Choruses – What Is The Importance Of These Speeches In Dr. Faustus?

1204 words - 5 pages

Choruses – what is the importance of these speeches in Dr. Faustus?

The essential function of the chorus speeches are as a commentary, an
omnipotent voice which observes Faustus’s actions, clarifies his
character and by foreseeing his change in fortunes, heightens the
anticipation of the audience. Also, rather like dressing Mephastoples
in a Friar costume, the chorus speeches are a practical device used by
Marlowe to communicate aspects of the play which are simply impossible
to perform on stage. Thus, they have particular significance from a 16th
century perspective, as the theatre would not have had the elaborate
lighting and stage sets to demonstrate a change in scenery as
audiences are used to today.

The chorus speeches are made at various times throughout the play,
linking the dramatic scenes together. They are therefore crucial to
the structure, as without them, the audience would not have the same
sense of exactly how Faustus is using his powers as time passes or
indeed, fully understand the progressing danger he is in.

The opening chorus is essential is introducing the audience to
Fausts’s character, the themes of the play and to a certain extent the
morals Marlowe intended to convey. By speaking directly to the
audience, the chorus brings them into the play, laying down the
foundations of the essential plot. Saying this, the opening lines are
not about Doctor Faustus itself but rather ironically about what the
play is not going to entail. This however, has the effect of drawing
in audience as the descriptions of the ‘alternative’ plays are
presented as epic and intriguing in themselves:

‘Nor, in the pomp of proud audacious deeds’

The power of this line is emphasised by the alliterative patterns and
creates a magnificent, formal atmosphere. The effect of dramatically
listing what the play does not express makes the audience more curious
about what is actually going to happen, thus the line, ‘only this
gentlemen’, before the chorus describes the position of Faustus, is
inevitably intensified.

Indeed this imposing style of commentary is mirrored in the second
chorus, which introduces Faustus’s actions in Rome. The opening
chorus refers to Roman Mythology, ‘Where Mars did mate the
Carthaginians’, perhaps alluding to Faustus’s ambitions to be as
powerful as the gods. Similarly, the second chorus mentions ‘Mount
Olympus’, the home of the gods in Greek Mythology, which may impress
the audience as they hear of Faustus’s ‘travelog’, while at the same
time, reminding them that he is being to ambitious and not matter how
hard he tries, he will never be as powerful as God.

Despite this dramatic language, its is important that Faustus is
presented, in the opening chorus, as someone who is from ‘’base of
stock’. In this way, Marlowe is making the point that anyone can
‘’over-reach’’ and suffer a similar fate to Faustus, thus it is almost
intended as a warning to the audience. Indeed, the...

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