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How Does Marlowe's "Faustus" Test The Older Religious System Of Values And The New Humanist Ideals.

1924 words - 8 pages

David NorrisENGL 210Mr. Michael Griffith20 April 2007Research Essay: Question OneMarlowe's Faustus tests the older religious system of values and the new humanist ideals. Each offered a uniquely different path in which one should best to follow or lead their particular life. The play is a fine example of a hybridized work that draws on both the strengths and weaknesses from each school of thought. In the essay The Defense of Poesy published nine years before Marlowe's Faustus, Sir Phillip Sidney boldly proclaimed that true art has the ability to help "men to imitate, both delight and teach, to move men to that goodness in hand." [Greenblatt 959] Marlowe places this onus on the reader; it is for him alone to decide and to experience the pathos of Dr. Faustus, and finally ask the question of themselves 'what is my soul worth?' As a seminal playwright Marlowe sets to prove the words of Joyce that poetry is a revolt against artifice, a revolt, in a sense, against actuality. [Laman 3]In drawing further material from Sidney's defense there is an even greater claim of true arts merits, that is, not only that it both teaches and delights, but also, offers a "higher moral purpose" and is "full of virtue-breeding delightfulness." [Greenblatt 973]In this sense, the art is lifted off the page and becomes proactive in the hearts of its readers to catalyse a positive change. This is, of course, almost impossible to quantify or prove, but rather, it is felt. After reading a play like Marlowe's Faustus there is a distinct feeling of "knowledge that lifts up the mind from the dungeon of the body to the enjoying of his own divine essence." [960] he history of this poetic art is as old as mankind it seems; poetry is there to offer us a freedom and liberates the mind. Since Plato's enlightening insights in The Republic, especially that of the famous cave analogy, Humanity has felt literature to be a powerful vessel of truth. Sidney comments on this process using the Aristotelian term 'mimesis', [958] which sees poesy as a pure and perfect reflection of ourselves with warts and all.Marlowe capitalizes on this notion by resurrecting the tragic legend of Dr. Faustus, wherein a learned scientist honoured with the laurels of his university and town of Wittenberg, sold his soul to the devil for still greater knowledge and power in the unknown. Faustus is a man, in the truest sense of the word, an archetypal, tragic hero "swollen with cunning, of a self-conceit, his waxen wings did melt above his reach, And melting heaven conspired his overthrow." [1025] Marlowe was writing in a time of immense social and political chaos, with the reformation in full swing, as a poet he was attempting to restore the fundamental truths that lie deep within our humanity and make us both blissfully flawed and favoured. Faustus faces the same predicament as the narrator in Dante's epic piece the Divine Comedy:"In the middle of the journey of our life I came / to myself in a dark wood where the...

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