Esdaile's Reviews > Doctor Faustus

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
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Jan 21, 12

bookshelves: i-own-it, renaissance-drama, my-library
Read in March, 1971

I was very surprised that I had not included this play on my "read" list. I played the part of Lucifer in a school production and that is how I remember the names of the Seven Deadly Sins to this day! A lot of this play is just hijinks/horseplay and the hijinks and horseplay are good rollicking fun but the best of it is magnificent. The final speach of Faustus belngs to one of the greatest set pieces of literature. Oh that ghastly irony taken from Horace Lente lente currite noctis equi has given me a taste to get to know the Classics which Time may not permit to fulfil. I wonder if this irony inspired Marvel's Time's winged Charilot in "to His Coy Mistress". When Faustus inquires about Hell, the dialogue is intensely "modern" and existential. Hell is within Mephistopheles "Why this is hell, nor am I out of it. ", hell is within us." That is modern knowledge. The images of chilchood in the Renauissaynce begin to acquire real form and the hell we make for one another on God's earth is far worse than anything dreamned up by poets. I cannot quite make up my mind as to the exctent to which this play acts as a warning Summum peccati mors es but Faustus fails to continue the quotation. The reward of sin is Death but but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Faustus fails to quote the second part of the sentence. Is that because Marlowe had lost faith or because he wanted to show Faustus in willing error? In the last speech, Faustus could have been saved had he only turned. The final warning is warning and yet yet Marlowe himselöf seems to be an "overreacher" as Harry Levin called him. Two hundred years later Germany's greatest poet used the Marlowe play as the basis for his "Faust", the most famous dramatic poem of all time. The first lines of F"Faust" read almost like a translation of Marlowe. I have read several editions of Goethe's Faust and only one mentions Goethe's debt to Marlowe. (An edition of Goethe published in the mid-thirties as it happens).
"Ah Faustus, now hast thou but one bare hour to live." That is true for all of us. This is Marlowe's crowning glory, the quintessence of Renaissance hope and danger and the dramatic embodiment of what Oswald Spengler unforgettably termed the "Faustian soul".
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