic scenes are in this play. What Mephistophilis seems to be
saying is that everyone that is not in heaven, is in hell. This means that
everyone on earth is in hell. Mephastophilis says exactly this; "…for
where we are is hell…". How did these lines put the comic scenes into
perspective for me? It made me look at the whole play in a different light. If
everyone that is not in heaven is in hell, then everyone in this play is in hell
and has committed some type of sin. The scene in which Lucifer comes with the
Seven Deadly Sins (Pride, Covetousness, Wrath, Envy, Gluttony, Sloth and
Lechery) depicted the ways which people commit sins. When I went back through
the play and looked at after I was enlightened, I noticed that the comic scenes
very much reflected the scenes with Dr. Faustus. Take for instance when Wagner
conjured up Baliol and Belcher (Scene Four) this is almost exactly what Faustus
did in the previous scenes. The comic scenes that seemed to reflect what Faustus
did, also seemed to increase the readers knowledge of how powerful Faustus was.
In all the scenes that other people tried to conjure up the devil, they could
not handle the devils and usually failed in their attempts. Take for instance
scene eight, lines twenty to forty-five, when Robin and Rafe conjured up
Mephastophilis they could not handle the sight of him and he changed them into
an ape and a dog respectively, because they were just playing games. This scene
shows how powerful Dr. Faustus was and how seriously he took magic. The other
comic scenes either showed how everyone in the play had committed some type of
sin, or how Faustus used his magic to play childish pranks. Take scene five for
example when the Clown and Wagner are talking: Clown. But do you hear? If I
should serve you, would you teach me to raise up Banios and Belcheos? Wagner. I
will teach thee to turn thy self to anything, to a dog, or a cat, or a mouse, or
a rat or anything. Clown. How! A Christian fellow to a dog, or a cat, or a
mouse, or a rat? No, no sir, if you turn me into anything let it be in the
likeness of a little pretty frisking flea, that I may be here, and there, and
every- where. O I'll tickle the pretty wenches' plackets! I'll be amongst them
i'faith. The last five lines that the clown says here are almost exactly like
what Pride, one of the Seven Deadly Sins, says in scene five, lines 284-288:
Pride. I am Pride: I disdain to have any parents. I am like to Ovid's flea, I
can creep into every corner of a wench: sometimes like a periwig, I sit upon her
brow; or like a fan of feathers, I kiss her lips. Indeed I do - what do I not!
But fie, what a scent is here? I'll not speak another word, except the ground
were perfumed and covered with cloth of arras. This points out that evil can
infect even the lowliest of creatures such as the Clown. The last function of
the comic scenes that I was able to find is that of pointing out how trivial
Faustus' magic is. Many scenes point this out; scene seven when Faustus goes
into the Pope's chamber, scene nine when Faustus puts horns on the knight, and
scene ten where he gives the horse-courser a bum horse and lets his leg be
pulled off, are all comic scenes that show how low Faustus has stooped in his
magic. In the end I did find that the comic scenes in Dr. Faustus did in fact
have a definite purpose, and not just to lighten the mood (although this very
well could have been one of the reasons). Due to the fact that the comic scenes
all fit in so well and had a lot of depth I do think that they were actually
written by Christopher Marlowe. After reading through this play and watching the
movie, no matter how whacked out it was, I did really like this play.

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