The Five Knowledges Of Dr. Faustus

1136 words - 5 pages

Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus is a play that questions both renaissance and medieval ideas. The character of Doctor Faustus is introduced as a renaissance man with degrees in various subjects and an abundance of knowledge from his high education. Unfortunately for him, this knowledge is not sufficient and his cravings for higher knowledge and power soon corrupt his mind and lead him to his ill-fated end. The opening soliloquy introduces Doctor Faustus's areas of knowledge as debate, health, law, theology, and a desire to learn about black magic. As he goes through each of his degrees, dropping names and showing off, he shows a sense of false hope in them. Doctor Faustus shows how dissatisfied he is with his studies and explains his thirst for something more than education can give him. He concludes his speech by saying "Here Faustus, try thy brains to gain a deity." (Scene 1, l. 63) The desire for power that cannot be attained by simple knowledge proves here to have overcome Faustus and cause him to now lean towards extremes in order to get what he wants most, being equal to God and having tremendous power. Faustus shares his knowledge of the five areas of study but also ends up questioning them. Even though he gives up on what he has already learned, finding it useless and unnecessary, the ideas and philosophies of his education appears throughout the rest of his life, which creates the rest of the play.

In his studies of debate and logic, Faustus insists that "Bene disserere est finis logices" (Scene 1, l. 7) or to be able to carry on a good debate is the completion of logic's purpose. Feeling that he has already attained this, Faustus discounts his knowledge of logic and debate. Although he seems to have given up completely on these ideas, they continue to follow him throughout the play without his immediate awareness. Rather than presenting itself as a debate among educated men about a scholarly topic, logic now presents itself within Faustus as his two sides, a Good Angel and Evil Angel. The Good Angel represents Faustus's desire to repent and return to God's good graces while the Evil Angel represents his seemingly stronger side that only has the desire to sinfully be equal to God. In scene five and throughout the entirety of the play, the Good and Evil Angels argue over whether Faustus should choose "heaven, and heavenly things" (l. 20) or "honor" and "wealth." (l. 21) This continuous inner struggle is exactly what Faustus learned about in his studies of logic. It was a debate in which two opposite sides presented their beliefs and ideas and try to sway the audience into one way of thinking or the other.

Similarly, the teachings he went through to attain his law degree are also constantly present in Fautus's life even after he dismisses the ideas as a study fit only for "a mercenary drudge Who aims at nothing but external trash." (Scene 1, l. 34-35) In signing a contract with Lucifer and agreeing to abide...

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